Doorstop interview with Luke Howarth, Member for Petrie and Kerri-Anne Dooley, LNP candidate for Redcliffe

  • Transcript, E&OE

LUKE HOWARTH: Ladies and gentlemen, I am Luke Howarth, Federal Member for Petrie. I just wanted to welcome the Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop up to the seat of Petrie. This morning we have been out listening to local people in the seat of Petrie along with our State candidate, Kerri-Anne Dooley who has been working very hard to win the State seat of Redcliffe. … I hand over to the Acting Prime Minister.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Luke. I'm delighted to be here with Luke Howarth and Kerri-Anne Dooley in the lead up to the Queensland State Election on 25 November.

On the citizenship issue, Labor have at last agreed to the Government's plan to resolve this citizenship issue. For months Mr Shorten has been trying to protect his Members of Parliament who have serious questions to answer about their citizenship, applying one rule to his Members and another to everybody else. The Labor Party is not above the law. Mr Shorten has been seeking to undermine the integrity of the Parliament by calling out Coalition Members, yet hiding the evidence about his own Members of Parliament who have serious questions to answer about their citizenship. Mr Shorten has been utterly devious in this issue and has had to be dragged to accepting the Coalition Government's plan to resolve the citizenship issue.

JOURNALIST: It's absolute crisis though, isn't it, at this point?

JULIE BISHOP: No it's not.The Government has a plan that Labor has at last accepted, that has been introduced to the Senate and we expect a similar motion to be introduced into the House of Representatives. We have two by-elections and they will be resolved before the end of the year. What the Labor Party must do and where Mr Shorten must show honesty and courage, is to give us the details, confirm the status, the eligibility of his Members of Parliament, some of whom have admitted they were British citizens at the time they took up a position in the Parliament. Now there can't be one rule for the Coalition and other Members of Parliament and a different rule for Labor. Mr Shorten has been utterly devious in this matter.

JOURNALIST: Do you expect any more Coalition Members to be going before the High Court?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't have any information to suggest that there are any other Coalition Members. What we are doing is methodically going through a process in the Senate and the Senators will make declarations and then I expect a similar process will be undertaken in the House of Representatives.

JOURNALIST: The latest polls in The Australian today – Bishop preferred pick as PM as loses support. What's your reaction to that? The numbers are pretty stunning.

JULIE BISHOP: It has been quite evident that the last couple of weeks have been one of uncertain times because of this citizenship issue. So the polls are not surprising, but we have a plan to resolve this issue. We've had no support from the Labor Party, in fact they have been working hard to destabilise the Government and destabilise the Parliament. What we have now is a plan to resolve this issue, and then we can continue to govern for the Australian people. I'm in Queensland where issues like cost of living, the cost of electricity are primary issues of concern, and only the Coalition has a plan for affordable and reliable energy. We want to bring energy prices down and we have got a National Energy Guarantee that will work with other initiatives to achieve that. The Coalition is working hard on the issues that are of concern to the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: Was Turnbull cut out of talks with Shorten about the disclosure of citizenship?

JULIE BISHOP: Not at all. The Prime Minister has been negotiating with Bill Shorten, however, Mr Shorten refused to agree to the Government's plan. The Prime Minister went overseas and he asked Senator Cormann to work with the Leader of the Labor Party in the Senate, Senator Wong, to resolve this issue. Senator Cormann and Senator Wong have negotiated matters in the past, so while the Prime Minister was away this issue has been resolved and we now see a motion being introduced into the Senate today.

JOURNALIST: Acting Prime Minister, just on another matter of a prominent Australian academic says he's been silenced by the Chinese Government. I know you're aware of this issue, his book has been pulled by Allen and Unwin. How concerned are you about this action?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm not aware of all the specific details, the contractual relationship between the author and the publisher. In Australia we uphold the right to freedom of speech. We are a free and open society. Our foreign policy is not dictated to by other countries. I would have to find out the precise details of his contractual arrangement, but I would be concerned if there were any attempts to stifle free speech in Australia, particularly at the behest of a foreign government.

JOURNALIST: Well this book highlights, allegedly, influence on Federal Parliament and on other parts of society, and Allen and Unwin, there's records of emails where they have cited concern about interference by China. Would you be taking up this issue with the company?

JULIE BISHOP: Allen and Unwin must answer for why they have taken this decision. There may be a whole range of reasons, but I most certainly would be interested to hear the reasoning behind their decision to pull a book. It's not the first time a book has been pulled from publication. So I would wait to hear the specific circumstances, but I would be concerned if there were any overt, blatant attempts to stifle freedom of speech in Australia at the behest of a foreign government.

JOURNALIST: What about potential legislation, you know, to crack down on agents of foreign power. Will we see something of that in the future?

JULIE BISHOP: The Coalition Government has been working on the legislation, it is currently under consideration.

JOURNALIST: Just back to the poll numbers. Does Malcolm Turnbull have the support of the Party and is anyone sounding you out now that you seem to be the preferred Liberal Leader?

JULIE BISHOP: Malcolm Turnbull will lead the Coalition to the next election. He is dealing with some very difficult issues at present, but he is absolutely committed to resolving them, and today we have seen a breakthrough. Labor has refused to cooperate to resolve the citizenship issue which affects Labor and other Members of Parliament as well as the Coalition. Today we have seen that breakthrough and the Prime Minister will continue to lead, to govern for Australia, in the interests of the Australian people. He is overseas at present negotiating free trade deals so that Australian businesses have new markets to export their goods and services. This is about economic growth and about jobs for the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: It's the 23rd consecutive Newspoll where the Coalition has trailed Labor, 30 was the magic number when Malcolm Turnbull got rid of Abbott. Are you concerned? 23 – it is only seven more potentially.

JULIE BISHOP: The poll that counts is on Election Day, and that election will be held in July 2019. We have quite some time to go before the poll that counts, and I'm looking forward to election day 2019.

JOURNALIST: And our local poll that counts, obviously state wide, One Nation, are you concerned about the polls saying they'll get 30 percent of the vote here?

JULIE BISHOP: That's not the feedback that I have been getting as I have visited electorates yesterday and today, …

JOURNALIST: We have seen that the LNP and One Nation have preference deals. Is that a concession that there if is a conservative government in Queensland it is going to be a coalition?

JULIE BISHOP: This is a matter for the State LNP. They look at these issues on a seat-by-seat basis as appropriate, and it is not for me as a Member of Parliament from Western Australia, even in my current role, to tell the LNP in Queensland how to preference seat-by-seat. …

JOURNALIST: I've just got one question on the Safe Schools Project, I'm not sure if you're aware of it or not on the weekend One Nation claimed that kids in Grade 4, girls were being taught to masturbate and about strap-ons and dildos as part of that program. The Premier shouted and slapped that down as untrue. What's your understanding of that program? Do they teach kids those sorts of things?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that there is no evidence to back One Nation's claim.

- Ends -

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