Doorstop interview with Michael Sukkar - opening of Realm, Eastland Shopping Centre

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP It's a pleasure to be in Ringwood today for the opening of this centre for regional knowledge and innovation. This aligns entirely with the Turnbull Government's policy agenda to put innovation at the heart of Government policy, to take advantage of the creative entrepreneurial talent that we have in this country and to find new ways to provide jobs for the future in new industries, in the high-tech, high-value industries including advanced manufacturing.

And here at this Centre where the Australian Government has invested $3 million, we'll see a collaboration between businesses, governments, the private sector, anduniversities, for job creation, skills training, education and not only for the people of Ringwood but across the eastern metropolitan part of Melbourne.

So it's a very exciting day to be here and looking forward to seeing the rest of the redevelopment, including the retail and dining outlets, which makes this one of the most sophisticated shopping centres and redevelopments I've seen in a long time.

JOURNALIST Just on the South China Sea, will Australia at any stage join the United States in furthering its exploration in that area around 12 nautical miles off the man-made islands?

JULIE BISHOP We have not been asked to join the United States and we have no plans to do other than what we already do, and that is traverse international waters in accordance with international law.

Indeed, we have joint exercises with the United States Navy, we have joint exercises with the Chinese Navy so we will continue to operate in that region. We believe fundamentally in the principle of freedom of navigation and freedom of over-flight and we will continue to do that in accordance with international law.

JOURNALIST Just on the cloud passports, how will this change the future of travel and security?

JULIE BISHOP This is an option that we are considering as part of an Ideas Challenge that we had within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We asked all of our employees across the world - because Australia has about 110 overseas posts - we asked all of our staff to come up with new and creative ideas for the Department to embrace.

One of the ideas was turning the passport chip into a purely digital one and it's a form of cloud passport that we are just trialling at present. We're in discussions with New Zealand and if we are able to put in place the appropriate requirements, including security, then it's something we'd like to trial and implement.

JOURNALIST Is this to boost security or maintain security on their passports?

JULIE BISHOP Obviously that is the fundamental issue. We wouldn't do it if it were not able to be secure. So we are just trialling new ideas and we are just in the early stages of discussion but this is putting innovation at the heart of all we do. Just doing the same old thing year after year after year doesn't make Australia a more productive, innovative, creative and prosperous country.

So we are embracing new ideas, not for the sake of it, but in order to grow our economy, to make it easier to do business in Australia, to create more jobs. The idea of a cloud passport would of course be grounded in absolute security. Australia prides itself on having one of the most secure passports in the world but by embracing and harnessing new technologies we might be able to do even better.

JOURNALIST Have Australian officials committed transnational crimes by paying people smugglers to turn back boats?

JULIE BISHOP Our Australian officials operate in accordance with domestic Australian law and in accordance with our international obligations.

JOURNALIST So what is your reaction to the Amnesty International report?

JULIE BISHOP I reject it.

JOURNALIST On what grounds?

JULIE BISHOP Australian officials are acting in accordance with Australian domestic law and in accordance with Australia's international obligations.

JOURNALIST [Inaudible question]

JULIE BISHOP I think this is an extraordinarily important redevelopment, not only for the local community but across this entire region, indeed for the state of Victoria. It is bringing together the best in innovative design, the private sector, the public sector at all levels of Government to create amenities and locations that will drive innovation, drive economic growth and drive jobs. I might ask the Member for Deakin to say a few words about what it means for his electorate.

MICHAEL SUKKAR Thanks Julie. It is fantastic you could be here today to open the Regional Centre for Knowledge and Innovation. This will be a hub that brings services of governments of all levels, services from particular parts of the private sector together to help our entrepreneurs, people who want to examine the opportunities of a start-up and will ensure that they have all the support that they need to get a great idea off the ground, because one of the pieces of feedback that I think everybody in the government receives is that we have people who come up with great ideas but how do we actually move those great ideas to commercialise them, to enable them to create the jobs and economic prosperity that we all want? So this Centre will go part of the way to doing that.

There is a lot of work that needs to happen now but I'm so happy that we were able to contribute $3 million for the Regional Centre for Knowledge and Innovation and I'm even happier that the Foreign Minister could be here today because I think in many respects you embody what we are trying to do here and I think it is going to be a very exciting time for the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

JULIE BISHOP Thank you Michael.

JOURNALIST Are you going to have a chance to look at the Melbourne Cup carnival fashion?

JULIE BISHOP I have actually adopted the phrase 'fashion diplomacy' because the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Fashion Chamber so that we can promote Australian designers, Australian manufacturers, the whole fashion industry.

It is worth about $12 billion each year to the Australian economy, over 220,000 people are employed by the Australian fashion industry and I'm delighted to hear that even more will be employed in the fashion retail stores here in Ringwood.

So it is an important part of our creative economy and we are doing all we can as a Government and through my Department to promote the stylish, innovative, creative Australian fashion industry on the world stage and I hope that even more fashion designers who are involved in Spring Racing will have an opportunity to feature and be showcased on the world stage.

JOURNALIST Just finally, mining is also a big …export do you think there is public support for processing uranium in terms of [inaudible]?

JULIE BISHOP We have one of the largest reserves of uranium in the world and export for peaceful civilian purposes so that other countries can embrace nuclear power which is a virtually zero-emissions technology.

So for example we've recently concluded a civilian nuclear power arrangement with India so that India can embrace nuclear power which is a virtually zero-emissions technology. So not only is it bringing electricity, energy, power to the people of India, it is also contributing in a very positive way to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

As a country that supplies uranium to the world, we should take some responsibility for storing nuclear waste. We have a nuclear research operation at Lucas Heights. We need to be able to store the waste that comes from that and when I talk about nuclear waste, we are talking about everyday items that are used in the production of nuclear medicines so Australia should take responsibility. I'm delighted that the South Australian Government has a Royal Commission under way into nuclear power and the whole nuclear fuel cycle.

JOURNALIST It is a tough sell for Governments though [inaudible]?

JULIE BISHOP That's why the Royal Commission that is being conducted by the South Australian Government will be a very useful platform for this kind of debate and I know a number of people and business and entities have made submissions to that Royal Commission so we await its findings with great interest.

JOURNALIST I wanted to ask if you've got any comment about Tony Abbott's recent speech in Europe about advising them not to open their borders to refugees. Does that mean Australia was wrong in accepting 12,000?

JULIE BISHOP Australia, having got our own borders under control after Labor's disastrous border protection regime - which weakened our borders and brought 50,000 people via the people smuggling trade to Australia and about 1200 people died at sea under the previous Labor Government - we've now put in place a very appropriate and strong and tough border protection regime that dismantled the people smuggling trade.

That now enables us to expand our humanitarian and refugee intake which is already 13,750 per annum, going up to about 18,500 in years to come, but we have been able to offer an additional 12,000 humanitarian and refugee places to some of the ethnic and religious minorities who are fleeing from the humanitarian crisis in Syria. It was the right thing to do and because we now have control of our border protection regime we are able to do this.

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