Doorstop interview, National Portrait Gallery: Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Summit

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST Do you prefer the idea of a referendum or a plebiscite when it comes to the issue of same sex marriage?

JULIE BISHOP My view is that a plebiscite would give every Australian, who wanted to have a say on this matter, a say. I think what is important is that the people have the opportunity to vote on what is a fundamental issue that affects our society. It is an idea I spoke about in the party room last week, and of course we will refine our thoughts closer to the time. But the contrast of course with Labor is, Labor has no policy on same sex marriage, none whatsoever. What I would like to see is the Coalition go to the next election and say vote for us and you can have your say on marriage equality and same sex marriage.

JOURNALIST When should people have their say? Should it be before the next election, at the next election, or in the next term of Parliament?

JULIE BISHOP It's obviously a matter we'll talk about but I think that it would be a good idea to go to the next election with that policy because after all we did say to the Australian people at the last election that our policy on changes to the Marriage Act would remain throughout this term and if there were to be a change it would go to the party room as it did and of course it still has to be discussed by the party room, the Cabinet, the leadership.

JOURNALIST Doesn't Cabinet need to settle on this this afternoon so we can see an end to this public bickering that is going on amongst Cabinet colleagues?

JULIE BISHOP Cabinet will deal with this when Cabinet is ready to deal with it and the fact is if the Bill introduced into the Parliament today had been voted upon it would not have got up, in my humble assessment. So therefore this is an issue that I think certainly draws a distinction between the Coalition and Labor. We will say the people have a say, whereas Labor say they are the ones who will decide but nobody will know what their position is until beyond 2019, a ridiculous situation.

JOURNALIST Are you concerned though that this public bickering that is going on is going to affect the by-election in Canning?

JULIE BISHOP I'm concerned that I was here at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry talking about the Free Trade Agreements and the huge opportunities for Australian businesses and jobs growth and no one has asked me a question on it, that's what I'm worried about.

JOURNALIST Doesn't it just show that this issue is overshadowing important issues for the Government?

JULIE BISHOP Well it might be in your mind, but it's certainly not in mine.

JOURNALIST The Indonesian Ambassador today has called for Australia and Indonesia to put aside megaphone diplomacy. Do you think that is a good idea?

JULIE BISHOP Absolutely, I agree entirely. We have a very close relationship with Indonesian Ministers. I spend a lot of time talking to my friend and colleague Retno Marsudi, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, and I don't talk about it in the media. We had very detailed contact over the weekend and I've not put out a press release or shouted from the rooftops about it, that's the way Foreign Minister Marsudi and I operate and I think it is working exceedingly well.

JOURNALIST Will the Australian Government be providing any assistance in terms of air crash investigators to the Indonesian plane crash?

JULIE BISHOP I've made that offer to Indonesia. Our officials are talking and most certainly that was the subject of my discussions and my contact with Foreign Minister Marsudi over the weekend and our Embassy in Jakarta is engaged with Indonesian officials on this matter.

JOURNALIST Minister, on today's Ipsos poll, how concerned are you that it shows that the Government could potentially lose up to 36 seats if things don't change?

JULIE BISHOP We are focussed on ensuring that the benefits of the policies that we've introduced are understood by the Australian public. Take for example the Free Trade Agreements. Labor, through the unions, are waging a disgraceful campaign attacking China and the Free Trade Agreement when in actual fact this Free Trade Agreement will provide enormous opportunities for Australians in small, medium and large sectors of our economy, immense opportunities. So the benefits of these Free Trade Agreements for jobs, growth, for exporters, for the services sector, for the good sector, are matters that we will continue to bring to the attention of the Australian public.

JOURNALIST But for the prosecution of these cases, such as the Free Trade Agreement and jobs and so forth it doesn't appear to be biting with the electorate.

JULIE BISHOP Well if we are given the opportunity to talk about them at every press conference my colleagues do, well I'm sure the Australian people will hear more about them so that's why I'm talking to you and to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry about the benefits that will arise from the China, Korea and Japan Free Trade Agreements with our country - the fact that my colleague Andrew Robb is pursuing a Free Trade Agreement with India; we are enhancing our cooperation with Indonesia, with Singapore, with the Gulf Cooperation Countries and of course the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which would, if implemented, realise a free trade zone across the Asia-Pacific. Most certainly a dream come true for Australian exporters.

JOURNALIST Minister, would you have liked to see a female candidate preselected in the seat of Canning?

JULIE BISHOP I am delighted that Andrew Hastie has been preselected as our candidate in Canning. This is a man who has dedicated years of his life serving this country and he is now prepared to dedicate his life to serving the people of Canning. I think he makes an outstanding candidate. We do choose on merit. There was quite a wide field but I am confident that Andrew Hastie will prove to be a most outstanding candidate at the next election. I'm looking forward to supporting him in whatever way I can because the people of Canning deserve this strong representative, a strong voice in Canning, as Don Randall was and knowing Andrew Hastie, he will prove to be an outstanding representative for Canning and a fine addition to the Australian Parliament.

JOURNALIST There's been a Wilson security guard who has worked on Nauru who has claimed that asylum seekers have been subjected to water boarding. Do you think that claim may damage Australia's bid for the United Nations Human Rights Council?

JULIE BISHOP I have no understanding of the details of this; it is obviously a matter for the Minister for Immigration and I'm not going to comment on a matter on which I'm not fully briefed.

JOURNALIST The Prime Minister backed targets for women in the Liberal Party at the weekend. What target would you like to see?

JULIE BISHOP 50 per cent.

JOURNALIST Do you think that's what the party would settle upon?

JULIE BISHOP Well a target has to be achievable but if you want Parliament to be representative of the composition of society, well you'd want to have half the population represented. Our policy is merit based. A target is something you strive for, something that you seek to achieve. As long as we can continue to increase the number of women at each election, which is what the Prime Minister said would be our target, I think that's a great idea and I certainly look forward to being part of the push to get more women into Parliament. I believe that formal and informal mentoring networks, for example, can assist in bringing more women into Parliament. So there is a number of things we can do and I was delighted the Prime Minister spoke about it over the weekend.

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