Doorstop interview Parliament House, Canberra

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Good morning. I wonder if you can just tell us what can Australia do about this latest North Korean test?

JULIE BISHOP: This latest test is a serious escalation, it is exponentially more powerful than previous tests. North Korea remains in direct defiance of the UN Security Council. We urge all nations around the globe to impose the sanctions mandated by the UN Security Council. They will take affect from the beginning of September. It is the toughest most comprehensive set of sanctions against North Korea to date and so we must use these sanctions to compel North Korea to change its ways and deter it from carrying out any more illegal tests.

JOURNALIST: There are reports that America is considering not just sanctions on North Korea but cutting trade with countries that do trade with North Korea, most importantly China. Do you think that is a wise step to take?

JULIE BISHOP: This is a very significant step. It reflects the gravity with which United States views the current situation with North Korea. What we are seeking to do is block North Korea's access to finance so that we stop it funding its illegal ballistic missile and nuclear test programs. China is the major source of finance for North Korea, it is its major trading partner, but China is part of this tough sanctions regime and backed the 5 August sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council. They have a long way to go. They are sector-wide sanctions against whole sections of the North Korean economy, that is banning coal exports, lead, iron ore, seafood, banning new visas for North Korean workers so they can't send remittances back to the regime to fund its illegal programs. There is also a sanction over the foreign trading bank, which is its primary source of foreign investment.

JOURNALIST: What about Australia? Could we ever afford to stop trading with a country like China as part of pressure on North Korea?

JULIE BISHOP: Well clearly China and the United States are major trading partners for Australia, so we want to avoid any kind of trade war between China and the United States. We certainly back the United States' concerns and the concerns of China that North Korea should be prevented from accessing the finance that it is using for its illegal weapons program.

JOURNALIST: Where is Australia up to with our negotiations with the Philippines in terms of whether we send them any more assistance?

JULIE BISHOP: We have made an offer and the Philippines is considering whether they need any further support. The Defence Minister, Senator Marise Payne will be visiting the Philippines and she will take these discussions further. It is up to the Philippines as to the kind of support they need. We are not the only country that has offered further support for the Philippines, also the United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and others.

JOURNALIST: I understand you may not want to go into the specifics about what that support might be, but could you tell us whether that offer includes Special Forces troops?

JULIE BISHOP: No it didn't.

JOURNALIST: OK. Was it further intelligence gathering support?

JULIE BISHOP: What we have already offered and the Philippines have accepted is surveillance and real-time information sharing. But I pointed out to the President that we also have experience in advising and assisting and training in urban warfare against terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he didn't indicate whether that's the kind of support they needed but he was certainly open to accepting discussions about further support.

JOURNALIST: So could that involve troops, including Special Forces, but not in a combat capacity, rather in a training one?

JULIE BISHOP: Well you're getting into far too much detail, we didn't go into that level of detail. This is a matter for the Philippines, they have to determine what kind of support the Armed Forces Philippines require. At this stage, the siege of Marawi City has been going on for months, about 400 people have been killed, about 360,000 people have been displaced. So it's a very serious situation and Australia wants to ensure that ISIS does not gain a foothold in our part of the world, so that's why we've made the offer to provide assistance should they need it.

JOURNALIST: Just one more domestic politics if you'll humour me?

JULIE BISHOP: Of course.

JOURNALIST: There's reports that the Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek said that she wouldn't rule anything out when she was asked whether Labor would consider walking out of the House of Reps in protest essentially at the Government this week. What do you make of that?

JULIE BISHOP: I thought the Labor Members were elected to represent their constituents in the Federal Parliament, and whatever games Labor wants to play, the Coalition Government will get on with governing for the Australian people and representing their interests in the national Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Thank you.

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