Insiders - interview with Fran Kelly

  • Transcript, E&OE
17 July 2016

JOURNALIST Julie Bishop, welcome to Insiders.


JOURNALIST Minister, three Australians wereinjured in the terror attack in Nice. Do you have an update for us ontheir condition?

JULIEBISHOP I do indeed. There werethree Australians injured in this terrible attack that occurredin Nice. One of them has had treatment for her injuries and hasleft hospital. Two other Australians remain in separate hospitalsin Nice. I have been in contact with the family of one of them –she's sustained injuries that are more serious than we first thought,but they are not life-threatening and she's in a stable condition. Our consularstaff have visited both Australians and we wish them a full andspeedy recovery and hope they'll be home with their families verysoon.

JOURNALIST This tragedy in Nice, this terrorattack in Nice, has made it crystal clear that all in one needs nowto create mass casualties, civilian casualties is basically illintent and a truck. Does this signal to you a new phase, extended phase ofthe threat of ISIS?

JULIEBISHOP There have been a seriesof horrific attacks in Europe and elsewhere, and this was anothermindless, barbarous act claimed by an individual, it would seem,although ISIL have now claimed responsibility however the prosecutors areyet to make a connection between this man known to French policefor antisocial and violent behaviour, but French intelligence andother intelligence agencies had no connection with this man and radical Islam,radicalisation or terrorism. However, an investigation is underway, soit's too early to say whether or not he does have connections withradical Islam or terrorism in any way. Nevertheless, it is a reminder ofthe insidious nature of terrorist attacks and that's why we arefocusing on defeating ISIL in the Middle East, and also takingwhatever steps we can to keep Australians safe both at home andabroad.

JOURNALIST Well, on that front, ourintelligence agencies have been telling us for a while it's not amatter of if, but when, there is another terror attack here, and abig terror attack here. How can our agencies stop this kind of underthe radar lone wolf attack if it was to occur? What's the key tothat?

JULIEBISHOP I have said onmany occasions that Australia is not immune, cities in Australiaare not immune. We have seen attacks across the world but we do havea number of advantages. We have very strong border protection lawsand in practice we have some of the best intelligence agency,law enforcement agencies in the world, and we are coordinatingvery closely, particularly in our region, to thwart any formof terrorist attack. But we do rely on intelligence and cooperationwith our own community, as well as communities abroad.

JOURNALIST Just on that front, Pauline Hanson,soon to be in the Senate. She says Islam is not compatible with theAustralian way of life. Are you concerned, on her elevation to theSenate, about the impact of that kind of comment of anti-Muslimrhetoric, if you like, and that it plays into the Islamist narrative,that it might get in the way of that cooperation you are talkingabout?

JULIEBISHOP There will be a number ofsenators who hold very diverse and different views and views with which Iwould not agree. However, we have to work constructively with them. Theyare all duly elected members of the Senate and we have to workconstructively with them. Some of the suggestions being made obviouslygo against the grain. I mean, some suggestions about banning mosquesand the like, I would suggest would be unconstitutional, becausefreedom of religion is guaranteed in our Constitution. But thataside, we must work constructively to ensure that we have a cohesivesociety in Australia and a community that can come together andembrace difference and not to have divisions within communities.

JOURNALIST Are you worried that that isbreaking down, that cohesion? I know you're meeting with the US VicePresident Joe Biden later today. He is warning of the gatheringforces of racism in Australia and America - do you share thoseconcerns?

JULIEBISHOP There are a number ofviews expressed by people with which I disagree. I'm deeply troubledby some of the views of the Greens, some of their views about Israeland the United States, for example. But we have to workconstructively with people and advocate our point of viewand encourage people to embrace tolerance and understanding, andwe are one of the most successful multicultural nations on earthand we should celebrate that fact.

JOURNALIST There were the terror attacks inNice on Friday. 24 hours later there was a thwarted military coup inTurkey, 160 people killed, many civilians. There is always a lotof Australian tourists in Turkey, I guess there are at this time.Do you have any sense of if they are safe, can they leave thecountry, are you able to get out of Turkey at the moment?

JULIEBISHOP I have been in constantcommunication with our Ambassador in Ankara, James Larsen. In factthe Embassy is very close to where a lot of the military activitytook place. James Larsen assures me that no Australians have beenreported as being involved in any way. A number of Australians are atairports, particularly Istanbul Airport, seeking to leave. Wehave encouraged them to contact their travel agents, the airlines,and we have consular officials at those airports. I think thesituation has now resolved. There is still some civil unrest in areas butthe Government is back in control of the military element that Ibelieve was thought to be responsible for this is attempted coup.

JOURNALIST Are you concerned about the schismbetween the military and the Government in Turkey, that it willdiminish Turkey's effectiveness in their fight against ISIS, maybedistract them from stopping ISIL militants from exiting?

JULIEBISHOP It is still early daysto work out the motivations of the plotters of this attempted coupbut it appears to be an element within the military. It's speculatedthat it's the Islamist Gulen movement, so it's not the military as awhole. Also, it doesn't appear to be a coup that was backed byTurkey's secular, political, military and civilian opposition. Soit's a small element within the military, but at any time wherea democratically elected Government is challenged by elementswithin the military, it's deeply concerning. Of course, we wantto ensure that Turkey's focus is on countering terrorism, because of therole that it can play in the fight against ISIL, but I'm hoping therewill be minimal disruption to the Government of Turkey. It isa democratically elected Government and Australia certainlysupports the democratic institutions and democratic systems that havegiven rise to this democratically elected Government in Turkey.

JOURNALIST Let's talk about tensions in theSouth China Sea. China reacted pretty ferociously to your response tothe decision in The Hague. Some analysts here say you should gofurther and our Government should authorise the Navy and Air Force tomove within the 12 mile zone of some of those Chinese builtinstallations. To send a message, not necessarily authorise it, butsend a message. Do you agree?

JULIEBISHOP I have been consistent,open and frank about our views on the South China Sea. We are not aclaimant, but we urge all parties, all claimants, to exerciserestraint, abide by the rule of law and negotiate peacefully.

JOURNALIST Is our Navy and is Air Force, arethey authorised?

JULIEBISHOP Fran, I must say I'msurprised that China would be surprised that I'm urgingpeace, restraint and abiding by international laws. WhatAustralia will do is continue to exercise our right of freedom ofnavigation, freedom of overflight as we have always done. We havetraversed the seas and skies of the South China Sea for decades and we'llcontinue to do what we have always done. We are not in the businessof escalating tensions, doing anything provocative. We have madeour position plain. I have been consistent, clear, open andfrank about Australia's position on the South China Sea.

JOURNALIST Our Navy has the authority to movewithin that 12 mile zone, if it sees fit?

JULIEBISHOP Our Navy will do what ithas always done and that is traverse the international waters underinternational law. We will not do anything that is provocative, thatwill escalate tensions. We are calling for calm, we are calling for theclaimants to negotiate their claims peacefully.

JOURNALIST There is a lot of domesticnews around too, but before I leave your particular policyarea, today is the second anniversary of the downing of flight MH 17over Ukraine. The families of those who were killed in that crash,are they any closer to getting justice? We still…there's been noblame, really, put anywhere yet, has there?

JULIEBISHOP It isa very poignant day, 17 July, and I remember it so well, two yearsago, when this monstrous act occurred, with so many people killed,including 38 Australians, or people who called Australia home. Wehave maintained contact with the families to inform them of theprocess that's under way with the Joint Investigation Team. There arefive nations involved in investigating how this occurred, why thisoccurred, who is responsible and there will be a final report due thisyear. I'm hoping that that report will indicate the names of thosewho are responsible for this atrocity and then we can decide whataction we can take, collectively, but there's a great deal of supportwithin those five nations to ensure that we hold those responsibleaccountable for this crime. We will do all we can, as a Government,to bring justice to the families of those who were killed aboard thatflight.

JOURNALIST Minister, can I take you to domesticpolitics now, because your first party room meeting sincethe election is tomorrow. First things first, do you expect to beelected unopposed as the Deputy Liberal Leader?

JULIEBISHOP I never take anythingfor granted. I will put myself forward to be the Deputy of the Party.I have spoken to many of my colleagues and I'm encouraged by theirsupport, so I'll certainly put myself forward.

JOURNALIST The conservatives are gettingrestless. I guess there will be a reshuffle; putting Tony Abbott backinto the frontbench would be the ultimate reassurance, really,wouldn't it? Why wouldn't he be put back in the Cabinet?

JULIEBISHOP Tony Abbott is aformer Prime Minister, a former long-serving Cabinet Minister…

JOURNALIST …Therefore presumably one ofthe best performers.

JULIEBISHOP …of course he hasa contribution to make to the Government, but there are manyways that a contribution can be made. Prime Minister Turnbullhas indicated that there will be minimal changes to the Cabinetand Ministry, because there had only recently been a new Cabinet andnew Ministry before the election, and we did lose a couple of ministersbut I don't expect there to be many changes, other than that isrequired to honour the agreement with the Nationals.

JOURNALIST So you don't necessarily supportbringing Tony Abbott back.

JULIEBISHOP I don't believe the PrimeMinister intends to make major changes to the Cabinet. It's workingeffectively, it's working well, and he did say before the election thathe expected to take that team to the election and that would bethe Cabinet ministerial team after the election, subject to peoplewinning their seats.

JOURNALIST Tensions are running pretty highalready in your party room ahead of tomorrow's meeting. One unnamedMP has been quoted this week as saying the narrow victory meansMalcolm Turnbull needs to kneel at the feet of the conservatives. Nowobviously if he tries too hard to appease the conservatives he riskslosing the middle ground. What should he do?

JULIEBISHOP I have spoken to many ofour backbenchers, many of our colleagues since the election andthat's not the sense I get at all. I think there is actually a unityof purpose. People were frustrated, some disappointed by the result,understandably, a number of very talented and good people including anumber of female Members of Parliament lost seats. So of course thereis disappointment. I also detect a great sense of getting onwith governing in the interests of all Australians and that's whatpeople are saying to me. Of course, there will be debates, there willbe differences, there will be disagreements. It's a political partyor political parties, the Liberals and the Nationals, but we are allfocused on getting the best outcomes for Australia and Australians.

JOURNALIST If we can just stay with thecampaign for a moment, it's been reported that Malcolm Turnbulldonated $1 million in the final weeks of the campaign because thecoffers were bare. Whose fault is that, the corporate donations dryup under Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull?

JULIEBISHOP I don't believe thecoffers were or are bare. In fact our Federal Director hassaid that's not the case. I'm not surprised if Malcolm Turnbulldid donate to the Liberal Party, he's certainly done it in the past.Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull are some of the most generous benefactorsthat I know and if the Liberal Party is one of their causes, well then I'mpleased to receive it.

JOURNALIST In the middle of the campaign? Wouldit be because he wanted a particular TV ad campaign or maybe somepolling?

JULIEBISHOP That could well bethe case but that's the Prime Minister's call, but he'sdonated to the Liberal Party in the past and I'm pleased that he doesso.

JOURNALIST Would it be appropriate if the PrimeMinister uses his own money because he wants to directcertain elements of the campaign?

JULIEBISHOP That's speculation, Fran.If the Prime Minister wishes to donate to the Liberal Party, I'm surethe Liberal Party will be delighted to receive it. We all have anobligation to raise money for the Party and I do, other ministers do,other backbenchers raise money for the party as much as we can. Wedon't have the automatic rivers of gold that come from a unionmovement.

JOURNALIST Plenty of your colleagues areangry about the superannuation changes and they have done nothing tohide that. You heard some of that anger, I'm pretty sure, when youwere out during the campaign in the electorates, were youurging Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison to signal some changes?

JULIEBISHOP Fran, I always pass onthe feedback I get from the public and from my my colleagues, that'sthe role of the Deputy Leader…

JOURNALIST Were you urging changes to be made?

JULIEBISHOP I understand that we havea budget problem, we need savings. I also understand that we neededto fix aspects of our superannuation system. It is meant to be forretirement income, not for tax minimisation, not for estate planning. Weput together a package of measures in the budget, we took those measuresto the election. We have a responsibility, indeed an obligation, topresent those measures again in a legislative form. But there's a longprocess under way, as everybody knows. The Budget would then betranslated into legislative measures, as appropriate, be taken toCabinet, it would be taken to the party room, introduced intothe Parliament, there would be debate in the House and the Senate.So there's a long way to go, but we have an obligation to putforward the superannuation changes which made savings and that'srelevant to budget repair, and also to our AAA credit rating.

JOURNALIST Is there a backdown coming already?Can you confirm as reported that the Treasurer will ease up on the$500,000 lifetime cap on contributions, maybe exemptions for farmingfamilies, divorced couples, people who inherited deceased estates?

JULIEBISHOP I can confirm thatthe Treasurer and the Treasury will be drafting the legislation, butI obviously haven't seen it yet.

JOURNALIST So you not heard of those changes?

JULIEBISHOP I have not heard of thosechanges but the Treasurer will be drafting the legislation that willthen be presented to the Cabinet, the party room, the House, theSenate.

JOURNALIST Minister, your party roomis severely depleted, you lost 13 members and three senators, a goodnumber of those were women. There's been much written about this. There's only13 women now left on your side in the House of Reps, the lowest levelfor 23 years. Sophie Mirabella, who did not get elected, saysthe Liberal Party needs an Emily's List kind of organisation, wouldyou support that, it's what Labor has?

JULIEBISHOP Fran, I was excited bythe number of women who were pre-selected and I campaigned with verytalented, skilled women throughout Australia for this campaign, butnot all of them were elected. Had they been elected, had 30 womenbeen elected we wouldn't be having this discussion.

JOURNALIST That's the key, it's all very wellto pre-select them, it's where you pre-select them.

JULIEBISHOP No not necessarily. Fran,might I say there were some very talented women who were pre-selectedin Teresa Harding and Freya Ostapovitch and Karen Howard and PieretteKelly, across Australia and I campaigned with them. But you can't puta quota on the elector's choice, on the voter's choice so...

JOURNALIST Isn't the answer to that simple -you put where there are safe seats up for grab, a seat for instancelike McKellar, where Bronwyn Bishop was no longer standing, You putwomen into the safe seats then they will get elected?

JULIEBISHOP The safest Liberal seatis mine and I'm female so...

JOURNALIST That's taken, I understand.

JULIEBISHOP Currently [LAUGHTER].But diversity can come in many ways. Of course, I want to see morewomen in Parliament and of course I'd like to see more women in theLiberal Party and I think there are a number of issues we can lookat such as plebiscites to ensure that we get a broad cross-sectionof views and women will rise to the top that way, I thinkplebiscites are worth looking at. But diversity can come in many ways. We had candidateswho are gay and they have been elected, we have candidates who aresingle mums and they were elected, we have candidates from a vastarray of back grounds, life experiences, they are not all justcookie cutters out of the union movement. We have got people from awide range of backgrounds.

JOURNALIST But you don't have women.

JULIEBISHOP We are working on it.I believe that it is an issue for us, but we will continue to ensurethat women are not only pre-selected but elected and promoted, and Ithink the more women who take leadership roles in the Liberal Partythat will mean more women will be inspired to make politics a career.

JOURNALIST Just finally, Minister, back to yourown portfolio, Boris Johnson has been appointed the British ForeignSecretary. He's been called by some in Europe reckless, a liar,a coward. It's a pretty sensitive time in terms ofBritain's relationships abroad. How would you describe Boris Johnsonand what do you think of his appointment?

JULIEBISHOP I met him when he was theLord Mayor of London and I was struck by his charm, his wit, hishumour, but his intelligence. I would not under-estimate BorisJohnson. He's mischievous, he's very cheeky, he has got a real glintin his eye. I'm really looking forward to some of the ForeignMinisters' meetings with Boris Johnson. But he also has a very solemnresponsibility as Britain's Foreign Secretary, and I'm sure he willfulfil that with great intelligence and dedication. There is so muchat stake, there are so many significant issues for the internationalcommunity to grapple with, so many challenges, but I feel sure that BorisJohnson will make a significant contribution.

JOURNALIST Julie Bishop, thank you very muchfor joining us.

JULIEBISHOP It has been my pleasure.

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