Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today Show

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Our Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is at the United Nations in New York and joins us now. Thank you for your time this morning. Will Australia be one of the countries to be exempt?

JULIE BISHOP: We are certainly putting that case to the White House and the Trump administration from the Prime Minister to the Trade Minister, and I – we are all advocating strongly that Australia be exempt from these tariffs. There is a provision also for companies to be exempted under US trade laws. So, whether it's on a country basis or on a company basis Australia will be doing all we can to be exempted from the tariffs on steel and aluminium.

JOURNALIST: So you don't know yet is the short answer?

JULIE BISHOP: They haven't made any decision. The Trump Administration have only just confirmed there could be a country by country exemption and we will most certainly be putting our case – as we have been doing for the last couple of days. I note they mentioned Canada and Mexico. They are two countries that are currently negotiating with the United States on the NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement. We would work hard to ensure Australia's interests will be taken into account.

JOURNALIST: Because if it looks like a trade war, is smells like one it is one and if it's a trade war America wins.

JULIE BISHOP: In fact everyone loses, because if there's a trade war that means other countries will impose tariffs and that just leads to a decline in the openness in trade and investment that has seen countries like Australia grow so strongly. So it's in no-one's interest for there to be a trade war.

JOURNALIST: You are due to speak to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later today. What is your message to him? How strong can that be, and are you worried?

JULIE BISHOP: I have already spoken at an Asia Society event today, a public event and there were many Americans there and I sent, what I thought, was a very strong message that Australia will be fighting for an exemption, that in any event we don't believe that this is the path to follow and that if there has been unfair competition in the United States, if there has been dumping of product into the United States, then they should use the rules based system – the WTO – to take a case against the country that they believe has been unfairly competing or unfairly trading. There are mechanisms in place now for the United States and that's the path that we wish them to pursue.

JOURNALIST: The problem is Donald Trump may not be listening, may not care…

JULIE BISHOP: Well, this is a challenge for us. We work very closely with the Trump Administration – we have ever since President Trump was inaugurated. We have many contacts across the White House, across the US Government and we will certainly be using every one of them and I'm scheduling a contact with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. We have been in contact but we haven't spoken yet because he's travelling, but I'm expecting to speak to him about this and I'm sure he knows the message that I will be giving him.

JOURNALIST: Gee, high stakes.

JULIE BISHOP: It is a challenge for the whole world. We don't want to see a return to the days of protectionism because we know that that leads to a decline in economic growth. And what we we're wanting to do is build our export markets, build job opportunities for Australia and for example on Friday Steve Ciobo will be signing on behalf of Australia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP 11. This is a fantastic trade deal with 11 countries involved, significant economies and it means more economic growth, more jobs through open trade and investment.

JOURNALIST: Back home – we appreciate your comments on that. Back home it is International Women's Day and of course there is great gender inequality across the board. What are you going to be Prime Minister?

JULIE BISHOP: That's not the question I expected you to ask me on International Women's Day.

JOURNALIST: You have to expect the unexpected.

JULIE BISHOP: From you I must learn to do that. It's not International Women's Day here yet. I will be attending the UN International Women's Day event here at the United Nations. There's a very high profile panel being put together with US Ambassadors like Reese Witherspoon and others. I have been invited to be on a panel, so, I will be talking about Australia's experience in empowering women and girls and the work we're doing in the Pacific, in particular, to give women and girls the opportunity to fulfil their potential. No country has actually achieved full gender equality and Australia has a long way to go, but as Australia's first female Foreign Minister I hope my voice can be heard here at the UN in calling for more support for women and girls, more opportunities for them to take leadership roles, whether it be in their families, their communities, in government and nationally.

JOURNALIST: I tell you what doesn't help back here when there is a focus not on the job you are doing but on what you are wearing – stories this week about jewellery. How does that sit with you?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, this is a challenging question for us all. What is appropriate journalism when I'm dealing with such significant issues like the signing of the Timor Sea Treaty yesterday? Today I addressed the General Assembly on the Kimberley Diamonds process – that is the regulation of the diamond trade across the world. Tomorrow I am making a statement in the Security Council about Afghanistan – and people want to focus on how I spend my salary? I really don't get the connection, but anyway we all have our priorities in life and mine is to act in the best interests of the Australian people as I represent Australia on the world stage.

JOURNALIST: You have done nothing wrong in that regard though?

JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely not. I understand my ministerial responsibilities in terms of the Code of Conduct and I understand my responsibilities as a Member of Parliament with the register of interests and I comply with both.

JOURNALIST: I hope you don't mind me saying but they are lovely earrings.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

JOURNALIST: And when are you going to be Prime Minister?

JULIE BISHOP: (LAUGHS) Karl there is no vacancy. Prime Minister Turnbull is doing a great job. We are getting things done. This Government is achieving…

JOURNALIST: … He has two polls left.

JULIE BISHOP: I don't subscribe to that theory. Never have.

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, thanks for your time today, really appreciate it, as always.

JULIE BISHOP: It is always a pleasure, thanks Karl.

- Ends -

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