Interview with Kieran Gilbert - First Edition, Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE

KIERAN GILBERT: Let's go live now to the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for her thoughts on this much-expected landmark. We've been doing the countdown for some time to this 30th Newspoll loss, Julie Bishop.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, Kieran. That's not the test for the leadership of the Liberal Party. In fact, the test is who retains the confidence of the majority of the members of the Liberal party room, and that's Malcolm Turnbull.

KIERAN GILBERT: Now, you're very close behind in terms of preferred Liberal leader, just one point behind in that rating. If there were to be some move, are you then the sensible successor?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't even envisage these circumstances, Kieran. The fact is that Malcolm Turnbull retains the confidence of the vast majority of our party room. He has laid out an economic plan. He promised to deliver strong economic management and he's delivering on that promise, and that's why we're seeing this extraordinary jobs growth since the Turnbull Government was elected - well, since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister. Indeed, there have been 17 consecutive months of jobs growth. We now have about 400,000 new jobs in the last 12 months. We're on track to see the one millionth job created since the Coalition came into Government and we've got the highest number of people in employment in Australia's history. So, our economic plans are delivering outcomes.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Prime Minister says he feels it is close at the moment. Level pegging pretty much in terms of the political equation with Labor. Do you agree with that?

JULIE BISHOP: I think that the Australian people are yet to make up their mind. Of course, there's still 12 months to an election, but the different approaches of the Liberal National Party and the Labor Party are becoming quite evident. Labor is claiming more taxes - Labor want to see higher taxes. We want to see lower taxes, more money in the pockets of the Australian people so that they can invest and grow their businesses. Labor has an ideological approach to energy. We want to see affordable and reliable energy. So, the difference between the two parties' policies is becoming clearer by the day, and I believe that when we get to an election, the Australian people will see that the Turnbull Government has an economic plan that will drive economic prosperity for the future and that we can be trusted on national security.

KIERAN GILBERT: One of the things that John Howard spoke of last week and reiterated is the need for all members of the party to be on the same page basically. This morning, Tony Abbott is in Warragul. We've just heard from him. He's making the point again about the need to use and make use of Australian coal more. He's calling for the immigration rate to be cut again. Is it time for him to reign in some of these alternative policy agendas?

JULIE BISHOP: The Liberal Party has always allowed members to speak their mind, but the team behind Malcolm Turnbull is absolutely solid. We want to see strong economic management. National security is a priority and they are the matters that we're focused on. So, we're delivering on the promise of economic growth. We've seen extraordinary jobs growth and this is giving businesses the opportunity to invest, to grow, to export their goods and services. That's why we're entering into these free trade deals, so that Australian export businesses have new markets where they can sell our goods and services.

KIERAN GILBERT: It's crucial to have unity though isn't it? As we've said so many times in politics, disunity is death, and in the lead up last week we saw the Monash Forum discussing different approaches to coal and so on. You would concede at the very least that unity is crucial.

JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely, and it's a truism and everybody knows it - in politics you have to have a united team and the public gives you points for being a united team and take points off you if you're not. I wouldn't be too concerned about different voices within the Liberal Party - we've always encouraged different views. There are different groupings from time to time. There's a group that meets for lunch in what's called the Monkey Pod Room. There are state groups, you know, the Victorian members, or the Queensland members, or the West Australian members, meet from time to time. Indeed, there are groups of Liberals who meet because of the year they entered politics, and I'm part of the class of 1998, and we used to have meetings. The meetings are a lot shorter now in the class of 1998, but at least all the decisions are unanimous. I'm the only member.


KIERAN GILBERT: Well given that, you've obviously got a lot of support within the party as well, and more broadly, for possibly taking the top role one day. Is that something that you still have, that leadership baton in your knapsack there?

JULIE BISHOP: Kieran, I've been elected as the Deputy of the party and that means that my colleagues, a majority of my colleagues have confidence in me to do that role, and I'm the Foreign Minister, so I will continue to be the Deputy of the party for as long as the majority of the party room support me in that role, and I'm happy doing this. I'm happy supporting Malcolm Turnbull as the leader, and I'm happy, and honoured, to be Australia's Foreign Minister.

KIERAN GILBERT: Some big news on foreign policy matters, I want to ask you about North Korea having confirmed to the White House that they're opening denuclearisation ahead of possible talks with Donald Trump next month. You'd welcome that development this morning?

JULIE BISHOP: Kieran, this is a breakthrough, and it shows that the collective international policy of maximum pressure on North Korea is working. The whole idea of placing political and economic pressure on North Korea was to bring it back to the negotiating table and Australia was part of that effort. We're now seeing the results. North Korea has given an indication that they are prepared to return to the negotiating table and indeed talk about denuclearising the Korean Peninsula. So, we've got to maintain that maximum pressure campaign to ensure that they do return, and they do commence negotiations.

KIERAN GILBERT: Have we seen a situation where Donald Trump's unpredictability as a leader is having benefits on this front, in terms of the North Koreans at least?

JULIE BISHOP: Most certainly President Trump has changed the narrative and he moved away from this strategic patience approach which in fact has enabled North Korea to continue down the path of its illegal ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons programs. By President Trump changing the narrative, calling on China to do more, we saw China respond because they supported the unanimous UN Security Council resolutions imposing the harshest sanctions every on North Korea and also we're seeing the President's narrative change North Korea's response. They are now in response to the maximum pressure campaign. They are now talking about returning to the negotiating table, so that's quite a breakthrough.

KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, this atrocity in Ghouta, in Syria, we've seen the images, horrific images. What's your advice on that? Is it the Assad regime that's responsible for that chemical - apparently - chemical attack?

JULIE BISHOP: We understand that this chemical attack was carried out by the Assad regime, most certainly the Assad regime has a history of using chemical weapons against their own people. It is utterly abhorrent. It is an appalling situation. Australia condemns the use of chemical weapons anywhere, anytime, by anybody, and this situation is intolerable. That's why we're pushing for some kind of political solution in Syria so that the people can live in some kind of peace and stability after years of conflict. We call on Syria and Russia - because Russia is backing the Assad Regime - to ensure that chemical weapons are not used against civilians, and that they should be held to account for this.

KIERAN GILBERT: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joining me from Brisbane. Thanks for that.

JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Kieran.

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