Interview with Kim Landers - ABC AM

  • Transcript, E&OE

KIM LANDERS: Minister, good morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, good to be with you.

KIM LANDERS: Will Australia send assistance to Greece tocope with the aftermath of these horrific fires?

JULIE BISHOP: This is a shocking tragedy. Australians knowall too well the devastating impact of bushfires and the loss of life isastounding. Our thoughts are with the people of Greece. Our Embassy in Athensis in close contact with the authorities. We have offered assistance and we areready to provide that assistance if we are asked, but at this stage we standready to provide whatever support the Government of Greece may seek.

KIM LANDERS: You have spent two days with your UScounterpart – did Mike Pompeo tell you who is going to be the next USAmbassador to Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: No he didn't – he did tell me that he wasadvanced in his thinking on the matter and we would certainly welcome anappointment-

KIM LANDERS: Have they settled on a name?

JULIE BISHOP: No, he didn't say that they had. He said thathe was considering the matter. We would certainly welcome an appointment soonerrather than later, but this is not affecting our interactions with the TrumpAdministration. They are yet to appoint Ambassadors to a number of countries.This is not unprecedented – we have waited for more than 12 or 18 months in thepast for the appointment of a US Ambassador. Our Ministers are meeting on aregular basis. Marise Payne and I have just concluded two days of meetings withour counterparts in Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis.

KIM LANDERS: Let me ask you something about that – on thePacific, Secretary Pompeo says "Australia and the US will be taking concreteaction to step up involvement in the region". What did you agree on? What willthat take?

JULIE BISHOP: That means we are going to engage oninfrastructure investment. We are talking about greater cooperation on thedelivery development assistance in the Pacific. We work closely on regionalpeace and security and we are going to continue to do that. So it was on theeconomic front as well as the regional peace, stability and security front.

KIM LANDERS: So you got a clear signal from the US that itis with Australia when it comes to this battle with China for the hearts andminds of Pacific nations?

JULIE BISHOP: That is not the way it was put – they areyour words. What we were talking about was that the United States is a Pacificpower, Australia has a deep and abiding interest in the wellbeing of thenations of the Pacific and we believe that together, and with other countriesas well of course, we will be able to support the Pacific continue to be a regionof stability and hopefully prosperity. I think that with Australia and the USworking together, but also with Japan that has a significant development assistancebudget in the Pacific, with the United Kingdom who recently said that they wereopening more posts in the Pacific, more missions in the Pacific, with China - we are doing some work in Papua New Guineain the development assistance area in health particularly – so want to workwith more partners in developing the Pacific to increase the standard ofliving, reduce poverty and drive economic growth.

KIM LANDERS: The FBI Director said last week that China,from a counter-intelligence perspective represents the most pervasive, mostthreatening challenge that the US faces. Is it the same for Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: We are certainly concerned aboutcyber-attacks. They are not confined to China. We are concerned about foreigninterference. That is certainly not country specific either, so we do workclosely with like-minded countries to ensure that our nation and our region canbe as safe and secure as possible.

KIM LANDERS: When do you think you might be able to travelto China?

JULIE BISHOP: We are in the process of negotiating atimetable when both I and the Foreign Minister are available. Foreign Ministerstravel the world constantly, and so trying to match up times can often be achallenge, but I am looking forward to visiting China as soon as possible.

KIM LANDERS: On Russia, are you pleased to hear that theUS President has postponed his planned meeting with Vladimir Putin to nextyear?

JULIE BISHOP: That is a decision for the President as towhen he schedules a meeting with President Putin. Our interests in theUS-Russia relationship also focus on our interests and that is holding Russiato account for its role in the downing of MH17, and we received a very stronglevel of support from the United States as I expected we would in relation toholding Russia to account for its part in the bringing down of that plane

KIM LANDERS: On Iran, there was a tweet from PresidentTrump that indicated a possible US military strike. Is Australia doing anycontingency planning for that possibility?

JULIE BISHOP: We have concerns about Iranian behaviour inthe region, as does the United States. We are concerned about Iran providingsupport to proxy groups that are working against regional peace and security.For example, in Yemen, Iranian support for groups in Yemen is actuallyextending the suffering and making humanitarian relief very challenging, and weare urging Iran to be a force for peace and stability.

KIM LANDERS: But is Australia planning for thatcontingency of the US possibly launching a military strike?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is urging Iran to be a force forpeace and stability in the region. The relationship between the United Statesand Iran is a matter for them. What we are looking to do is to ensure that allparties embrace peaceful and stable principles to ensure that our region issafe. We are concerned about its ballistic missile program and we talked aboutways of constructively engaging with Iran to prevent the development of thatprogram, but more specifically, we talked about urging Iran to not supportproxy-groups whether it is in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere and that is the levelof discussion we had.

KIM LANDERS: Minister, thank you very much for speakingwith AM this morning.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

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