Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE

LAURA JAYES: Joining me now from Kirribilli House is the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. She has been there with her counterpart today and a part of those bilateral meetings. Foreign Minister we thank you for your time. First, can I ask you about the Iran nuclear deal? Emmanuel Macron has been leading the charge here in terms of the diplomatic efforts. Did he give you any further insight today in terms of where this might end up, and what the US might do?

JULIE BISHOP: President Macron has again reiterated that in his view the Iran nuclear deal is the best option available to the international community to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions. I spoke with the US National Security Adviser John Bolton this morning, and it is clear that a decision will have to be made by President Trump on the 12th of May as to whether the United States stays in the Iran nuclear deal or reimposes sanctions on Iran. As Prime Minister Turnbull indicated, Australia's position is that we support the continuation of the Iran nuclear deal - there is no other option available - but that other issues involving Iran's behaviour in the region, particularly in Syria, and Yemen, and Iraq should be the subject of other negotiations, other discussions. That aligns with the position of France and others in the international community.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. On another issue, Australia has secured those exemptions from tariffs that the United States is levelling against a number of other countries. We are only one of three countries - why is this? Does it go down to golf diplomacy that Joe Hockey has been exercising in Washington? Does it go down to our special relationship with the United States? Or is it just a simple fact that we run a trade deficit with the US?

JULIE BISHOP: It is a combination of issues. The Prime Minister and other Ministers have been advocating our position for quite some time now. I have spoken with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, I've spoken with National Security Adviser John Bolton about this very issue. Turnbull Government Ministers have been speaking with their counterparts, and of course the Prime Minister has been speaking with the President about it. The fact is we have a very free and fair trading arrangement with the United States, and we also have a trade deficit - in other words, the United States has a trade surplus with Australia. Importantly, we are not only an economic partner but we are a very strong security partner. You could not get two nations as close as the United States and Australia in that regard. Also, Australian steel actually supports US jobs. So I believe that we were able to obtain an exemption for a number of reasons, but most certainly our advocacy of the benefits of the US-Australia relationship, I believe, has been able to have some impact.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. Can I ask you about another domestic issue - the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has said there is a case to be made about expanding the powers of the ASD, the Australian Signals Directorate. Do you agree?

JULIE BISHOP: In fact, this matter was put to me last weekend, and I said that there was no proposal before the Government to expand the powers of the military agency, the Australia Signals Directorate, to enable it to collect intelligence on Australians or to access covertly their private data. The three relevant departmental secretaries confirmed that and rejected any suggestion that there was a proposal to use the Australian Signals Directorate, which is within the Department of Defence, to collect intelligence against Australians or access their data. I take my advice from our security and intelligence agencies, and they have not raised with me any issue that would require an expansion of ASD's powers such that you would use them against Australians.

LAURA JAYES: No, not to use them against Australians, but when we are talking about the Australian Signals Directorate, we are talking about onshore surveillance. You said on Sunday that there is no security gap. I'm not talking about the use of surveilling individual Australians, but to extend this to onshore surveillance - not of mass surveillance of emails but just expanding the remit of the ASD to look at local assets. Is it still your view that there is no security gap? The remit of ASD does not need to change at all?

JULIE BISHOP: First, the ASD is within the Department of Defence, and is answerable, therefore, to the Minister for Defence, but if you are talking about expanding powers in relation to the surveillance of Australians, that is a matter for ASIO and the Australian Federal Police. They are completely separate agencies answerable to different Ministers. So I don't think we should mix the two issues. ASD is within the military, it is part of the Department of Defence answerable to Senator Payne as Defence Minister, but onshore surveillance in relation to Australians is a matter for ASIO, the Australian Federal Police.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. Peter Dutton has raised this. He was asked about it at a media conference yesterday. So what you're saying is that if there was a proposal it would not be coming forward by him, it would be coming forward by Marise Payne?

JULIE BISHOP: Now we are getting into hypotheticals. I am just pointing out the facts as to where these different agencies lie. If there were any proposal that related to increasing the powers of an agency to act against Australians, it wouldn't come from ASD and the Minister for Defence I wouldn't think, because of course we have an ASIO Act and acts that cover the Australian Federal Police, but, again, we are talking in hypotheticals. If a Minister, if the security and intelligence agencies advise a Minister that there is a need to amend our laws, well then of course any proposal would go before the National Security Committee. If it were agreed, it would go to the Cabinet. If it were agreed, it would then go to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Security and Intelligence Matters, and it would need to go to our party room. There is quite a process if there were any gap and there were any proposal at any point, but as I said we are talking in hypotheticals. What I can say, without doubt, is that the Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring that our security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need, have the resources they need to keep Australians safe. That is what we are committed to ensuring.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. Just to be absolutely clear - it is your view, and nothing has come to your attention that would say that there is a security gap involving ASD on particular issues that you need to assess, and need to have a conversation, or look at a proposal?

JULIE BISHOP: I was asked on Sunday whether there was a proposal to expand the powers of the Australian Signals Directorate to enable it to collect data or collect intelligence against Australians, and I said there was no such proposal. I was backed up by the three relevant departmental secretaries, and that I wasn't aware of any need to expand the powers of ASD in that regard. That remains my position.

LAURA JAYES: Let me just ask you about Tim Hammond - he has resigned today, saying that he wants to be a better father. You're also someone who does a lot of travel in your job. What do you make of Tim Hammond's decision today?

JULIE BISHOP: I've found Tim Hammond to be a thoroughly decent and competent politician. I like him. I understand the challenges of trying to be a Federal Member of Parliament from Western Australia, and I sympathise with his desire to spend more time with his family. It is a gruelling trip from Western Australia to Canberra, and around the country and back again, as Western Australian politicians are required to undertake. I do wish him and his family all the best. I think he will be a great loss to the Labor Party.

LAURA JAYES: Julie Bishop, thanks so much for your time. Live there from a pretty spectacular setting, I've got to say, at Kirribilli. Thank you.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

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