Interview with Zoe Daniel - ABC, The World

  • Transcript, E&OE

ZOE DANIEL: Minister, thank you very much for your time.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

ZOE DANIEL: You said that you planned to raise concernsover the Trump Administrations relationship with Russia, specifically thechance that Russia could escape responsibility for past behaviour, did you andwhat reassurance did you get?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, I most certainly did raise it during abilateral discussion with Secretary Pompeo and also in the broader discussion.And as Secretary Pompeo has said at the press conference just a short whileago, the United States stands with Australia in seeking to hold Russia toaccount for its role in the downing of MH17 and we had an extensive discussionabout the support that the United States has already provided, particularly inthe UN Security Council and the fact that Secretary Pompeo joined in the G7statement condemning the tragedy, the atrocity and also holding Russia toaccount. And again, in the communique from this Australia-US Ministerialmeeting there is a reference to holding Russia to account.

ZOE DANIEL: Donald Trump has a very – this is my word –unorthodox approach to international relations. Is there something to be saidfor that? What benefit is there from him, sort of, changing up the system, ifyou like?

JULIE BISHOP: From my observation he focusses very much onpersonal relationships and that has been to our benefit as well. PresidentTrump and Prime Minister Turnbull get along very well and that has assisted usin getting unprecedented access to the White House and to the US Government.But I think the US President also focuses on what hasn't worked in the past andcomes up with new and innovative ways of doing things differently so that weget a better outcome. While six months ago people would have been astoundedthat there were to be a summit between North Korea and the President of theUnited States, what has happened is that we are now talking about stability onthe Korean Peninsula rather than military conflict.

ZOE DANIEL: And yet, it also creates substantialvolatility having Donald Trump involved. Does that create a reason forAustralia to be a little more cautious in its relationship with the US?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia has a strong and enduringpartnership and alliance with the United States and that will not change. Infact, in this meeting we committed a new to our alliance and our levels ofcooperation across a broad range of issues but most notably our support for anopen and free, inclusive and prosperous Indo Pacific. The United States view ofthe world continues to align with ours in regard to the key national intereststhat Australia has.

ZOE DANIEL: Did you get any undertaking on a newAmbassador to Australia or Donald Trump visiting Australia later this year?

JULIE BISHOP: We certainly talked about a whole range ofissues, but the choice of the Ambassador is a matter for the United States. Weare working closely with Jim Caruso, the Charge, but I don't think it is anyreflection on the depth of our relationship.

ZOE DANIEL: How much discussion was there about Chineseinfluence not only in the South China Sea but in the South Pacific? How big aconcern is that for the US and how could the two countries work collaborativelyon that front?

JULIE BISHOP: We talked a great deal about the Indo-Pacificand within that discussion we also talked about Australia's role in thePacific, particularly the South Pacific, and the US role in the North Pacific.We welcome more investment in the Pacific, no one country alone can provide allof the support that the Pacific needs and we discussed ways where we could workconstructively with China to ensure that the investment from China and indeedfrom other nations drives sustainable growth in the Pacific.

ZOE DANIEL: And what about the so-called 'debt trap'situation that Tonga is now in, I mean, is that sort-of a red flag for otherPacific nations but also something for countries like Australia and the US tobe aware of in terms of the regional dynamic?

JULIE BISHOP: We are working with Tonga to ensure that itcan manage its finances in a way that leads to a sustainable budget andeconomic growth. We work with a number of Pacific nations in that regard,providing our expertise and advice. We also want to be a partner of choice withthe Pacific. A natural partner for the Pacific Island nations in providingsupport to them so that they can realise their aspirations for a betterstandard of living and more economic growth in their country.

ZOE DANIEL: So, might Australia help Tonga pay that insome way?

JULIE BISHOP : What Australia is doing issupporting Pacific Island countries with advice and expertise on how they canmanage their budgets. We are also offering alternatives. You will have seen inPapua New Guinea and Solomon Islands we are supporting the financing of anundersea telecommunications cable because that directly leads to increasedeconomic growth and prosperity in those countries.

ZOE DANIEL: What about freedom of navigation controls,has the US made a request for Australia to actively participate in those in theSouth China Sea and will we?

JULIE BISHOP: We already participate in upholding therights of freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight. Australia sends ourships and our planes through the South China Sea in accordance withinternational law and we've been doing that for a very long time. The UnitedStates has a freedom of navigation, a global FONOPS program, that it conductsin accordance with its capacity and abilities, but we conduct our own freedomof navigation and freedom of overflight exercise.

ZOE DANIEL: And we don't want to extend that at thispoint?

JULIE BISHOP: We are already doing it. We are alreadytaking part in exercises in the South China Sea.

ZOE DANIEL: Final question. Over all the talks with MikePompeo and Jim Mattis, how would you characterise those particularly at a timewhere the Administration has put various allies on notice in regards to theirrelationship?

JULIE BISHOP: It was an extremely productive and fruitfulmeeting. It was timely because Secretary Pompeo has just been appointedSecretary of State in recent months. We had the opportunity to discuss a verywide range of issues that affect our national interest and how we can worktogether. It reaffirmed our joint commitment to the alliance and ourpartnership and our aligned view of the world in so many areas. It has been avery productive meeting and again underscores the level of access we have toimportant figures in the Trump Administration.

ZOE DANIEL: Minister, thank you.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

Media enquiries