The Project - interview with the panel

  • Transcript, E&OE
01 December 2015

PANELLIST We're joined by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Welcome to the program Minister. This is a lot of money coming out of your portfolio.

Did you sign off on this?

JULIE BISHOP Of course. This is consistent with our aid budget. These are development programs that will focus on health, water, sanitation, infrastructure, economic growth and ensuring that Pacific Island nations particularly are able to cope with the impact of natural disasters because our region, the Pacific, is one of the most natural disaster-prone regions in the world. This is entirely consistent with what our aid budget is for and indeed it's what these small island developing Pacific nations are asking for when we negotiate with them over the aid payments.

PANELLIST So Minister, have I got it right? It's about $200 million a year over the next five years. Is that roughly correct?

JULIE BISHOP About $1 billion. We've already announced the $200 million from the Green Climate Fund. This is money that will be spent in the Pacific. We are focusing on the small island developing nations. It's to do with ensuring that they are as economically resilient as they can be, whatever the circumstances they face.

PANELLIST I want to clarify the amount. That's $1 billion up to 2020. Is that right?

JULIE BISHOP That's my understanding.

PANELLIST So I'm just thinking this through. That's effectively $200 million a year. Isn't that pretty much what we were doing in this area between 2010 and 2013 in which case does that mean we've gone really nowhere further on that since your Party came to government?

JULIE BISHOP No, it is how one analyses it. Our aid budget is much larger than that for the Pacific. Our aid budget is about $4 billion each year, and the majority of it is directed towards our region. But what we are doing is confirming that $200 million, as we said last year at Lima, would be focused on making our Pacific Island nations more resilient. We've seen so many instances like Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and others where the impact of natural disasters have been quite devastating. We are trying to build resilience in these nations across their economy, across a whole range of areas and that's what the Australian aid budget is all about.

PANELLIST Minister, we want to talk to you about Tony Abbott. He is pretty dark on you today saying you're telling falsehoods over the leadership spill. He says you never told him about key phone calls as you claim, you never lobbied him to get more women in Cabinet. We will never know. It is "he said, she said". Who is telling the porkies here?

JULIE BISHOP There are obviously different recollections across a whole range of issues. This has been canvassed quite widely in the media. People bring their different perspectives and different recollections to it. I have nothing further to add.

PANELLIST What about the claims here? He says, I guess he's unhappy about your claims that he was undone by his own performance as a leader. He has come back saying if that is true, why has the Government not changed any of its key policies?

JULIE BISHOP I didn't say that. That was the journalist's version of what I said. I've really got nothing to add to this discussion. People have different recollections.

PANELLIST It's interesting, because it does make for fascinating reading but there is also an element of can we all move on and can we get on with a government that seems to be doing, you know, very well at the moment.

JULIE BISHOP Well, that's certainly the message I'm getting from the public. I've been in Geelong over the weekend. I was in Sydney, I've been in Perth, I've been all over Australia in recent times and people are very keen to support the new government, they are very optimistic about the narrative of an innovation and science agenda. They are very receptive of our discussion about new job opportunities in the new industries, the creative economy, so I'm getting very positive feedback from the electorate. And I've got nothing further to add on other issues.

PANELLIST Does it disappoint you then that Tony Abbott is engaging in this way in this conversation?

JULIE BISHOP As I said, people have different recollections of a whole range of issues. I've got nothing further to add.

PANELLIST Minister, it's not the recollections it's about the decision to get involved in this conversation. We've seen several statements now made by members currently in Parliament in the backbench, including the former Prime Minister, it's starting to look a bit disunified, or, ununified. If I may say so, it's beginning to look a little bit like Labor.

JULIE BISHOP That's not the way I see it. I'm getting very positive feedback across the community. They want the Government to get on with the job of governing and that's what we are doing. I can't answer for other people, all I can say is I'm getting on with my job.

PANELLIST Does that mean the division ends now? We won't see more division coming out?

JULIE BISHOP I can't answer for other people. All I know is that I'm focusing on my job as Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader of the Party and as the Member for Curtin in Western Australia. They are the three issues that I focus on.

PANELLIST I hope we can all get along Minister. Did you get a Christmas card from Andrew Leigh today by any chance?

JULIE BISHOP I haven't checked my Christmas card pile, but there are a number on the front desk, so I'll have to check.

PANELLIST Julie, on another serious note, girl-to-girl for a second. On a scale of George Bush to George Clooney, how dreamy is the new Canadian PM?

JULIE BISHOP George Bush is one? And George Clooney? Get that right for me. So where is George Bush and where is George Clooney?

PANELLIST He's definitely down the 1 scale. We put George Clooney up there on 12, he's right up there.

PANELLIST He's pretty good.

PANELLIST I don't think he is.

PANELLIST Don't get involved with Clooney!

PANELLIST No, not him, what about the Canadian Prime Minister?

PANELLIST I think we need an answer from the Foreign Minister on the hotness of the Canadian PM. Minister, in response?

JULIE BISHOP I think Prime Minister Trudeau has very attractive policies!

PANELLIST I reckon Turnbull is hotter than him. I'm putting it out there.

PANELLIST Can we get her to comment on that?

PANELLIST No, I won't get her to comment on that!

Minister, thank you so much for your time.

JULIE BISHOP A pleasure.

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