RN Breakfast - Interview with Fran Kelly

  • Transcript, E&OE
08 February 2017

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop,welcome back to Breakfast.

JULIE BISHOP: Goodmorning Fran.

JOURNALIST: In the past 24 hours, you've spoken with theUS Secretary of State and the Chinese Foreign Minister. Are both sides tryingto turn down the heat caused by some of that early rhetoric coming from theTrump Administration?

JULIE BISHOP: Thefeeling I got from both my conversation with Secretary of State Tillerson andmy very lengthy meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is that bothsides are determined to work together, that potentially this is a new era ofcooperation between the United States and China and that both sides realise theimportance of the US-China relationship to peace, stability, prosperity in ourregion.

JOURNALIST: Well Chinaclearly doesn't want to clash but then China you could argue already has whatit wants – strategic control of the South China Sea. Will the Chinese stop itsmilitarisation of those contested islands? Did you discuss that?

JULIE BISHOP: Wemost certainly did discuss the South China Sea, in fact that was also part ofour press conference – we gave a very lengthy press conference last evening –and questions about the South China Sea were put to Foreign Minister Wang Yi.He made it clear that they are working very closely with the other claimantsand China is not the only claimant for territory in the South China Sea, thereare about eight, and they are now working very closely in dialogue,negotiation, consultation with those other claimants. Australia's…

JOURNALIST: How does that match with China's behaviourand, as I say, the militarisation and the build up?

JULIE BISHOP: We have certainly informed China in the past,and we continue to do so, that we don't support land reclamation,militarisation, the scale and the speed of the construction on these islands,and that any territorial disputes or maritime disputes should be settled peacefully.That's what the countries are now doing. The Philippines and China as you know,the Philippines took China to an international arbitration over the competingclaims…

JOURNALIST: Which China ignored.

JULIE BISHOP: That's right, but they are now working closely, Philippines and China. SoAustralia's position is we don't take sides on the territorial claims but weurge calm, we urge a negotiation between the parties, and Australia willcontinue to exercise our rights of freedom of overflight, freedom of navigationbecause we want to ensure that there is unimpeded access for our tradingroutes.

JOURNALIST: Australia nottaking sides is one thing, Australia getting dragged into something is another.Wang Yi said last night that "for any sober…", this is a quote, "for anysober-minded politician, they clearly recognise there cannot be conflictbetween China and the United States because both will lose and neither countrycan afford that". Are you assured that Donald Trump is sober-minded enough toalso recognise the folly of conflict?

JULIE BISHOP:I'm certainly reassured by the several conversations that I've had with seniorleaders within the Trump Administration…

JOURNALIST: What about ChiefStrategist Steve Bannon, who we know was on the record last year predicting warover the South China Sea within five to ten years?

JULIE BISHOP: Wellneither Vice President Pence or Secretary of State Tillerson made any suchobservation to me, and most certainly I was reassured by Foreign Minister WangYi that China believes that the relationship with the United States is the mostimportant around the globe at present, and that they are determined to workhard to ensure that the relationship is strong. Now the interests of ourregion, the interests of the globe depend upon a strong and deep andcooperative relationship between the United States and China and that's mostcertainly what we are urging.

JOURNALIST: In yourconversation with Rex Tillerson, during his confirmation hearings we all knowhe was explicit. He said China should be barred from the artificial islands;we're going to have to send China a clear signal that the island building stop,access to those is not going to be allowed. Now he's since toned down that kindof talk but will the US flex its muscles soon in the South China Sea, morefreedom of navigation exercises, and has there been any talk that Australiashould join them?

JULIE BISHOP: Nothere has not been any requests. Australia will continue to do what we havealways done and that is exercise our rights of freedom of navigation, freedomof overflight in accordance with international law. Our interest is to ensurethat we continue to maintain peace and stability in the region and access toour trading routes because about two thirds of our exports pass through theSouth China Sea.

JOURNALIST: So no mention ofthe President's agreement to honour the deal on the refugees from Manus Islandand Nauru and what that might mean in return? Donald Trump, we know, is atransactional President.

JULIE BISHOP: That was not raised. The refugee agreement is being managed by officials and isproceeding.

JOURNALIST: You're listeningto RN Breakfast; it's eighteen minutes to 8. Our guest is the Foreign MinisterJulie Bishop. Minister when you spoke to the US Secretary of State, was thereany mention of that telephone conversation with Malcolm Turnbull and DonaldTrump?

JULIE BISHOP: No,we spoke about the alliance, about our partnership, our friendship, and waysthat Australia and US interests can continue to work together. SecretaryTillerson was very warm, very engaging. He spoke about his visits to Australia– he's been to Perth – and as the chairman of a significant global company hehas visited project across Australia, in our region. He knows our part of theworld well.

JOURNALIST: After our PrimeMinister said he had an assurance from Donald Trump about honouring that deal,the President famously went out and tweeted it's a dumb deal and he'll reviewit. As Australia's Foreign Minister you'll be doing most of the transactionalwork in this relationship, how can Australia deal with a President who behaveslike this, who breaks trust, who publicly denigrates our country?

JULIE BISHOP: He'sa very different personality, he's a very different President from PresidentObama, but it is our job in Australia's national interest to work with whomeverthe people in the United States choose as their President. And it's my job toget very close to the Foreign Secretaries of these countries and theleadership. And that's what we've been doing, reaching out to members of theAdministration as they are confirmed, as they are announced, and our Embassy inWashington likewise. So we're working very hard to ensure that we have theconnections, the networks, the relationships that matter for Australia.

JOURNALIST: It's about whatwe get dragged into again, I come back to that point. The White House has arunning war with the media, you know what. It's compiled now a list of terrorattacks it believes did not receive adequate attention, including five inAustralia Рthe Lindt Caf̩ siege and the Curtis Cheng shooting are on thatlist, so too the stabbing death of a British tourist which police say was amurder not a terror attack, also a non-fatal stabbing of a man in Minto in NewSouth Wales last year. The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said just inthe last few hours, "Terror attacks are not getting the spectacular attentionthey deserve. We need to remind people the earth is a very dangerous placeright now." I mean, what do you make of that and what about Australia gettingdragged in to shore up Donald Trump's, you know, security pitch?

JULIE BISHOP: Therole of Foreign Minister is to engage closely and deeply with other countriesand to ensure that they understand our perspective. That's why I take everyopportunity to put Australia's point of view, to persuade others to the way wesee the world, to talk about issues that affect us and promote our nationalinterest. That's my job, that's what I do.

JOURNALIST: OK, what aboutwith China. The Prime Minister said he hopes that China might take up America'sspot in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I understand you offered this invitationto Wang Yi but he didn't exactly embrace it. What do you think the chances ofit are? What was the reaction?

JULIE BISHOP Ididn't exactly offer it. I pointed out that there were 11 members of theTrans-Pacific Partnership who are still keen to embrace the principles and thestandards that had been negotiated and agreed in the Trans-Pacific Partnershipbecause we think that the more access we have to markets, the moreopportunities there are for Australian exporters to sell their goods andservices, the more jobs there are for Australians. So each country sees thebenefits for their people, the jobs in their country. The Trans-PacificPartnership is still alive, there is an opportunity for other countries to optin, I know that other countries have expressed interest. If China were toexpress interest then we would certainly welcome that opportunity…

JOURNALIST: Did they?Yesterday?

JULIE BISHOP: They are very interested in an Asia-Pacificfree trade zone and as Foreign Minister Wang said, there are a number of waysto achieve that. One of them could have been through the Trans-PacificPartnership but they were not part of the original negotiations, another isthrough the ASEAN countries' Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, orRCEP as it's called.

JOURNALIST: OK. Can we come to domestic politics now? Alot is going on in the last 24 hours. The Government dumped the compulsoryacquisition of farms in Queensland, it fast tracked the abolition of thepoliticians' gold card; today is a compromise, as we heard this morning, onpaid parental leave and cuts to family tax payments. It looks like what JohnHoward used to call 'scraping off the barnacles'. We are a long way from theelection so we're not in election mode; what are we in, self-preservation mode?

JULIE BISHOP: Not at all, we are delivering for the Australian people. Where there arechanges to legislation that should be made in the interests of the Australianpeople, we will do it. We're getting on with the job, we're not sitting aroundtalking about it, we're actually delivering. The Prime Minister has made itquite clear that 2017 is the year to continue to deliver on the promises wetook to the election and if there are changes to legislation then we will makeit, in the national interest. Now one of them, for example, is we are makingchanges to the Australia Building and Construction Commission legislation sothat more Australians who work in the construction industry can be in anenvironment where the militant unions have to obey the law. So there are somevery positive pieces of legislation that we're passing at present.

JOURNALIST: And yet it hasbeen a very poor start to the year for the Government, there's been a fewthings setting it off track and then we had the resignation of Cory Bernardi.Cory Bernardi reportedly told Malcolm Turnbull yesterday that there are movesafoot to replace him, the Prime Minister. You're Malcolm Turnbull's Deputy inthe Liberal Party, have you been talking to your colleagues to check if this istrue?

JULIE BISHOP: No, I have not. I've not spoken to one person about it and not one person hasraised it with me. I keep in very close contact with the backbench and it hascertainly not been a matter that has been raised with me and Cory Bernardicertainly never raised it with me either, so I don't know where he's gettinghis information from. But I'm very disappointed that Cory chose to leave theParty in the way that he did. I was in South Australia during the electioncampaign and I know that a lot of Liberals in South Australia worked very hardto ensure that Cory Bernardi had the number two spot on the Liberal senateticket. That's a very privileged position because it virtually guarantees youanother six years in the Senate, and there are many people who worked very hardto ensure that he had that very privileged spot for the Liberal Party. I thinkhad he told people that he was intending to leave and start his own party, wellthen the support may well have been different.

JOURNALIST: It's very earlyin the term to be talking leadership and it seems nonsensical and I'm surethere's not much…

JULIE BISHOP: Ibelieve it is nonsensical and I'm not going to add to it!

JOURNALIST: I've been talkingto people around this place and someone said to me yesterday, well people areplaying games. I guess the question is, given the poll on Monday is any leaderof any party really safe with a primary vote of just 35 percent?

JULIE BISHOP: Ibelieve that as we continue to deliver for the Australian people, as we puttheir interests first, people will focus on what we're achieving and what we'redoing for the Australian people. And I certainly haven't heard any leadershiptalk and I'm certainly not going to add to any such speculation.

JOURNALIST Julie Bishop,thank you very much for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Foreign MinisterJulie Bishop.

Media enquiries