Sky News, AM Agenda, interview with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE
12 June 2014

KIERAN GILBERT: First of all your thoughts on this very important looming meeting between the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and President Obama. He has said that he wants to use it to try and encourage the US to strengthen the security and intelligence cooperation, particularly through the Five Eyes Agreement. How much scope is there for further deepening engagement on that level?

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Kieran.

The United States is our most important strategic ally and as the United States rebalances to our region there's much for us to discuss in a broader strategic sense. The Prime Minister is determined to strengthen our defence and security and intelligence cooperation. It is already strong but we believe that there is more we can do together to ensure regional stability and security.

KIERAN GILBERT There's been a fair bit made of the differences on climate change. Are you concerned that that could provide an awkward point, even if there is a lot in common as you say, in terms of security?

JULIE BISHOP Not at all, I believe this will be a most constructive discussion. The Prime Minister and the President have met on previous occasions. I think this will be an unprecedented opportunity for us to strengthen our defence, and strategic and intelligence ties.

On the question of climate change, President Obama's approach is not inconsistent with the Coalition's approach. The US administration is not imposing a carbon tax - we're seeking to repeal the carbon tax. One of the President's flagship issues appears to be reducing emissions from coal-fired power stations, converting [inaudible] to gas. That is indeed what the Abbott Government intends to do

The United States is also reducing its emissions by embracing shale gas. In Australia of course, Greens and other groups are opposed to that which puts impediments in the way of our efforts to follow the United States in that regard. We have similar approaches to tackling climate change, the language might be different, but hopefully the outcome will be to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

KIERAN GILBERT I want to ask you now about your talks in Tokyo, the Government, yourself as Foreign Minister, has expressed your support for Japan to expand its military and peacekeeping role in the Asia Pacific region. This of course is prohibited under its Constitution in the wake of World War 2. How is this going to be read in Beijing - this increased military presence and role of Japan?

JULIE BISHOP Our security and defence cooperation with Japan is an important pillar of the bilateral relationship. We have spoken over the last day or so about strengthening it further. In April when Prime Minister Abbott visited Japan, he and Prime Minster Abe agreed to elevate our bilateral and security relationship to a new level and that's been the tenor of the discussions that Senator Johnston as Defence Minister, and I have had with our counterparts.

Back in 2007, Prime Minister John Howard and Prime Minister Abe at that time set a very strong foundation for our security and defence cooperation and we have been working together with Japan in a range of global and regional crises - in South Sudan, in the Philippines and in the search for Malaysian Flight 370.

In terms of Japan's reinvigorated and constructive role in global and regional peace and security, we certainly support it. We support Japan working towards a more normal defence posture, as it's called, to help play that greater role and we are sure that the Japanese people will come to a position that enables them to adopt that normal force posture.

Support for Japan in this area doesn't imply a weakening of our commitment to our relationship with China or any other country. It's not a 'zero sum game' Kieran, we maintain positive and mutually supporting bilateral relationships with both China and Japan.

KIERAN GILBERT We're almost out of time, but just finally as you know though, this comes at a very sensitive time in the relationship in the East China Sea, particularly between those two countries doesn't it?

JULIE BISHOP Well indeed but Australia doesn't take a position on the merits of the various sovereignty claims in the East China Sea. We want to see the tension managed down, de-escalated, we want issues resolved through peaceful means in accordance with international law and free from any unilateral action or resorting to force or coercion in any way. So we embrace international law in the resolution of these disputes.

KIERAN GILBERT Foreign Minister thanks for your time in Tokyo this morning.

JULIE BISHOP It's been my pleasure.

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