Sky News AM Agenda - Interview with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: The Deputy Liberal Leader, theForeign Minister Julie Bishop, I spoke to her earlier this morning and beganfocusing on the defection of Cory Bernardi.

JulieBishop thanks very much for your time. Tony Abbott says he regrets that morewasn't done to keep Cory Bernardi in the tent; do you think that more couldhave been done in that regard?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I'm very disappointed that Corychose to stand for the second spot on the Liberal Party senate ticket. Hereceived a lot of support, a lot of people campaigned for him, the volunteerswere out there working for that senate ticket and the number two spot is a veryprivileged position – it virtually guarantees you another six years in theSenate. He came here as the number two senate ticket holder and then took threemonths off to go to the United Nations, again with the support of thosecolleagues to do that, and then announced that he's leaving the Liberal Party.So I think a lot of people would be very disappointed. He should have done thistwelve months ago and taken his policies and his party to the election so thatthe Australian people, the people of South Australia could have voted for himon his new platform as opposed to the number two ticket holder for the LiberalParty.

JOURNALIST: This wasn't a surprise though, thishad been speculated on for months. Is Tony Abbott right when he says more couldhave been done to keep him in the tent?

JULIE BISHOP: Well apparently he has been talkingabout this for years so Tony Abbott was obviously Leader when Cory was havingthese discussions with other people and having these thoughts, so I presume anumber of people could have done a lot more but I'm not aware of the level ofdiscussion that Cory had with various people, he certainly didn't discuss thiswith me.

JOURNALIST: As a senior figure of your Partyand a long-time political practitioner, what do you make of the suggestion thatthis is a fracturing of your side of politics that we're seeing happen rightnow?

JULIE BISHOP:I think that's a gross overstatement. One person for many years has obviously felt that his thoughts andpolicies weren't in alignment with the Party that he stood for so I'm verydisappointed that if Cory felt this way, that he had a different policyposition to the Liberal Party on some issue, he should have taken that to thelast election, as opposed to being the number two ticket holder for the LiberalParty, and having thousands and thousands of volunteers campaign for him inthat spot.

JOURNALIST: I want to ask you some questions ina moment but just finally on this domestic politics, what's the mood like inthe Coalition right now given what's been a difficult start to the year?

JULIE BISHOP: The mood is very positive; we'regetting on and getting things done. We've made a number of changes tolegislation, the anticipated changes to the Australian Building andConstruction Commission means that we're strengthening the Building andConstruction Commission – about a million Australians who work in theconstruction industry who will now have the benefits of a Commission willimpose the rule of law. And so these are the sort of things that we'reachieving, changes to childcare legislation, all things in the interests ofAustralians.

JOURNALIST: That change to childcare thatSamantha Maiden reported last night here on Sky, is that a capitulation interms of the amount it saves that you'll make to pay for that? Because those onFamily Tax Benefit Part A for example, will receive $20 more per fortnight; isit capitulated in terms of just how many savings will be made to cover that?

JULIE BISHOP: Well what we're doing is making surethat it's fair and so we will make changes that are fair, we'll make changes inthe interests of hard working Australians.

JOURNALIST: You met with the Chinese ForeignMinister here in Canberra yesterday. I want to ask you about his view of thetrump Administration, specifically General Mattis recently said some quitesoothing words in relation to the South China Sea, has that been welcomed byBeijing?

JULIE BISHOP: Beijing certainly welcomes a deepengagement with the United States and I think that was evident from ForeignMinister Wang's press conference here in Canberra yesterday, that they arelooking forward to an era of cooperation. They see opportunity with the newAdministration to deepen the connections and as he said, the United States andChina have too much to lose for there to be conflict between them. So myimpression was that China is looking forward to engaging positively with theUnited States. We did discuss the South China Sea, in fact he answeredquestions on the South China Sea, and China is now deeply engaged innegotiations, discussions, consultations with the other claimants. China is notthe only country claiming territorial and maritime rights over features in theSouth China Sea. So hopefully we'll continue to see both sides working veryhard for peace, stability and prosperity in our region.

JOURNALIST: Is there an opening here for Chinato play more of a leadership role in this region, not just in terms of tradepolicy but also with leading in terms of cooler heads when it comes to thatcontested area of the South China Sea?

JULIE BISHOP: China is already a very importantpower in our region; economically it's the second largest economy in the world,but also we encourage China to play a responsible role committed to theinternational rules based order which has provided so much opportunity forpeace and stability and prosperity…

JOURNALIST: But has Donald trump provided thatopening given how erratic some of his policy pronouncements have been in thatthey, Xi Jinping and China, could become more of a leader in terms of free tradebut also strategic issues as well?

JULIE BISHOP: Most certainly we welcome PresidentXi's statement at the Davos Forum about committing to open, liberalised tradebecause we believe it's in our interests to have greater access to marketplacesincluding the marketplaces of North Asia – China, Japan, Korea. That's why theCoalition Government entered into these free trade agreements. The moreopportunities we have to export our goods and services into these hugemarketplaces, the more our businesses here grow, the more jobs there are forAustralians.

JOURNALIST: I want to ask you finally aboutthis disturbing report from Amnesty International in relation to a prison nearDamascus, the report suggests the Bashar al-Assad regime has killedsystematically upwards of 15… or thereabouts, 15,000 people at this prison?

JULIE BISHOP: This report is deeply disturbing andit adds to our deep fears about the attitude of the Assad regime towards itsown people. There have been instances in the past where the Assad regime hasturned on the Syrian people, there have been terrible killings, massacres andthat's why Australia has been engaged in the US-led coalition to defeat theterrorist organisation in Iraq but also to ensure that the conflict in Syria –it is a civil war in Syria – can be overcome. That's why we're working so hardin the forums around the world to try and find a political solution to theconflict in Syria because a military solution just will not be achieved.

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, as always appreciateyour time. Thanks so much.

JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Kieran.

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