Sky News AM Agenda, Interview with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Minister thanks so much for your time. The question that's been asked many times this morning already is, and I guess this goes to foreign policy as well, just how much of Mr Trump's rhetoric of his comments during the campaign will he actually deliver on in terms of China, Iran and whatever else?

JULIE BISHOP: Interestingly Mr Trump has used the fact that he's a businessman as one of his credentials for the Presidency, and has said that everything is negotiable. Now I believe this presents a unique opportunity for Australia to work closely with President-elect Trump and his incoming Administration to emphasise the importance of the US alliance with Australia and emphasise the importance of US presence and leadership in our region, in the Asia Pacific. So I see it as an opportunity rather than taking each one of the headline statements and saying, 'well that's precisely the foreign policy'.

JOURNALIST: We have to wait and see, don't we?

JULIE BISHOP: It is yet to be articulated and we will work very closely with those whom he chooses as Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence, and other senior leadership positions within the new Administration.

JOURNALIST: Because if you took him at face value on what he has said in relation to our region, to allies in the region such as Japan and South Korea, it's an isolationist message and the assumption that many are making is that he wants to basically end the Obama pivot to Asia Pacific.

JULIE BISHOP: Yet at the same time he's talking about a significant increase in military spending, building up the military, increasing the numbers in the defence force, and he's also talking about the fight against terrorist organisations and how he's going to crush ISIL. These all align with Australia's national interests and we have some areas of common interest there in security, in defence policy, and so we will be working with the Administration to point out the importance of continued US leadership in the Asia Pacific. But of course there are many defence bases in our region, many alliances, defence arrangements and I anticipate that they will remain.

JOURNALIST: So did you think the structure, not just in Washington at the Pentagon and the State Department, but the US machine more broadly will help some parameters around the Oval Office?

JULIE BISHOP: Well clearly there will be changes at the top, indeed there are about 4000 politically appointed positions, so there will be 4000 people leaving the Obama Administration and 4000 coming in for the Trump Administration. So there is significant change and those who are appointed to the senior leadership positions will obviously have an influence over policy development in their area. But its early days and we see it as an opportunity. The Turnbull Government is determined to work productively and constructively with the President and his new team.

JOURNALIST: It's so unpredictable though isn't it, particularly in the context of those appointees you talk about, because Mr Trump doesn't owe really anyone anything, certainly not within the Republican Party with most of them not even endorsing him.

JULIE BISHOP: That's right.

JOURNALIST: So who does he appoint?

JULIE BISHOP: Well he comes with a clean slate but he has a lot of experience to draw upon in the Senate, for example, where the Republicans will have a majority in the House and the Senate, and that is another opportunity for the first time in a long time you'll see a President with the ability to work with a House and a Senate and break that gridlock that has beset US politics for some time. But there are talented, experienced people in the Senate, amongst the Governors, and the Republicans have won a number of states – I think about 35 states at present as well. And so there is talent in the Republican Party, but as you say he doesn't owe anyone anything so he will make his own choices. But already some names are being put forward, people with whom we have deep connections over many years because of course we have had deep engagement with the Republican Party…

JOURNALIST: Does that include also in terms of the Secretary of State position, your counterpart? Have you heard any names in that regard?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, a number of names are being put forward but it's too early to speculate on who it's likely to be. Well it's not too early to speculate but I won't speculate on who it's likely to be, but a number of names have been put forward and I'll work constructively with whomever is chosen as Secretary of State and see it as an opportunity for us to impress upon the new Secretary the interests of our region. And we will be working to set a date for AUSMIN, that's the annual Australia-US Ministerial Meeting between the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defence and me as Foreign Minister and Marise Payne as Defence Minister. So we will be looking to have that meeting, hopefully in Australia, in the first half of next year.

JOURNALIST: You say it's an opportunity and as Foreign Minister, of course, that's your job, but there are many people concerned that this is going to erupt in the region, particularly if Trump is true to his word in terms of major tariffs against China for example, that could lead to a trade war.

JULIE BISHOP: I think the first speech that Donald Trump made as President-elect gives us cause for hope – it was gracious, it sought to unite people, and after a particularly bitter and divisive, and at times bruising campaign, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have vowed to put differences aside and work to unite America. So that's a good start. In terms of trade issues, well there have been a number of statements made but at the heart of it is a desire to provide more job opportunities for the American people, rebuild American manufacturing and American industry – that's what all countries want from trade agreements. We want more job opportunities from our trade deals. So that in itself isn't a cause for concern, but we will of course be working with the Administration to engage on some of the challenges that would occur should some of these foreign policy positions come to fruition.

JOURNALIST: Like the other one is the Paris Climate Agreement, the climate deal with China – that looks like it's going to be scrapped as well in terms of US involvement?

JULIE BISHOP: The next Climate Change Meeting is in Marrakesh next week, I will be attending, Secretary John Kerry will be there on behalf of the Obama Administration, because of course until midday on 20 January President Obama has the full executive and constitutional authority of the Presidency, so the United States will be represented at all these events by Obama Administration representatives. We'll see what position President Trump takes on climate change and the Paris Agreement once he's taken office.

JOURNALIST: Is it going to survive though? If Trump walks away from it?

JULIE BISHOP: It is not as easy as just walking away from it. The United States has ratified the Agreement and as a number of agreements, and it may well be that the targets that the United States set are targets that will remain. They've already been commenced and they may well remain, but I think it's too early to say what this will mean or the full implications of it.

JOURNALIST: So basically it's a work in progress on a whole heap of fronts?

JULIE BISHOP: Of course it is. There have been some high level statements made, there have been some headline statements, but not a great deal of detail on foreign policy. So we will be working with the new Administration and hopefully have some opportunity to help shape it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Burke, the Manager of Opposition Business, this morning said, he was very strong in his language, saying that Australia needs to call out abuse of women and language to that effect, behaviour to that effect, whether it's the President or anyone else. What's your reaction to Labor's position on Mr Trump which they're not backing away from one bit?

JULIE BISHOP: I think the Labor Party have been completely wrong footed when Bill Shorten, as the Leader of a major political party in Australia, starts engaging in personal and offensive commentary about a Presidential candidate in an election in another country. I think that's just completely counterproductive. We have been calm and measured in our approach. We respect the views of the American people – they have made their choice, they have voted for President Trump and we should work constructively and positively in Australia's national interest. The United States is our major defence partner, it's our major source of foreign direct investment, they are one of our major trading partners – it's in our interests to work constructively with whomever the American people choose as their President.

JOURNALIST: But Mr Burke's point is that we shouldn't compromise our values in order to simply placate or befriend an American President.

JULIE BISHOP: I don't run a commentary on the characteristics and traits of every world leader, I think it would be counterproductive to do so, and if I were the Labor Party, I'd be focusing on what opportunities there are for Australians in terms of exports with the United States, in terms of job opportunities, and our security guarantees that comes with the close and strong relationship with the United States. I'd be focusing on our national interests rather than getting into personal details about the President.

JOURNALIST: Just finally, in relation to building that relationship with Mr Trump, how soon do you think our Prime Minister should seek to meet with him in Washington?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I think it would be a phone call because the President-elect respectfully allows the current President, President Obama, to maintain the Presidency and the full authority of the Presidency until 20 January, so I would be surprised if President-elect Trump met with many world leaders but I'm hoping the Prime Minister will have an opportunity…

JOURNALIST: The first half of next year maybe?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm hoping that he'll have an opportunity to speak with him by phone in the coming days or weeks, but the focus of the transition team will be putting in place those senior leadership figures to ensure the Administration can commence foreign policy. But there will be opportunities, no doubt, for Prime Minister Turnbull to meet with President-elect Trump and they're both businesspeople, I'm sure they'll have a great deal to talk about.

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, appreciate your time. A momentous couple of days, I appreciate it.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

- Ends -

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