Sky News AM Agenda - interview with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE

KIERAN GILBERT More on the Paris Climate Talks, with me now is Julie Bishop who is heading to Paris at the weekend and you will be there for the business end of the negotiations. Fine words to start the summit. Are you optimistic of seeing real action and I guess having China on board changes the mood a lot to what we saw six years ago in Copenhagen?

JULIE BISHOP I will be there at the end of the week for the final week of negotiations. Australia's position is clear – we have a target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, by 26 to 28 per cent. That was agreed by the Government last August and that is the target that we've announced, the Prime Minister did, overnight.
That's not to be renegotiated at the Paris Conference and other parties, about 180 countries have put forward their targets. So that is a very positive sign and indicates that there is likely to be a global agreement. This time it has to include the developed economies and the developing economies and having the United States and China leading the charge I think is a very good sign.

KIERAN GILBERT The Australian is suggesting there is a bit of a row emerging before the US, Australia and others, developed countries, and particularly India who want the historical legacy of carbon emissions to be recognised in the statement that developed nations have that responsibility, that historical responsibility. Has this report of a row got the potential to undermine the agreement that you are talking about?

JULIE BISHOP Well it is only day one. The leaders are just making their opening statements. We now have two weeks of negotiations so it is very early to suggest that there is a red line that is not going to be crossed. I think all parties are attending in the right spirit. The fact that 180 countries or more put forward targets shows that there is general global agreement that more must be done. The question is how are the parties actually going to meet those targets, what is the accountability measure, what are the levels of transparency, how often will these targets be reviewed to ensure that countries are meeting their targets and that is what we are interested in. They are the issues that are concerning us.

KIERAN GILBERT Australia wants a five yearly review mechanism which makes sense but apparently some conservative MPs within the Liberal Party were a bit spooked by the language of Mr Turnbull as he arrived in Paris. What do you say this morning to placate them?

JULIE BISHOP Prime Minister Turnbull has taken the policy that was agreed by the Cabinet last August, before he became Prime Minister, and indeed is the same policy that we took to the Party Room in some detail and that was endorsed by the Party Room. So Prime Minister Turnbull and Environment Minister Greg Hunt and I have a mandate from the Government and will be sticking to that. The speech that Prime Minister Turnbull gave overnight is in accordance with that mandate from the Party Room.

KIERAN GILBERT The Canadians under the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed $2.5 billion, $800 million a year up to 2020 for what is called the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries mitigate against the effects of climate change. We are only committing an additional $800 million - that is $1 billion in total. Are we dragging the chain on that?

JULIE BISHOP No, I believe it is a significant sum. I made the first commitment in Lima 12 months ago and that was $200 million. The money comes from our aid budget because this is what small island developing Pacific nations are asking for. They want money to help with natural disaster resilience.

KIERAN GILBERT So it's not robbing Peter to pay Paul if you are taking it out of the aid budget?

JULIE BISHOP No this is what the aid budget is intended to do - so things like water, sanitation, roads, helping countries overcome the impact of natural disasters, for example, because the Pacific is one of the most natural disaster prone regions in the world. This is the kind of aid that these nations are asking for, so Prime Minister Turnbull has confirmed that we will continue to work in partnership with the small island developing nations to give them the support the support that they want in these environmental, natural disaster areas and indeed Australia is co-chairing the Green Climate Fund so that we can be a voice for the Pacific in these global talks.

KIERAN GILBERT Mr Hunt, I spoke to him this morning in Paris and he says that Malcolm Turnbull is being very warmly received, that he has been the centre of many conversations with world leaders. It is quite a shift isn't it? In terms of the Coalition Government's focus on this issue and I guess response, even though the policies might not have changed. Under the new leader there seems to be a lot more credibility on the world stage. Why is that? The former PM might not have even showed up.

JULIE BISHOP The policy hasn't changed but of course we are now dealing with the actual conference so the leaders are there, Malcolm Turnbull is making speeches, he is involved in discussions and negotiations so of course there is a focus on it. We can't compare what would have happened in another circumstance because we don't know, but this is the reality. He has attended the Leaders' Summit. About 150 world leaders have also attended and he, of course, is a very articulate and persuasive advocate so he is putting forward Australia's policy, as was agreed by the Government.

KIERAN GILBERT There was a chance the former Prime Minister might not have even attended, that was the suggestion at the time.

JULIE BISHOP I'm not aware of the details of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's diary. I know that Greg Hunt and I were always attending. This question of a Leaders' Summit came up later in the piece and Prime Minister Turnbull is there and so are 149 other world leaders.

KIERAN GILBERT Let's look at a few other issues quickly. This very sad situation first of all in Mexico, two young surfers from WA missing and their van confirmed to be burnt out there. Can you tell us what you know about this?

JULIE BISHOP As soon as we learned that two West Australian men were reported missing our consular officials have been in touch with local authorities making enquiries and keeping in contact with the families. I do hold very grave concerns for their fate.

A vehicle belonging to one of the men, or registered in his name has been located. Human remains have also been located. There's been no formal identification but family members, I believe the partner of one of the men, are travelling to Mexico to assist with formal identification so our thoughts are with the families and friends at this stage, but I do hold very grave concerns.

KIERAN GILBERT Indeed, and obviously we'll stay in touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs on that for any developments when it comes to that very difficult situation in Mexico.

I want to ask you finally about the report in the Fairfax papers today. This is Peter Hartcher's report relating to the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and he's done an interview with Peter Hartcher, in part explains his demise through the prism of a toxic media culture and white anting from his own colleagues. What do you say to that characterisation of the last few months?

JULIE BISHOP I don't accept that there was white anting from his colleagues. Indeed back in February when the backbench essentially revolted and brought a spill motion, even though there was no contender for the leadership, 39 people voted for a spill motion even though there was no contender against then Prime Minister Abbott. His Cabinet was absolutely firmly behind him. Tony asked for six months to turn things around and seven months later there was another spill and 54 of his colleagues voted for another leader.

I don't believe that there was the white anting at all, in fact I think Cabinet was very solid behind him but the backbench had moved and then finally the majority of the Cabinet moved to another leader. So of course people can see things through different prisms but I think that now the Australian people have moved on. They are excited about the optimistic, upbeat narrative about the future of this country that Prime Minister Turnbull has been speaking about. We've got an innovation and science agenda being released next week. This will be all about the jobs of the future, creative, innovative economies and the exciting things that lie ahead for this country.

KIERAN GILBERT Part of this piece today relates to Pete Credlin, the former chief of staff, did the former Prime Minister give too much power, divulge too much power, devolve too much power to his chief of staff, a staff member?

JULIE BISHOP Kieran I don't think it is helpful to go over the detail of the last few months in the Abbott Government. Peta Credlin was a staffer, she is now a private citizen and I think she is entitled to be able to get on with her life without this detailed analysis of each and every conversation and glance and meeting, and please let those who are no longer in their positions get on with their lives.

KIERAN GILBERT Okay, finally, my last question – was there a deal done back in February for you to be, to run as a Deputy for Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison as Treasurer if Mr Abbott was rolled at the time, back in February?

JULIE BISHOP No there was no deal. There was no contender against Prime Minister Abbott, so nobody was in any position to be offering deals and when the spill was taken on that day in February, there was nobody putting their hand up against Prime Minister Abbott so there were no deals to be done.

KIERAN GILBERT Foreign Minister, appreciate it.


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