Sky News - Interview with James O'Doherty

  • Transcript, E&OE

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Foreign Minister, thanks for your time you've now met with Jacinda Ardern, tell me how did that meeting come about?

JULIE BISHOP: We had a very pleasant dinner last evening hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Prime Minister Ardern attended and it was a delightful evening.

JAMES O'DOHERTY:And what did you talk about with the Prime Minister Ardern?

JULIE BISHOP: It was a rather informal dinner, it was an opportunity for us to introduce our new High Commissioner Ewen McDonald to our New Zealand friends and it was an opportunity for me to meet with Prime Minister Ardern and discuss a whole range of things but it was pretty informal – it was a delightful evening.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Now of course before the election Ms Ardern, then Labour leader was quite annoyed at comments you made regarding one of her own MPs Chris Hipkins – is that all water under the bridge now?

JULIE BISHOP: Quite the contrary, Prime Minister Ardern said that the conduct of the Australian Labour Party and her colleague was inappropriate and unacceptable and shouldn't have happened, and indeed, I accepted that and agreed entirely with her.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Did it come up last night?

JULIE BISHOP: Not at all.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Now another comment that Ms Ardern has made is comments about refugees, taking refugees from Manus and Nauru – has that damaged the relationship between Australia and New Zealand at all?

JULIE BISHOP: We've made it very clear that Australia's Operation Sovereign Borders has been a success because we have dismantled the people smuggling trade. There's not been a successful people smuggling trade to Australia in over 3 years and there have been no deaths at sea in at least 3 years. People smugglers do market Australia and New Zealand as a joint destination so it's very important that we maintain our strong border protection and ensure that there are no more of these ventures that cause such hardship and misery and deaths at sea and we've made that quite plain to our New Zealand friends.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: So did those comments from Jacinda Ardern increase the chatter among people smugglers?

JULIE BISHOP: Well that's a matter for our intelligence and security experts to advise, but we know that the people smugglers look for any opportunity to market Australia and New Zealand as a destination and we are determined not to give the people smugglers a business model. We don't believe that they should be preying on the misfortune of others. It's a criminal activity and it has caused deaths at sea in the past and we're certainly not going to allow that to happen again.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Obviously Australia is focused on the US re-settlement deal, when that's finished, if there are still refugees in offshore processing centres, is New Zealand an option?

JULIE BISHOP: We'll consider other options after we have concluded the US agreement but there are already options available for those who have been found to be refugees and they can be resettled in Nauru, they can be resettled in PNG. There are third country options like Cambodia and there are a number of those who have been found not to be owed protection. They are not refugees and they should return to their home country.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: What can New Zealand do to help Australia with the people smuggling issue? Is there anything that New Zealand can do to help Australia making sure the boats don't start again?

JULIE BISHOP: Clearly we work closely with New Zealand as we do with other countries, with Indonesia, with Malaysia, to ensure that people smugglers don't get a foothold. So it's a level of cooperation, sharing intelligence, sharing information and being determined in our resolve not to allow people smugglers to ply their trade.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: But New Zealand benefits from Australia's border protection policies, do you agree?

JULIE BISHOP: Well New Zealand is one of the destinations marketed by people smugglers, so if Australia is able to prevent the people smugglers getting to Australia then obviously we help in preventing them getting their boats to New Zealand.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: So is there anything New Zealand should be doing to assist Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: Well we are working together, we share information. We obviously cooperate in a whole range of areas but I'm not going to go into specific operational details. I don't want to give information that would help the people smugglers continue with their criminal activities. We have a very close working relationship with New Zealand across a whole range of areas and I expect that to continue. These are the sorts of matters I'll be discussing with Foreign Minister Winston Peters today.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Now another area where Australia and New Zealand work together is in Iraq – does Australia want New Zealand to recommit in Iraq after November when that deployment runs out?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia will continue our commitment into Iraq until at least 2019. Australia has about 300 defence personnel there at present and New Zealand about 110. We have successfully trained 28,500 Iraqi soldiers and security members and we've seen the results of our training. Iraq has been successful in driving out ISIS, in taking back the territory that ISIS had claimed. Next week I'll be attending a meeting in Kuwait co-hosted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and we'll be discussing amongst the coalition members who came together to defeat ISIS in Iraq the future. So I'll be sharing what I learn there with New Zealand. But of course I think Australia always wants New Zealand by its side.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Because that deployment is running out in November so are you going to talk to Winston Peters?

JULIE BISHOP: It's a matter I'll raise with Mr Peters. Clearly we'd be interested to know New Zealand's intentions and get some indication of what New Zealand intends to do, but it is a matter for New Zealand after all.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Now, also on the international stage – does Australia want New Zealand to do any more than it's currently doing in promoting rules-based order? As mentioned in the White Paper?

JULIE BISHOP: Very much. The international rules-based order, that network of alliances and treaties and relationships underpinned by international rule and norms that evolved since the second world war, is under strain. Its been challenged by some nations, its been challenged by non-state actors like terrorists. There are levels of protectionist sentiment emerging around the world in relation to free and open trade and yes we want to work with all our partners and allies and like-minded nations to promote and defend and protect that international rules-based order. After all it has enabled many countries, particularly in our region, to emerge from poverty, to lift millions of people out of poverty. It has provided us with relative stability and security in our region so all countries that have benefited from it have a responsibility to defend it and uphold it.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Is New Zealand doing enough at the moment?

JULIE BISHOP: We want to work with all countries that believe in the rules-based order and I know New Zealand does and we have a very close and deep working relationship New Zealand. These are the sorts of matters I'm discussing with Winston Peters and how we can work together. One great example of course is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP 11, where Australia and New Zealnad and 9 other countries have come together to agree to a high quality gold standard free trade agreement amongst a number of diverse countries and that's a good example of Australia and New Zealand working together with others to uphold that rules based order.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Both Australia and New Zealand have made comments denouncing North Korea. Overnight we see the North Korean's marching with South Korean's in Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics. Should we be ramping up the rhetoric here in the way of keeping the pressure on or is this a sign that maybe North Korea is starting to ease its tensions?

JULIE BISHOP: We welcome any lessening of tensions on the Korean peninsula and having North Korea and South Korea march into a stadium under one flag as a good sign. We have seen it before, the Sydney Olympics in 2000, North and South Korea marched as one team. However shortly thereafter North Korea threw out the weapons inspectors and continued on their path towards illegal weapons and illegal nuclear weapons program. What we must do is continue the diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea so it abandons its illegal nuclear weapons and ballistic missile testing programs and returns to the negotiating table so that we can talk about de-nuclearising the Korean peninsula. So we must maintain the diplomatic and economic pressure.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Because as Vice President Pence seems to be keeping the pressure quite high and that South Korea might be easing it off a bit, so we still need to keep ramping up the pressure on North Korea through the diplomatic sanctions?

JULIE BISHOP: There must be an international effort to support the UN Security Council resolutions. North Korea is in defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutions that effectively ban its weapons testing and its nuclear weapons program and so any nation that flouts UN Security Council resolutions in relation to nuclear weapons must be held into account so Australia is part of the collective effort as is New Zealand to keep that pressure on North Korea so it changes its behaviour.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Now, you said there are issues and things need to be managed between Australia and New Zealand domestically and that's what you're going to be doing at this meeting. What are the other things that need to be managed and issues that need to be worked through?

JULIE BISHOP: We have a very good working relationship. Australia and NEW ZEALAND have, I would suggest, the closest economic relationship between any two countries, and businesses in Australia and New Zealand can work seamlessly across the Tasman. So there aren't many issues to manage, we just discuss differences that might arise from time to time but invariably they are resolved successfully.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: In October, or rather September last year, Winston Peters said that relationship is not where it should be. Is that your assessment?

JULIE BISHOP: I think it's a very strong relationship but we can always improve. There is more we can do together in the Pacific for example, to build greater resilience and peace and prosperity and stability in our part of the world and I'll be discussing a number of issues today with Winston Peters and how Australia and New Zealand can work together to build resilience in the Pacific. For example, the Pacific Security College that we indicated that we would establish in the White Paper. We would like New Zealand's support in that. There's a Women's Leadership Initiative in fact I raised that with Prime Minister Ardern last evening – where we identified emerging female leaders in the Pacific and connect them with a mentor in Australia and we'd like New Zealand to be a part of that. And we both have labour mobility schemes in Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific and there may well be opportunities for us to align our efforts so that it's a more effective and efficient labour mobility scheme across the Pacific.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Just finally, the domestic issue Minister, reports today that Vikki Campion, Barnaby Joyce's partner was given a job in Damian Drum's office after Senator Canavan lost his ministerial role. This position was over and above the usual allocation for the National party. Does the Government here need to show or tell people there wasn't anything untoward here?

JULIE BISHOP: Well that would be a matter for the National Party. I'm not involved in the employment of National Party staff members, but I understand that she's a highly qualified journalist from a very well-known Australian tabloid, the Daily Telegraph and so she clearly has the qualifications to work in Parliament House, but I'm not aware of the details.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: So the PM signed off on this staffing arrangement?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I would assume that all staffing arrangements at that particular level are ultimately signed off by the PM's office.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: So should he make clear to people that this wasn't a job for the boys and a job for the girls' situation?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm not aware that that's the position at all. I don't know the details of it, but she's obviously a very highly qualified journalist who would be sought after in offices given that background.

JAMES O'DOHERTY: Foreign Minister, we are out of time, thanks for your time today here in Auckland.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

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