Sky News - interview with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE

KIERAN GILBERT Good morning and welcome to AM Agenda live from the United Nations in New York, where Julie Bishop has confirmed that Australia will be seeking a seat on the UN Security Council once again. This time the timeframe is a lot longer - some 14 years out, if what the Minister says will be Australia's goal. But it will be less expensive and it won't see any major shift in Australian foreign policy in order for Australia to secure that seat. There is a vacancy then, and her advice is from the Department of Foreign Affairs is that's our next chance to secure a spot around the top decision making body here at the United Nations. Now to Julie Bishop, when I spoke to her earlier, I began by asking her about what looks like a shift in foreign policy priorities. The former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was sceptical at best when it came to multilateral organisations like the UN, already a few weeks into the Turnbull prime ministership and this bid is being undertaken by the Government. JULIE BISHOP I've always believed that Australia should play its part and be on the Security Council from time to time. And every 15 years I think is appropriate for a country of Australia's size and significance. I asked Prime Minister Turnbull last week if he would agree to me making this announcement. We had advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Prime Minister Turnbull agreed that this would be an appropriate announcement for me to make. KIERAN GILBERT There was a sense of scepticism about multilateral organisations under the Abbott leadership. Is this a departure from that though? JULIE BISHOP It's a decision that Malcolm Turnbull has made as Prime Minister and it's certainly one that I strongly back and it's an appropriate timeframe. It won't mean that we have to divert resources, it won't mean we'll have to skew our foreign policy positions, it won't mean that our diplomats are taken away from what they should be doing to pursue a campaign in a short period of time. So it's a measured approach. It's an appropriate timeframe. I doubt that I'll be the foreign minister at the time but this is what happens here at the UN - you put your name forward for an appropriate timeslot. Some countries are nominating for 2045 and beyond but we believe that 2029-2030 would be an appropriate time for Australia to return to the Security Council. KIERAN GILBERT And can we expect more moves of this sort in terms of embracing the international community, multilateralism from the Turnbull Government? JULIE BISHOP We also intend to confirm tonight that we'll be seeking a spot on the United Nations Human Rights Council for 2018-2020. It's a different process, so we're able to seek an earlier timeframe. But I think it's important for a country like Australia as does Prime Minister Turnbull to stand up for our values. We believe in freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of religion – we believe in democratic institutions, the rule of law and human rights. So it's appropriate that Australia also be on the Human Rights Council. KIERAN GILBERT The Russian delegation snubbed today's forum on countering violent extremism. They sent a junior diplomat as opposed to the president, they said it was undermining the broader UN approach when it comes to ISIL and disrespecting the UN was the words of Ambassador Churkin to the United Nations. Why are they so worked up about it do you think? JULIE BISHOP Well I don't understand that because the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, co-chaired the meeting with President Obama so the United Nations through the Secretary-General was very present at this meeting. It was a useful opportunity for a number of world leaders to state what they were doing to deter, defeat and degrade ISIL and also they were able to speak about their actions, both domestically, regionally and internationally on countering violent extremism. I thought it was a very useful forum. KIERAN GILBERT But it shows you how difficult it is going to be to manage the Russians as an unlikely ally in the fight against IS, doesn't it, with that sort of reaction? JULIE BISHOP Except that we are seeing progress in Syria, where Russia is now focussing its efforts on countering Daesh or ISIL as it's called in various places. So there is a recognition that there is a common enemy and I hope that there will be greater diplomatic efforts between the United States and Russia in that regard. KIERAN GILBERT Is it for Australia more palatable the idea of Assad staying in the job for the interim period than for Barack Obama? He seems very much set on the fact that the Syrian dictator has got to go. JULIE BISHOP There are no palatable options in dealing with Syria, but we need to find a political solution. President Assad has been accused of some of the most atrocious crimes against his own people so of course that's not a palatable option, but we're dealing with reality. He's still there, he's still in charge of a part of Syria, ISIL and Daesh have taken over some sections of the territory. But while looking for a solution, we have to look at transition arrangements. There was an attempt in the Geneva I conference [on Syria] back in 2011 to come up with a political solution that saw the removal of President Assad. He's still there. We have to deal with the reality of it and Australia will support a solution that leads to an end to the humanitarian crisis and the conflict that is causing so much human suffering in that part of the world. KIERAN GILBERT And on a lighter note, just to finish I know you had dinner recently with Robert De Niro and Hugh Jackman. My sources tell me, here in New York, that you met with Ridley Scott the film director last night, what was that about? JULIE BISHOP Yes l did indeed. Ridley Scott is very keen to produce a film in Australia and he wanted to talk to me about the possibilities of doing that. I was very interested to hear from him and it's certainly a matter I'll take up with Prime Minister Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison. Maybe it was through Robert de Niro, I don't know, but he was certainly very keen to talk to us about the opportunities in Australia. It is part of our agenda to promote our creative economy. We have some of the most talented and creative people in Australia. They're one of our greatest natural assets and if we can promote film production in Australia then I think that's a great opportunity for more jobs in our creative economies, in the creative sections of our country. KIERAN GILBERT It's funny who you bump into in New York. Minister thanks. JULIE BISHOP Yes it sure is, I've just bumped into you. KIERAN GILBERT Yeah, and Ridley Scott… JULIE BISHOP [Laughs] I get the connection! KIERAN GILBERT Thank you.

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