Sky News The Morning Shift interview with Samantha Maiden

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: We're going to go to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, though now, who joins us from Sydney. Good morning, Julie.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, Sam.

JOURNALIST: Now your electorate of Curtin recorded the highest result for yes in WA. And I think every electorate recorded a yes vote. What does that tell you?

JULIE BISHOP: It represents the will of the people. I expected my electorate would vote along the lines of about 70 per cent yes, and it came in at 72.2 per cent and I'm delighted that our postal survey had such a high participation rate and it was a great exercise in democracy, people having their say on a very significant social and moral issue.

JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison, we learn today, is leading the charge apparently to put in place some protections for parents to possibly be able to opt out of Safe Schools style teachings - this has of course been suggested that this is some sort of radical sex education. Do you support that push, do you think that there needs to be greater parental rights enshrined in the legislation?

JULIE BISHOP: I think that's a separate issue. What we're focusing on is the Marriage Act and a change to the Marriage Act. So I'm hoping that we'll be able to get legislation through the Parliament, before the sittings rise for the Christmas break, that reflects the will of the people. We were asked to vote on whether or not we supported a change to the law for same sex marriage and I think that's what the Parliament should be focusing on and I believe a majority of parliamentarians will want to ensure that there's no going backwards on anti-discrimination laws, that there's no delay, that we put through legislation that reflects the will of the people as soon as possible.

JOURNALIST: So, do you think that there is no need for that sort of protection for parents in the legislation? We were told at various points that this survey was also a referendum on Safe Schools, do you think that the result suggests that parents are not worried about that?

JULIE BISHOP: No I didn't say that at all. I'm saying they're separate issues. The postal survey specifically asked about changing the law in relation to same sex marriage. Other issues can be dealt with in other legislation if that be necessary. The point I'm making is that the legislation before the Parliament should deal with the issue of the Marriage Act but other matters can be dealt with in other ways and in other circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Just staying on domestic matters. Yesterday we also had that result from the High Court suggest that Hollie Hughes was ineligible to sit in the Senate because of work that she'd taken up actually after the election, so she was fine to nominate herself during that time but not obviously after. Now, is this getting a little silly now, this idea that you're meant to keep yourself in suspended animation potentially for six years, does this ramp up the arguments really that we need to have a constitutional referendum?

JULIE BISHOP: The High Court has clarified what that section means and it's indicated that you can't hold an office for profit under the Crown at any time during the election period. So, the High Court has clarified its interpretation and we now have to work out how the Senate ticket will work because the High Court didn't give any indication as to whether it was to be another election or how it was meant to occur. So, I'm sure our party administration will be working through that now.

JOURNALIST: There have been some rumblings, though, that the Nationals would like to take that spot. Is it your view that that would be impossible under the 1977 constitutional referendum decision that it would have to be from the Liberal Party or could it be from either side if you're on a joint ticket?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, these are matters that our respective parties will look into. They are no doubt studying the implications of the High Court decision - it was only handed down yesterday - and they will work through how we can negotiate an outcome. The Coalition always does, always will, so I am sure that we will have a result or have an outcome at some point.

: Turning now to your portfolio, we've heard more and more disturbing news out of Zimbabwe; you've also upgraded the travel advice to there. What would be your advice to Australians who might be in the region?

JULIE BISHOP: Our advice to those thinking of travelling to Zimbabwe is to reconsider your need to travel. There is a certain level of political volatility there, the military have taken control of some sectors of Harare, they have President Mugabe in some kind of detention. So it's obviously a very uncertain situation with the military on the street. Anyone who is in Zimbabwe, particularly in Harare, who has any concerns should contact our High Commission or if anybody in Australia is deeply concerned about loved ones there and if they can't contact them, then of course to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade hotline.
We have amended the travel advisory that reflects the advice that we've received to reconsider your need to travel so I urge people to log on to our Smartraveller website for more details of the situation in Zimbabwe.

JOURNALIST: And overnight we've also had the very tragic news from the United States of this Australian diplomat, Julian Simpson. We were just talking to Cory Bernardi who had actually had personal dealings with this young man and said that he had had really an amazing career and contribution; did you know Julian Simpson?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, I've put out a statement in relation to Julian's tragic death. I'm deeply saddened by the circumstances, I'm deeply saddened by the loss and I feel for his family. I met with him just recently when I attended the UN General Assembly Leaders' Week in September in New York. He was a bright, engaged, clever young man, he clearly had a bright future ahead of him and I'm deeply saddened by this tragic accident.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, it's absolutely tragic news.
Now, in your own portfolio you're also of course working towards a white paper. Can you just outline what the timeframe for that is and what you are hoping to achieve?

JULIE BISHOP: We will be releasing a Foreign Policy White Paper shortly - most certainly before Parliament rises - and the Foreign Policy White Paper will set out a framework of Australia's priorities and interests and values over the next decade. Of course you can't predict the future, but what we're doing is setting out the kind of challenges that we're facing, the opportunities that can arise and how Australia should respond in terms of our international engagement. It's a very comprehensive statement, it's a deeply researched document. We consulted very widely across the Australian community, we had consultations in cities, in regions. We have worked closely with friends and partners and allies and others around the world. So, I'm hoping that it will be a very substantial and comprehensive assessment of Australia's international engagement and how that benefits the peace and prosperity and stability of our nation.
JOURNALIST: How do you think it needs to deal with the rise of China? We've learnt in recent weeks about this renewed grouping between the United States and India and Japan; what do you think that the White Paper will have to say about that?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, the quad - that is, a grouping of officials from Australia and India and Japan and the United States - met recently, that's not unusual. We are four like-minded nations, we have a common interest in regional stability and security, there are many matters where we work together in any event and it's a natural grouping. I wouldn't presume to tell other nations who they can meet with diplomatically or the terms of those types of engagements and I'm looking forward to the quadrilateral arrangement progressing. At this stage, there's been an official's level meeting but I hope that it might progress further but that will depend on the individual nations and what they seek to gain from it.

JOURNALIST: But you don't think that Indonesia or the Philippines or Malaysia or any of those countries will have concerns?

JULIE BISHOP: We have arrangements with those countries. For example, we are in a grouping called MIKTA - Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Australia - and I don't hear other countries questioning the MIKTA arrangement. We have two plus two meetings with many of these countries - that is the Foreign and Defence Ministers of each country meet. There are many different diplomatic groupings. China is in BRICS - that's Brazil and Russia and India and China, South Africa. So, there are many different groupings and we encourage this because like-minded nations and some nations that are not so like-minded need to come together to discuss the opportunities that we have to ensure that our region is strong and stable and prosperous.

JOURNALIST: Now, with the departure of Scott Ryan from the frontbench, obviously at some point you will need to reshuffle. There are near-constant suggestions that the Attorney-General George Brandis might retire. Do you see any signs that George Brandis is going anywhere?

JULIE BISHOP: George Brandis has not indicated that to me. He's fully engaged as the leader of the Government in the Senate and doing a very fine job. There is obviously now a vacancy given that Scott Ryan has been elevated to the position of President, but that's a matter for the Prime Minister and no doubt he'll be thinking about that in the weeks ahead.

JOURNALIST: Sky News has been told in the past that George Brandis did have discussions with the Prime Minister about a foreign posting but that George Brandis actually turned the Prime Minister down. Are you aware of those discussions at all?
JULIE BISHOP: They are not discussions that I have been a party to. I think George Brandis is doing a fine job as leader of the Senate and I hope he continues to do that.

JOURNALIST: Because he doesn't seem to want to go anywhere but of course Alexander Downer's term as the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom is due to wrap next year, are there any candidates that are in the running for that job?

JULIE BISHOP: Of course, for a position like High Commissioner of London, there are many people who would like to be appointed to it so there are a number of people under consideration, as there are for all of our posts around the world. We've also expanded the number of missions that we have overseas. In fact, we've had the single largest expansion of missions in the last 40 years. So there are a number of people under consideration for many of our posts.

JOURNALIST: Shane Stone, from the Northern Territory, is obviously someone that you would be familiar with. Do you think that Shane Stone would have the attributes to fill the very large shoes of Alexander Downer next year?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm not sure that Shane Stone has expressed any interest in that but we have a number of people who are looking to be appointed to the position, within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade we have a whole department of experienced diplomats and so there's keen competition for a number of these posts.

JOURNALIST: Okay, but you're not aware that Shane Stone is in the mix at all?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm not aware of that.

JOURNALIST: Alright. Well, we look forward to seeing who the appointment is and also news, of course, on this yes legislation. It sounds like it is going to get through the Senate pretty quickly. Would you be hoping that there will be same sex marriages before Christmas or do you think we might have to wait until the new year?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, I can't see any reason why the legislation cannot pass through the Parliament this year. The people have spoken, it's up to the Parliament to reflect the will of the people, and I certainly don't want to see unnecessary delay and the Prime Minister's expressed the hope that we will pass this legislation before the Parliament rises for the Christmas break and I think that that would be highly appropriate given the results of the postal survey which certainly vindicates our decision to take this matter to the Australian people. They've responded in an overwhelming way and so the Parliament has a clear mandate to act as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST: Alright, Julie Bishop in Sydney, thank you very much for your time today. We appreciate it.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

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