Sky News PM Agenda, interview with David Speers

  • Transcript, E&OE
09 November 2016

JOURNALIST: We're going to leave our colleagues there at ABC America and return to them shortly, because right now the Foreign Minister of Australia, Julie Bishop, joins me in Canberra. Minister, thank you very much for joining us. This has been a dramatic election night count here and the United States. What do you think about the prospect of a President Donald Trump?

JULIE BISHOP: David, the count is ongoing, and I note that Hawaii has just closed, and we expect the polls in Alaska, the 50th state, to close in about an hour our time. So the count is ongoing, but it would appear that Donald Trump is most likely to claim the Presidency at this stage. As I have been saying for a long time now, the Australian Government will work constructively with whomever the American people, in their wisdom, choose to be their President.

A Presidential Election in the United States is always momentous for the United States, of course, but also globally.

In Australia we have particular economic and strategic interests that can be affected by a change in administration. The United States is our major security ally, the United States is our largest foreign direct investor, our second largest trading partner, so it's important for the Australian Government to be ready to work with whomever becomes the next President of the United States, and at this stage it would appear to be Donald Trump. And I can say that we are ready, because we have been reaching out to both the Clinton teams and the Trump teams to ensure that we can have a close and constructive and productive relationship with the new US administration. But I also point out that President Obama remains the President of the United States up until midday on January 20, so we'll continue to work with the Obama Administration during that transition period.

JOURNALIST: But looking at what Donald Trump has said just during the election campaign about the Asia-Pacific, he wants to label China a currency manipulator on day one, he's talked about higher tariff walls with China, he's talked about making US allies pay up, do more of the heavy lifting, particularly Japan and South Korea. Does this change, or reduce more specifically, the US, the American leadership role in the Asia Pacific?

JULIE BISHOP: Any change in US foreign policy has implications, not only for the United States, but for our region, for Australia and globally. And we have been following the statements and policy pronouncements of both candidates very closely and analysing how they will impact on Australia and the region. It will be incumbent upon the Australian Government, and me as Foreign Minister, our Defence Minister, and of course the Prime Minister, to engage with the new Administration very early, very quickly, and in a most constructive way, to talk about the strategic interest that the United States has in the Asia Pacific. And countries in our region are looking for more US leadership, not less in the Asia Pacific, and there have been instances where Donald Trump has made statements that would indicate he's a classic isolationist, or protectionist, or a bilateralist. There are opportunities for us though, and I point out that should Donald Trump win the Presidency it is likely that he may win a majority in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, and for the first time in some years we may see an opportunity to break the gridlock that has bedevilled US politics for so long. So, should it be a Trump Administration, we must see the opportunities for Australia to engage closely at an early stage, to ensure that the administration focusses on our region and the importance of US leadership, the US presence in the Asia Pacific.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you finally, should Australians be nervous about the prospects of a Trump Presidency in your mind? Because I think a lot of people do look at some of the things that he's been caught on tape saying about women, some of the things he obviously wants to enact about banning Muslim immigration. We've seen some of your colleagues, Christopher Pyne, saying Hillary Clinton would've been a better outcome - not going as far as Bill Shorten, who of course has described Donald Trump as barking mad. But should Australians be nervous about a Trump Presidency?

JULIE BISHOP: Well it's deeply regrettable that Bill Shorten made such offensive personal comments during the course of the US election campaign. You will note that we have been far more measured, and I have consistently said that the Australian Government will work constructively with whomever the American people choose as their President.

Of course, a different President and a different Administration will have a different impact on foreign policy and domestic policy, and we've already seen the differences between the candidates in terms of domestic, foreign, and more broadly they have some considerable differences in policy approaches. But the Australian people should be reassured that the Australian Government has been engaging closely with both teams, the Clinton team and also the Trump team, to put us in the best position possible to focus on our national interests and our economic and security interests as they are affected by the United States, and that's the priority. We work with whomever the United States people choose as their President. We have particular areas of interest that must align, and we will do what we can to ensure that the new US administration is focussed on our region because that's in our national interest, for the United States, has been the guarantor and the defender of the international rules based system which underpins our economic and strategic security.

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, I appreciate your time. I know the dust still hasn't completely settled on this presidential race, but the indications are pointing, as you say, to a Donald Trump Presidency, and we thank you for that reaction there - the first Australian Government reaction to this. Thank you very much.

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