Sky News, PVO Newshour, interview with Peter Van Olsen

  • Transcript, E&OE

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Thanks very much foryour time I know it's been a busy day and it will be a busy evening as well.

Two elements, two key elements I suppose to the Prime Minister of Japan'svisit, one economic, the other the defence idea of the treaty and that space –that's the more controversial of the two, there hasn't been as much focus on it.

JULIE BISHOP: Except that Japan and Australia have been longterm strategic partners and this is a natural consequence of the deepening ofour relationship. Yes the economic focus was all on the signing of the FreeTrade Agreement and that will bring huge benefits to Australian exporters andmanufacturers and service providers because over 97 per cent of our exports willget preferential treatment or duty-free treatment, zero tariffs into Japan, butthere's also the deepening of our defence ties and that was a highlight of thevisit of Prime Minister Abe as well.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Can we just focus onthat to start with and then maybe move to the economic after that? You wouldn'thave had a chance to hear it but on Stan Grant's program before mine ProfessorHugh White was being interviewed and he completely agreed with what Tony Abbotthad had to say about it being about time after 70 years that Japan be allowed tofree up its defence arrangements but he didn't think that the next step of usbeing involved in the framework that they're looking to put in place wasnecessary for Australia simply because of our relationship with China and Iguess our slight geographical removal from that East Asian area. What's yourview on that?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I disagree to this extent – the SouthChina and East China Seas are extremely important for Australian trade. We havea deep vested interest in peace and stability and security in that region. Over50 per cent of our exports are to North Asia and so we want to ensure thatthere's freedom of navigation, open peaceful seas and so we have an interest inmaintaining that.

I also think it's important for Australia to engage more deeply with Japanand with China. We do joint military exercises with both. Japan and Australiaare strong allies of the United States so we think that greater engagement indefence terms is important for maintaining peace and stability in the region.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Obviously the links orrelations between China and Japan are not great at the moment – they haven'treally been for quite some time. How does Australia balance its obvious attemptto have good relations with both? Good relations as you've just mentioned tosome extent in that defence base, but particularly obviously in that economicsbase.

JULIE BISHOP: Well regional security is not a zero sum game.We believe that it's important for all of the stakeholders in our part of theworld to remain engaged, to consult, to work through the regional architecture,particularly the East Asia Summit that Australia joined under the HowardGovernment. That has the right membership, the right mandate, including China,the US, the ASEAN countries to be a real forum for debate and discussion onstrategic and economic issues and so we have been encouraging all of the membersof the East Asia Summit to remain engaged to continue to consult.

And that's how Australia has always balanced the competing demands of variouscountries, not only the United States and China, but also the other ASEANcountries – Korea, Japan. We aren't a threat. We want to be friends witheverybody and we of course have our deep national interest in the region becausethat's where most of our trade is done.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: The focus obviouslywith Prime Minister Abe in Australia is on Japan but something else that's inthe mix I suppose is the Free Trade Agreement, or the possibility of a FreeTrade Agreement, with China. We've had the one with Japan signed off on, thegovernment is hopeful by the end of the year of making it happen with China butit is more complicated. How likely is that looking in your view?

JULIE BISHOP: Peter, at the last election we took a policyto the Australian people that we would seek to conclude Free Trade Agreementswith South Korea, Japan and China and the Prime Minister said that he hoped we'dbe able to do it within 12 months. Well we've concluded the Free Trade Agreementwith South Korea, we've now signed today the Free Trade Agreement with Japanwhich will now go through the usual parliamentary process of going to the JointStanding Committee on Treaties and we are advanced in our negotiations withChina. We're determined to conclude all three agreements, hopefully this year,because it's unquestionably good for the Australian economy. It grows oureconomy, it provides job opportunities, it's new and enhanced markets as well asexisting markets and it's also new sources of capital so it's good news for theAustralian economy for us to conclude these free trade agreements and I'm veryoptimistic that we will conclude a Free Trade Agreement with China.

And what I thought was interesting today about Prime Minister Abe's commentsin the House of Representatives when he addressed the joint sitting - he linkedthe Free Trade Agreement with Australia with the Trans Pacific Partnership thatinvolves the United States and 11 other countries and the RCEP which is theRegional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that involves China and ASEAN andtheir free trade partners. He linked them all together and said that this wouldrealise the aspirations of an Asia Pacific Free Trade Zone and I thought thatthat was very promising.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: If we could just moveon to other issues before we run out of time. You are obviously the ForeignMinister but in your pre-Parliamentary career you were a very senior lawyer atClayton Utz. Today we've seen the High Court take a bit of a look at what's beengoing on in the high seas in relation to the idea of asylum seekers being sentback to Sri Lanka. Now we don't know the exact details of what's going onbecause the Government, as part of its operation Sovereign Borders, maintains acertain amount of secrecy but how much attention to the High Court's concernshere is the Government going to have to take?

JULIE BISHOP: Well Peter we provided all the informationthat the High Court requested, the matter has been adjourned until Friday and asa lawyer I know that you don't provide a running commentary on a court case thatis still underway. So we have provided the High Court with the information thatit required. We will of course abide by our undertakings to the court and weawait the outcome.

But the Australian Government has made it clear from the outset that weintend to disrupt the people smuggling trade. We do not intend to see men andwomen and children drown at sea because they've paid people smugglers to putthem on unseaworthy boats to make a dangerous journey to Australia and we intendto disrupt that trade so that it cannot continue.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Just finally JulieBishop it would be remiss of me not to ask you for an update, I suppose, on thesituation with Peter Greste over there in Egypt, obviously he's had the trialand he's been convicted and now there is the aftermath of that whatever thatmight entail. Have you got anything to tell us from the Australian Government'sperspective on what's happening?

JULIE BISHOP: Well Peter as I understand it the family havebeen considering their options about an appeal. We have continued to makerepresentations at the highest level in the Egyptian Government. Indeed lastnight I spoke to US Secretary of State John Kerry specifically about the Grestematter. You might recall that he came out and strongly condemned the verdict atthe time and I asked the United States to remain engaged. They have aparticularly close relationship with Egypt and Secretary Kerry agreed tocontinue to remain engaged in this matter, continue to make representations onbehalf of Peter Greste because as he agreed with me, we want to see Peter Grestehome as soon as possible.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: How important is thatdo you think for the US Secretary of State, someone like John Kerry, keeps thatclosely involved?

JULIE BISHOP: It's important for us to have our friends andpartners and allies continue to point out to Egypt that this is not the way totransition to democracy – jailing journalists for doing their job does notreflect a path to democracy.

And I think the power and the influence of the United States is importantworldwide. They have a particularly close relationship with Egypt and as we havedone from the outset when Peter Greste was first detained we have sought to makerepresentations, not only to the authorities in Egypt, but to governments thatwe hope have some influence over Egypt. So I'm grateful that the United Stateshas agreed to remain deeply engaged in this matter.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Julie Bishop thanksvery much for coming on the program.

JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Peter.

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