Sky News Sunday Agenda, Interview with Peter Van Onselen and Paul Kelly

  • Transcript, E&OE

PETER VAN ONSELEN: And, aswe've mentioned, foreign policy issues have been big on the agenda this week,for a host of reasons. We're joined now live in the studio by the DeputyLiberal Leader, and of course the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, thanks verymuch for your company.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, Peter. Good morning,Paul.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: There'sa lot to talk about in terms of the Chinese Premier's visit, but can we startwith what occurred in London? You were at high level talks overseas at the timeabout ISIS and terrorism. Tell us about when you heard about what had happenedand the reaction, I suppose, of some of the leadership group there as well.

JULIE BISHOP: Indeed. I was in Washington at ameeting of the coalition of countries that had been called together by theUnited States. It was hosted by the new US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.It's the counter-ISIS group that was first formed after the declaration of theCaliphate by ISIS back in July of 2014. This coalition now numbers 68countries. Then there's a smaller coalition group of about 25, and Australia isa member of both.

The 25 countries are thosemaking the largest contribution to the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria,so I attended both meetings. At the larger group meeting, the moderator wascalling on various foreign ministers to make a contribution. She called on mefirst, and I was speaking, and at that time, Boris Johnson, the United KingdomForeign Secretary, left his seat and moved out of the room. I didn't notice itat the time, but the moderator went to call on Boris Johnson next, and hewasn't at his seat. And some thought, oh typical Boris, he's wandered offsomewhere, but in fact he had just received the news. And at that moment,people started looking at their smart phones and realising that something hadhappened in London.

So the story then unfolded.Boris came back to the table and addressed all members of the coalition, allthe foreign ministers who were there, about the unfolding events in London. Hewas visibly shaken. He's a former Mayor of London, he knows and loves thatcity, and so he was talking about the fact that the police had at that stage,killed the attacker. They assumed there was only one attacker, but it wasn'tclear, and that the House of Commons had been shut down. So it was afast-moving situation. He kept us updated during the day, and I spoke to himabout it. He was still very deeply concerned and said that a number of peoplehad been killed and many more injured.

But it's this idea that an individualcan take a vehicle and use it as a weapon to kill innocent people, to killcivilians, that is so deeply troubling, and well you can track terrorist gangs.You can use all sorts of means to monitor people and have them undersurveillance. If someone is self-radicalised and acts alone and uses –in thisinstance – a motor vehicle to mow people down in a public place likeWestminster Bridge, it is nigh on impossible for intelligence and security andlaw enforcement agencies to detect that in advance.

PAUL KELLY: Minister,what was the take out from the meeting you attended? And in particular, to whatextent and how serious do you think the Trump Administration is in intensifyingthe military campaign against ISIS?

JULIE BISHOP: Theimportance of this meeting was- it was the first meeting that the TrumpAdministration had called. It reaffirmed the objectives of the Counter ISISCoalition that had been set up under the Obama Administration. And theobjectives are; to defeat ISIS, inflict serious damage on ISIS; to take backthe territory, the so-called Caliphate that ISIS had declared in both Iraq andSyria; to address the humanitarian crisis, particularly in Syria; to find apolitical solution in Syria to end the civil war that is raging, beyond theattacks from ISIS, and to provide support for the Iraqi Government, so that itcan embrace political reconciliation. And then finally to prevent ISIS havingthe capacity and capability of carrying out attacks elsewhere, or inspiringothers to carry out attacks elsewhere. And I was of course particularlyinterested in what's going on in our part of the world in Southeast Asia.

PAUL KELLY: But what was the messagefrom the Trump Administration? Are they prepared to do more in terms of thiscampaign against ISIS?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes. The message from the TrumpAdministration via Secretary Tillerson and their Secretary of Defence GeneralMattis, was that the Trump Administration are committed to the campaign againstISIS; that they have embraced the objectives of the coalition to defeat ISISand that they would commit more militarily, in order to do so. And the focuswill be on Syria. The campaign in Iraq is a little clearer, there's moreclarity to it. The Iraqi Government is in control of the country, except forthe territory around Mosul, the city of Mosul that has been taken by ISIS. Theyhave troops now – security forces and police – taking back Mosul. They'reconfident that that will happen in coming weeks.

Australia has contributedsignificantly. We have trained almost 20,000 of the Iraqi security forces whoare now in this operation of retaking Mosul. So the Iraqi Government areconfident that they'll be able to do that and drive ISIS out of the country.The challenge for us is, where do they go? Where do they reappear? The UnitedStates is then turning to Syria, where a similar operation will take place toretake Raqqa, the city, the province, that has been taken by ISIS.

And this is where it becomesreally complex and strategically very difficult, because the United States,with backing of the Kurds, is prepared to retake Raqqa, and with otheropposition forces. That is opposition to the Assad Regime. Russia and Iran, whoare not represented at this coalition meeting, may well have a different agendaas to how to retake Raqqa. So there still needs to be a lot of strategicdiscussions between the United States on one side, and Russia-Iran on theother, and then there's the Assad Regime that is still in control in Syria.

PAUL KELLY: Juston this point. While we've done a lot – as you've just pointed out – do youthink there's much possibility that Australia in fact might be asked to domore, to contribute more?

JULIE BISHOP: Wellwe were not asked, and if we were, we would of course consider it. ButAustralia is already one of largest contributors to this effort. We have about1000 military personnel in the theatre. They are taking part in air strikes, infact Australia has taken part in about 2000 sorties over Syria. We have peopleon the ground training the Iraqi security forces that are based Iraq. They'retraining, assisting, advising. And the security forces that we've trained arecurrently in operations undertaking the campaign in Mosul. Now that is a significantcontribution. The United States ...

PETER VAN ONSELEN: [Interrupts]Can I ask on that ...

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, I'll just say the United Statesis directing their pleas to other nations who are directly beneficiaries of thecampaign against ISIS – that is in the Middle East and the Gulf countries.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Andwould you describe the US commitment to dismantling, taking down ISIS, as havebeen re-energised or increased with the change of administration?

JULIE BISHOP: It is clearly a high priority, andPresident Trump has made it clear, and this was reiterated by Secretary ofState Tillerson, and Secretary of Defence Mattis, that it is a priority, a highpriority for this administration to defeat ISIS, and they're putting moreenergy and more resources into that effort.

PAUL KELLY: Now you've recently beentravelling in Southeast Asia and of course one of the issues is, what happensto these foreign fighters when they leave the Middle East. But there are quiteworrying signs in a number of Southeast Asian countries. So to what extent areyou concerned that these problems of Islamist terrorism will intensify inSoutheast Asia, closer to home? In particular, what's your view of thesituation in the Southern Philippines and in countries such as Malaysia andIndonesia?

JULIE BISHOP: One of my messages at this Coalitionto defeat ISIS, was to point out that as more pressure goes on ISIS in theMiddle East and the more successful they are in driving ISIS out of the MiddleEast, the more likely it is that the returning foreign terrorist fighters willcome back to our part of the world. There are estimates of at least 600 foreignterrorist fighters from Southeast Asia in Iraq and Syria at present. It couldwell be higher, and if they are able to survive the campaign against them inIraq and Syria, they may well seek to come home. That's why we've been workingso closely and coordinating our efforts with Indonesia in particular, but alsoincreasingly with Malaysia and the Philippines, because that's where a numberof these fighters are from. And it was a message thatresonated in the meeting in Washington, and it is part of the whole considerationabout defeating ISIS. We don't want to see it re-emerge elsewhere in the world.Otherwise we'll be back in a few years' time, talking about how to defeat aCaliphate in the Southern Philippines for example. Now I was in the Philippinesrecently, I met with President Duterte. We spoke about the re-emergence of someof these terrorist networks, particularly in Southern Philippines. There's one,the Abu Sayyaf group, a particularly dangerous terrorist group. Their leaderHapilon has recently been declared an Amir by ISIS in the Middle East, an Amir,a leader, in the Southern Philippines. So there is concern that ISIS may wellseek to declare a Caliphate, an Islamic Caliphate in the Southern Philippines. This brings the threat right toour doorstep, and that's why we've been ensuring that our security and lawenforcement and intelligence agencies have the resources they need. We're cooperatingso closely with these other countries, to stamp this terrorist threat out inour region.

PAUL KELLY: How did your meeting gowith the Philippines President, and did you express any concern at all abouthis domestic tactics that is solving his problems by shooting people?

JULIE BISHOP: Wecertainly did discuss that. In fact it was a very long meeting, probably aboutthree quarters of an hour, 50 minutes. About 30 minutes was spent on his localwar against drugs, as he calls it, and of course I expressed the concerns ofAustralia and other countries.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: What washis reaction to that?

JULIE BISHOP: Heexplained in considerable detail, what he sees as the biggest issue facing thePhilippines, and that is the addiction, particularly ice, methamphetamines, by,in particular, young people. He estimated that there are about four millionFilipinos who are addicted to ice, and he is intent on wiping out the druglords. These are his words, wiping out the drug lords, and all those in thesupply chain, to protect the Philippines people. He is unapologetic. He isdetermined to rid the Philippines of ice. And he will stop at nothing to goafter the cartels, the drug lords and the importation in particular, of thisdrug.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: We'retalking to the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. We're going to take a quickbreak. When we come back, we're going to move onto the visit to Australia bythe Chinese Premier.

[ADVERTISEMENT BREAK] PETER VAN ONSELEN: Welcomeback, you're watching Sunday Agenda. A reminder: former New Zealand PrimeMinister John Key coming up later. At the moment, we're talking to the DeputyLiberal Leader and Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. Let me ask you about theChinese Premier's visit. How realistic is it, or how feasible is it thatAustralia can maintain the trade links that we need with China whilstmaintaining our relationship with the US, without, if you like, hot momentsgetting in the road?

JULIE BISHOP: We'vebeen doing this for some time and I believe we're doing it very successfully.And other countries are in the same position whereby the United States is theirmajor strategic and defence ally, and China is their major trading partner. Andthe visit of Premier Li has been exceedingly successful. I met with the ForeignMinister, Wang Yi, yesterday on my return from Washington. And from the Chineseside they're very pleased that we were able to enhance the free trade agreementbetween Australia and China that we signed a few years ago. That's alreadybringing great benefits to exporters from Australia and from China. Inparticular, the Prime Minister was able to announce greater access for chilledand frozen beef, so our beef producers will be happy with having greater accessinto that Chinese market. So the free trade agreement is working exceedinglywell. We have what's called a comprehensive strategic partnership with China,that's one of the highest level engagements that you can have between twocountries.

So that's working verysuccessfully on one hand, and on the other hand we're working very closely withthe new Trump administration to ensure that the United States remains engagedin our part of the world; that the United States continues to provide the securityand defence guarantee that they have since the end of the Second World War tomaintain peace, stability and security in our region. And I think countries inour region recognise that their peace and their prosperity has come aboutbecause of that leadership shown by the United States, but they're very happyto work with China as well.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Is it atougher balancing act, do you think, with the Trump administration thanprevious administrations? His rhetoric has been so strong.

JULIE BISHOP: In the beginning, after theinauguration, there was some uncertainty as to the foreign policy direction ofthe Trump administration, but since then, Secretary Mattis and SecretaryTillerson, and others, have visited the region. In fact Rex Tillerson visitedBeijing recently and it was considered to be a very successful, positive,productive trip. I spoke to Secretary Tillerson about it in Washington, and hewas very pleased with the level of engagement they had with the Chinese, andthe indication is that they can work together. And that's the impression that Igot from Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday, that they were pleased with thevisit from the United States, that it's off on the right footing, and that theywill be able to work well together. They both recognise what's at stake. Theyboth recognise that for the region to remain peaceful and stable andprosperous, in relative terms, then the United States and China must cooperateand work together.

PAUL KELLY: Nowwhat's your view about the argument that's been put very strongly in thiscountry since the Trump Presidency, that Australia should reassess our alliancewith the United States and that we should rebalance, put a bit more distancebetween ourselves and America and get closer to China? This is a view put by anumber of former Australian politicians from Bob Carr to Paul Keating. Do youthink we should reassess the alliance along those lines?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe that we have the balanceabout right and we are committed to the US alliance, and any sensiblecommentator would understand that the US alliance is the cornerstone of ourstrategic and defence capability that we work very closely with the UnitedStates, we are very much the beneficiary of it. It includes our intelligence cooperation,we are one of the Five Eyes; that means we're one of the five countries thatshares intelligence – well, four other countries – shares intelligence with theUnited States. That is undoubtedly to our benefit, and has been in ourcounter-terrorism work and the work we're doing in the Middle East, and so thedefence relationship with the United States is absolutely essential. It's anindispensable part of our defence and security policy.

But we also are capable ofconducting a very positive relationship with China, and we do. I'll be seeingPremier Li after I finish this show. We get along very well with theleadership. Malcolm Turnbull, as Prime Minister, has made it his priority tohave good relationships at a personal level with the Chinese leadership, andthat counts for a lot, and so I believe that we are getting the balance right.Of course there will be challenges along the way as an emerging and risingpower like China finds its place in the region, finds its place in the world.It will come up against the United States and others from time to time, butAustralia has always been very pragmatic. We're consistent and we can balancethese relationships.

PAUL KELLY: Welljust on this point; do you feel that we're under pressure from China? I mean,the Premier has made a number of comments in the last few days about warningAustralia not to take sides. So to what extent are we actually under somepressure from the Chinese?

JULIE BISHOP: I think you have to put that incontext. When Foreign Minister Wang Yi was here in February, we took part in avery long press conference, and at that time he said, publically, we're notasking Australia to choose. Australia has an alliance with the United States,and it has a strong, comprehensive strategic partnership with China. We're notasking Australia to choose. So that was the position put by the Chinese ForeignMinister. In areas where there is potential conflict, the Chinese are asking usnot to take sides. The South China Sea: we are not a claimant over any of thedisputed territories or disputed features in the South China Sea, and we haveconsistently said we are not taking sides. We want the claimants to work outnegotiations amongst themselves and, if necessary, to resort to aninternational tribunal or courts. So Australia has been consistent in saying,in relation to the South China Sea, all parties should de-escalate tensions,all parties should act in accordance with the rules based international order,and that's not taking sides. That's stating our values, our interests.

PAUL KELLY: Just on this point, thePremier also said that China wasn't engaged in military activity on theseislands. Now, doesn't that contradict our own view based on intelligence aboutwhat's going on on these islands in the South China Sea?

JULIE BISHOP: There's certainly a view in theregion, and I've visited Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippinesrecently, and the met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, there is certainly a viewin the region that China is placing military assets on these disputed features.The Chinese say if they are doing that, then they're doing it in self defence.The question is…

PAUL KELLY: [Interrupts]Well, that's their standard defence, isn't it?

JULIE BISHOP: Defence against whom?

PAUL KELLY: Well,I mean, precisely. I mean, that's their standard defence.

JULIE BISHOP: So our position is that we urgeclaimants not to reclaim land, not to militarise, not to escalate tensions. Andthe ASEAN countries, the 10 countries of South East Asia, are currently innegotiations with China over a code of conduct that is to determine thebehaviours of the various claimants in the South China Sea, and we encourageASEAN and the Philippines are the Chair of ASEAN, the grouping this year. Weencourage them to conclude that code of conduct as soon as possible.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Butisn't the concern that China are just going to run roughshod over the othercountries in the region? They've essentially, by the looks of it, certainlyfrom what I've read, been appearing to do that so far with that militarisationthat's occurred. And that's only going to increase isn't it, the more dominant,powerful, larger they become on the international scale?

JULIE BISHOP: Which is why countries such as theUnited States, Australia, Japan and others, and the ASEAN countries, call forcalm, call for a de-escalation of tensions, call for an end to land reclamationand any militarisation, and we'll continue to do that. We've been saying itconsistently and we will continue to maintain that position because we believethat that's how you can maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.And we have an interest because the vast bulk of our trade to our exportdestinations, in East Asia in particular, passes through the South China Sea.So we assert our right to freedom of overflight and freedom of navigation inaccordance with international laws through the South China Sea.

PAUL KELLY: Now, in your recentSingapore speech you gave a little lecture to the Chinese, warning them that ifnations wanted to get to the stage of true prosperity then they had to make thetransition to democracy. You're being criticised for those comments by a numberof academics in this countries. Has there been any kick-back from China?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, I made the self-evident pointthat history shows for countries to reach high income, advanced economicstatus, they embrace democratic institutions and principles, with the exceptionof a few very rich, oil rich, Middle Eastern monarchies. And other than that,history has shown that the way to become a high income, advanced economy, isalso to embrace democratic principles. I wasn't lecturing anyone, that's not mystyle.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Do youthink that there's an inevitability though, I mean that the day of reckoninghas to come in a country like China with a rising middle class, thatdemocratisation will inevitably take hold? They either embrace it, or itembraces them?

JULIE BISHOP: This is the experience in othercountries, and I was merely pointing out what history has shown. And these areconversations I have with my Chinese counterparts all the time. It's not anunusual proposition to put forward given that history backs it. So we have avery good relationship with China, they have their own model of governance, ofa political system. Our focus is very much on a trading relationship, and asPremier Li's visit has indicated, our trade and investment relationship couldnot be stronger and we are now much more engaged at a strategic level and we'renow in areas of dialogue like in energy, in security, in innovation. So it's avery sophisticated and diverse engagement that Australia has with China.

PAUL KELLY: Nowin the Singapore speech you also said- you also called the United States theindispensable strategic power in this part of the world. To what extent do youthink that's the view of the region? To what extent do you think that's theview in East Asia and South East Asia?

JULIE BISHOP: Most certainly the countries thatI've visited – and I've also been recently to South Korea and Japan – want tosee more US engagement and leadership in the region. They were concerned. Theywere in a bit of a holding pattern over the new Administration in the lead-upto the inauguration, but the recent visits from senior Cabinet Ministers fromthe Trump Administration has, I think, calmed their concerns and they arereassured that the United States will continue to provide the security and thedefence and the stability that has allowed them to prosper since the SecondWorld War. So I didn't get any sense that people want the United States toleave. They certainly want China and the United States to have a strong,engaged relationship, there's no doubt about that, but they see the UnitedStates as very much a part of the security and defence apparatus in South andEast Asia.

PAUL KELLY: Now while PresidentTrump sends different signals on virtually every issue, including his foreignpolicy towards Asia, you've had the chance of meeting the three other keyfigures in the Administration: the Vice President, the Secretary of State, andthe Defence Secretary. What's your take on these three individuals in terms oftheir outlook and their view about the region?

JULIE BISHOP: They are very impressiveappointments, I think. Secretary Tillerson, coming from a global businessbackground provides a very measured, reassuring approach. He has met Kings andPresidents and Prime Ministers from all over the world in his capacity as theChair of ExxonMobil, so anywhere that Exxon's had a project or a p roposed project,he's been there and discussed international affairs. He brings a very pragmaticapproach to matters, but his visits to Japan, South Korea and China werewell-received. Secretary Mattis is clearly a very strong personality and aclear, strategic thinker, and has already made a big impression as theirDefense Secretary. Vice President Pence is a measured, humble, very likeableperson, but very strong in his self-confidence about his position as VicePresident, and he likewise is going to be, I think, a very important player inthe Trump administration. I invited him to come to Australia, I understand he'son his way; he's going to visit Japan, Indonesia and other countries. This isvery early in a Vice President's time to be visiting our part of the world, andI'm delighted that [inaudible]…

PAUL KELLY: [Talksover] Well all that's great news, I mean...

JULIE BISHOP: … showing their commitment to ourpart of the world.

PAUL KELLY: Okay. I mean, all that'sgreat news, but when is President Trump going to meet Prime Minister Turnbull?

JULIE BISHOP: Well clearly that will come at atime when either the Prime Minister is in the United States or President Trumpcomes to Australia. Now, I'm not in charge of either of their schedules, butthere will come a time of course where they will meet. With the Vice Presidentcoming out so early in the Trump administration, it's a very positive sign aboutthe focus that they place on Australia and the reliance we have on [inaudible]…

PAUL KELLY: [Talks over] Yes, okay,let's just stay, let's just keep with President Trump and Prime MinisterTurnbull. We know they had an ugly phone exchange. We know that.

JULIE BISHOP: Well, that's your description. That'snot the way the Americans describe it. That's not the way the Vice President orothers describe it. I think it's a recognition that we have two very strongminded leaders in President Trump and also Prime Minister Turnbull.

PAUL KELLY: Welldo you think they can get on or is there some bad blood there?

JULIE BISHOP: No, of course they'll get along, andit's early days. They've been in administration for a matter of weeks and ofcourse there will be a visit from either the Prime Minister to the UnitedStates or the US President to Australia. But at this stage we're lookingforward to Vice President Pence's visit, and I know that the President andPrime Minister Turnbull, as previous Prime Ministers and Presidents have alwaysdone, will put our respective national interests first, and that includes acommitment to the US strategic alliance.

PAUL KELLY: Now given these recentreports can I ask, as Foreign Minister, have you had much of a dialogue withSenator Brandis about going to London?

JULIE BISHOP: No, I haven't. I haven't had adialogue with Senator Brandis about going to London.

PAUL KELLY: [Talks over] But you've obviouslydiscussed it with him, have you?

JULIE BISHOP: No, I've read the reports, but Ithink people who write these articles or their sources don't understand theprocess of appointments to overseas positions, and they are totally within thediscretion of the Prime Minister. If he chooses to exercise that discretion,the Prime Minister would say to me, Foreign Minister I would like to appoint x,y, z to a position, well then of course I'd have my views, but at the end ofthe day the Prime Minister has the call.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: So youand the Prime Minister must have discussed these appointments that are beingreferred to in the papers because they're coming up fairly soon.

JULIE BISHOP: We discuss appointments all the time.There are particular appointments that the Prime Minister's interested in,there are others where he will exercise his discretion, there are others thathe would leave to me. So it depends on the particular appointment and theparticular position because different positions require different skills; theremight be cultural sensitivities, there might be personality differences, theremight be strategic or trade issues. There are a whole range of considerationsthat are brought into account.

PAUL KELLY: [Talksover] Anyway, the point you were telling us is you've been involved in nodiscussions about Senator Brandis.

JULIE BISHOP: I've been involved in discussionsabout newspaper reports.

PAUL KELLY: Okay.Now, there are also reports that Marise Payne, the Defence Minister, might beposted to the United States, might be posted to New York. What's the drum onthat?

JULIE BISHOP: That has never been raised with me.The first time I saw it was in the paper on Saturday. It has never been raisedwith me by anyone, not the Prime Minister…

PETER VAN ONSELEN: [Interrupts]Did you raise it post- you mentioned though, that you've talked about SenatorBrandis in the context of the newspaper reports, have you talked about SenatorPayne with the Prime Minister in the context of the newspaper reports?

JULIE BISHOP: I've only just got back fromWashington and I've been in meetings with the Foreign Minister of China, I'mabout to meet with the Premier. And yes, I speak to the Prime Ministerregularly, but about matters of concern. This is not something that has been raisedwith me by the Prime Minister, by Senator Payne, by anyone, so I have no ideaof the source of that story. I put it down to "fake news".

PAUL KELLY: Okay,well I'd like to ask you about another report that concerns you. It's aboutyour view as Deputy Leader of the Party, and the point was made that your viewas Deputy Leader of the Party is that your responsibility is to the Party Roomover the actual Leader of the Party. What is your approach as Deputy Leader?

JULIE BISHOP: In the Liberal Party there are twopositions that are elected directly by the Party Room: the Leader and theDeputy Leader, and they are separate elections. They are not tied together. Onecould occur separate to the other. And I have been Deputy Leader now since 2007,and I have been through a number of leadership spills and leadership contests.Sometimes my position is up for election, sometimes it's not. It's just aleadership thing. So they are separate, and I see the Deputy Leader having aresponsibility to the Party Room, to be a conduit to the Leader, but also totake account of the Party Room's interests, and that means that I answer to theParty Room because only the Party Room can elect me or not vote for me. So Iretain the Deputy Leadership as long as I retain the support and the confidenceof the Party Room.

PAUL KELLY: Howmany more Leaders do you think you'll be Deputy to?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I believe that Malcolm Turnbullwill lead us to the next election. I hope to be his Deputy. He's performingstrongly as the Prime Minister. He's had a very good couple of weeks as PrimeMinister. I think he's an outstanding individual. I'm looking forward to himleading us to the next election and he certainly retains the vast majoritysupport of the Party Room. He certainly has my support.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Does hehave to improve in the polls though? I mean, he's got plenty of time, but itwas 30 consecutive Newspolls that he used as an important lever to remove TonyAbbott. It would be fair, wouldn't it, that he'll be judged by the samecriteria.

JULIE BISHOP: ThePrime Minister is making some tough decisions, but he's getting on withgoverning. He's tackling issues that have languished for some time and been areal problem for us. He's tackling the issues, he's getting on with it. He's acan-do Prime Minister and he's got a vision for this country. He's got a lot ofissues to deal with, but he's performing strongly, and he will retain thesupport of the vast majority of the Party Room in order to lead us to the nextelection.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Just onefinal question before we let you go, you've been generous with your timeForeign Minister. Can I ask you about Western Australia and what unfolded overthere? Obviously it was is disastrous result for the State Liberals. Howconcerned are Federal Liberals that that is a sentiment for change that isn'tjust on State issues but could have Federal implications? You've got a lot ofMPs, you've been very successful at the Federal level out of WA for a longtime.

JULIE BISHOP: I have been through elections wherethe State Liberal Party lost and then, in the same year, the Federal LiberalParty won a Federal election. So I don't read too much into the overlap, unlessit's obvious that the State election was fought on Federal issues. In thiscase, it was a very State-centric election. It was about the leadership, it wasabout the future of the leadership of the Party, it was about the changingnature of the Western Australian economy, the issue of jobs, the issue ofpriorities of the State Government versus the Opposition. So it was a veryState-centric election, and I believe that with the Federal election severalyears away, we have every opportunity to encourage the Australian people to seewhat we're doing; the policies that we're putting in place for economic growth;for job opportunities, particularly for young people; and having a fairersociety across this country.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: JulieBishop, you've been generous with your time, as I mentioned. We appreciate youjoining us, thanks for your company.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

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