Sunrise, New York - interview with David Koch and Samantha Armytage

  • Transcript, E&OE

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins us now live from New York, where she's been chairing the United Nations Security Council.

Minister, good morning, thanks for your time.

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Sam.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Now have you had any reaction from the White House to your criticism of President Obama?

JULIE BISHOP I wasn't criticising the President. I was just pointing out that Australia has the capacity and has committed to preserving and conserving the Great Barrier Reef for future generations. Indeed, I had briefed the US Secretary of the Interior, just days before President Obama's speech, in detail on the work we were doing to preserve the Great Barrier Reef including the banning of any mining, or exploration, or drilling, the fact that the Abbott Government had now banned or is about to pass laws to ban the dumping of capital dredge waste in the marine park and that we had committed $180 million a year, that is the Australian Federal Government and the Queensland Government, to the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef. It seemed to me that President Obama wasn't aware of that. So we did send a brief through to the White House.

DAVID KOCH Are you disappointed, are you disappointed he ignored all that or his speech writers ignored all that?

JULIE BISHOP I was concerned that they hadn't heard about the commitment that we had made and specifically, a ban on the dumping of capital dredge waste. That's an important step that the Abbott Government has taken. I wanted to ensure that the White House was aware of our commitment to preserving the Great Barrier Reef - after all it's an environmental icon. We treasure it. It's a huge tourism attraction, about 70,000 jobs are dependent upon the Great Barrier Reef continuing to be a tourism icon. So Australia knows better than anyone how important the Great Barrier Reef is to our environment.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE There were some claims in the Telegraph today that a senior member of the Prime Minister's office called the US Embassy after Barack Obama left town to, I guess, have a very firm chat about the President's behaviour after the G20 and the claims on climate change. Would you say the Government is not happy with Barack Obama at the moment?

JULIE BISHOP No, that's not the point at all. On climate change, we welcome the President's statements about what the US will do because after all, the US is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. One of the largest economies in the world is committing to reducing its global greenhouse gas emissions. Admittedly, it's embracing shale oil and shale gas which is a cleaner form of energy but we were pleased that the President took the opportunity to talk about what the United States is doing on climate change because it's very similar to what Australia has committed to do.

The United States doesn't have a carbon tax. Australia now doesn't have a carbon tax because we have repealed it. It was only this issue of the Great Barrier Reef that I felt the President needed to have the briefing that I had provided to his Secretary of the Interior just days before.

DAVID KOCH Let's move on. We would love to have your views on Egypt's President who has revealed he is considering a pardon for Australian journalist Peter Greste and his jailed Al Jazeera colleagues under newly introduced laws. Can you give us an update on that? Have you been lobbying for a speedy decision, do you think it's imminent?

JULIE BISHOP Kochie, we have been – from the moment that Peter Greste was detained and then after he was convicted on these charges – we have been making representations at the highest level including to the President, seeking some kind of pardon or clemency for him. We have been told including by the President that until Peter Greste's appeal is concluded, there could be no consideration of a pardon or any form of clemency. That appeal is listed for the 1st January 2015. But if the President is prepared to consider a pardon earlier than that, well then of course we welcome it, we will continue to make those representations but at this stage, the formal word from the Egyptian Government is that Peter Greste's appeal must run its course. Whatever the outcome of that appeal, Australia will be pushing hard for Peter Greste to be returned home to Brisbane, home to his family.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Here's hoping there is a pardon there. Minister, you are in New York where you have been discussing the threat from Islamic State, the radicalisation of young people. Is the Government cracking down even further on supporters of IS?

JULIE BISHOP Yes, we have been. We have been freezing the assets of those who are seeking to promote or finance terrorism. We are shutting down financial entities that are supplying funds to terrorist organisations. We are cancelling passports of those who are seeking to go overseas to prevent them from becoming battle-hardened terrorists.

We have given new powers to our security and intelligence agencies to ensure that they can help us starve terrorist organisations of foreign terrorist fighters and funding and we are working to de-legitimatise any claim that ISIL or Da'esh, as it's known, has as an organisation. We are pleading with young Australians not to put their lives in danger by fighting with these terrorist organisations and not to add to the misery of the people in Iraq and Syria at the hand of ISIL.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Doing some great work there in New York. Thank you, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for your time this morning.

JULIE BISHOP Thank you, it has been my pleasure.

Media enquiries