Interview with Michael Usher, The Latest, Seven News

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: United States-Russia relationship; Australia-China trade relations.

Michael Usher: And for more on the crucial talks, I spoke with Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne a little earlier tonight.

Foreign Minister, thank you for joining The Latest.

Marise Payne: Good evening Michael.

Michael Usher: All eyes this evening are on Presidents Biden and Putin in that quite historic meeting, they are face-to-face. In your view, what is at stake in that meeting?

Marise Payne: Well, I think dialogue is always important. I think it's constructive. There are obviously clear challenges in the United States-Russia relationship, and it's for both of them to speak to those. But certainly when the opportunity arises to exchange views on those issues, to discuss those matters, then those opportunities should be taken. We have our own concerns. We have, of course, attributed cyber interference, for example, to Russia in the past. We are still dealing with the tragedy of MH17, literally right now, as the case is before the courts. We expect and hope that the matters before the court in the Netherlands come to an appropriate decision in relation to the downing of MH17 and responsibility and accountability is taken for that appalling, tragic event. So, we're cognisant of those challenges, but, of course, we welcome dialogue.

Michael Usher: The Prime Minister this week, Foreign Minister, has won support from some of the G7 leaders in our stand against China – them coming on board, a coalition of the willing if you like, in that regard. Does that mean that we are in for a long and drawn-out argument with China, that we're remaining in the freezer?

Marise Payne: Well, we certainly seek a constructive relationship with China. And we have been very consistent in saying that. And, in fact, have sought to engage with our counterparts regularly through this period. Importantly, though, Australia will always protect our national interests.

Michael Usher: Given we’ve got $180 billion in trade with China though, do we have any confidence that there are some proactive talks going on behind the scenes with that country?

Marise Payne: Well, we always have contact through official means and that is, of course, through our post in Beijing, the Chinese Embassy here in Australia, across a range of issues. And we are willing and open, indeed, and encouraging of communication from our counterparts in China.

Michael Usher: Let me ask you about our travel bubbles. When is the next one going to open up, and where are negotiations? We saw the Prime Minister go through Singapore on his way to Europe. Could that be the first?

Marise Payne: Singapore is most certainly a priority country for us. There have been discussions between governments on that. But we will always predicate this on the health advice, and the health advice that tells the government when it is safe to make such steps. I know there is a lot riding on this. I understand there is a lot of interest in it. And it's something with which we will continue to work with business as well and with those other countries.

Michael Usher: I think it means reuniting families, it means foreign students being able to come to this country and study and resume their studies. That also means job and employment opportunities for the hospitality industry. So I guess the pressing question is next travel bubble, when? Month, two months, before Christmas?

Marise Payne: Well, I don’t think it’s wise to speculate. But I have seen some really important initiatives from state governments particularly on foreign students. We welcome those and we will work closely with them to implement those based on the health advice in the coming months.

Michael Usher: Just quickly, Minister, a ridiculous question to end on. I know you like these. Your predecessor Julie Bishop has been honoured with a Barbie doll in her likeness for her role as Foreign Minister and punching through the ceiling. When you leave office, would you like to see a Marise Payne action figure in the works perhaps?

Marise Payne: Well, maybe somebody could name a racehorse after me one day, Michael.

Michael Usher: [Laughs] A My Little Pony in your honour, perhaps?

Marise Payne: [Laughs] I want it to be slightly faster than My Little Pony, I think.

Michael Usher: There you go. Foreign Minister Marise Payne, thank you.

Marise Payne: Thank you, Michael.

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