Interview with Sabra Lane

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: COVID-19 Inquiry; Speculation on further Tariffs on Australian products; Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence.

Sabra Lane: Marise Payne is the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Women. Marise Payne, good morning and welcome to AM.

Marise Payne: Good morning, Sabra.

Sabra Lane: The inquiry's passed but are Australian farmers collateral damage?

Marise Payne: I think the resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly is a very, very important one. We have seen a resolution co-sponsored by 137 countries, which I understand to be possibly the largest co-sponsoring of a WHO resolution ever. And that will provide us with a path for an independent, impartial and comprehensive review, and the EU’s motion has been absolutely pivotal in that.

I understand, of course, the broad concerns in Australia, particularly in relation to, as you have said, the dispute over barley. But we've clearly rejected the basis of that decision, we'll assess those details while we consider our next steps, including reserving all our rights to appeal.

Sabra Lane: The motion says this will be an independent inquiry. Exactly who will oversee it and what powers will it have?

Marise Payne: I think that is a very important part of this process, and I'm pleased that we're currently a member of the WHO executive board which will enable us to participate in that planning. There are a number of mechanisms which are available, including the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee which is led currently by an eminent British national, Dr Felicity Harvey. There is also the International Health Regulations Review Committee – both of those are referred to. And, in fact, the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee has recently released an interim report. So, they are parts of the process but that is the work to be done now, Sabra, that is the work that the international community and the WHO will come together to plan. Importantly-

Sabra Lane: [Interrupts] Just- I'm going to pick you up on those points. You, at the outset, said that WHO couldn't oversee this as it would be a case of poacher turned gamekeeper, but all of those entities that you just mentioned are all part of WHO.

Marise Payne: Well, the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee is, in fact, an independent organisation drawn from national governments, from NGO’s, those from the international system with very broad experience in a range of public health areas. They serve in their personal capacity, they are not, if you like, part of the WHO structure. But we're at the very beginning of this process and we have to step through that with the WHO, with the members of the WHO as to what this will look like.

Sabra Lane: What about the timing? The resolution says the inquiry will happen at the earliest appropriate moment, China says when the peak has passed. Given that there might be a second wave, how long before this inquiry begins and will you lobby G20 partners over this?

Marise Payne: In terms of the timing of the review, we've been very clear, and particularly in our discussions with international counterparts, that for many countries which are still dealing with the absolute most critical aspects of response to the pandemic, this is still a very difficult time. So, the timing will be determined by the international community and I do think that's appropriate and that's a point we've made all along.

Sabra Lane: The Global Times says this is a slap in the face for Australia, and the Chinese Embassy here says it's a joke if Australia claims vindication, pointing out the investigation is vastly different to what was originally proposed, and China's not mentioned in it. Is the Embassy freelancing or do you think that that's exactly what Beijing thinks?

Marise Payne: That's a matter for the Embassy and for its officials, Sabra. I think what is most important is the outcomes for the international community, and the outcomes for those who have lost family and friends, over 300,000 people have died across the world, and a global economic impact that we’re only starting to begin to measure; they’re the outcomes that are important and Australia is very pleased to see the decision made by the World Health Assembly overnight.

Sabra Lane: Bloomberg News says that China’s drawn up a list of potential Australian goods that might be targeted next, including seafood, oats and fruit. Could that be- that could be subjected to stricter quality checks and additional tariffs, and that state media might encourage boycotts. What's your response?

Marise Payne: Well, we will always comply with appropriate requirements for Australian exports, no matter where they are going. But we would be disappointed if there was any process of conflating these issues. We deal with the trade issues on their merits, as they stand, and we should do that on their facts, on their own merits. And Australia will always stand firm in protecting our national interests. So, we will engage respectfully, our ministers, as I said, Minister Littleproud, Minister Birmingham, will engage in that process. Most importantly, though, we will always protect Australia's national interests.

Sabra Lane: As Women's Minister, what is your response to the Senate inquiry into domestic violence that has handed up a final report, despite not calling for submissions or holding public hearings? The Law Council says it's a sad failure.

Marise Payne: Sabra, I've seen reports of the Senate committee report being tabled yesterday. And in fact, yesterday I convened with Senator Ruston, a meeting of the Women's Safety Ministers Council of COAG to discuss the response to domestic violence, family and domestic violence in the context of COVID-19. I understand the Senate committee has made an analysis of the work that is being done. But let me assure all of your listeners that, with the states and the territories, we are very focused on doing our work to protect Australian women and their children, in the context of COVID-19 and more broadly. And that is part of the national approach that we are taking, and the work with the states and territories is vital to that.

Sabra Lane: That may be the case, but a committee has held an inquiry, not held any public hearings, not called for submissions — it is a very, very serious issue, this was triggered after that horrible case in Queensland.

Marise Payne: There is absolutely no question, it is a very, very serious issue. And it's something I deal with in a number of ways every week in my role as Australia's Minister for Women. I have not spoken with either of the committee chairs or deputy chairs, but I do understand the importance of these issues — absolutely no question of that.

Sabra Lane: Will you speak with them?

Marise Payne: Sabra, I will- I’ll look at the committee report and statement today. I must admit that having been dealing with the WHA meeting overnight, I haven't read it in detail and I certainly haven't spoken to them. But I do know that Australian senators across the board, no matter where they come from in the Parliament, take these issues very, very seriously.

Sabra Lane: Minister, thanks for your time this morning.

Marise Payne: Thanks very much, Sabra.

Sabra Lane:

That's the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Women, Marise Payne.

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