Radio interview with Fran Kelly, ABC RN

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Isands, Pacific Step Up, Australia China relationship, President Trump, women in the Liberal Party.
27 May 2019

FranKelly:

Marise Payne, welcome backto Breakfast.

Minister Payne:

Good morning Fran.

Fran Kelly:

The government's focus onPacific diplomacy is facing an immediate test. Papua New Guinea's PrimeMinister Peter O'Neill says he will resign. He hasn't yet handed in thatresignation. Meanwhile, the opposition claims it has enough MPs in its camp tohave a majority in the parliament and form a new government. Are you concernedabout political stability in PNG right now?

Minister Payne:

Well Fran, I think it'simportant to emphasise of course, as the Prime Minister did yesterday, thatPapua New Guinea is our closest friend and our closest neighbour in thisregion. So we have a long-term commitment to strengthening our Australia-PapuaNew Guinea partnership, and Prime Minister O'Neill has been absolutely pivotalto that in recent years in a number of capacities. Obviously these are mattersfor the Papua New Guinea parliament and political parties and we will work withthe leadership as it is determined by them and I'm sure that no matter who thatis, that will be a continuing approach similar to the one that we've enjoyed inrecent years.

Fran Kelly:

Peter O'Neill was veryhelpful and supportive of Australia with our offshore detention facility thereon Papua New Guinea. Some opposition MPs in PNG want all refugees and asylumseekers off Manus Island now. What are the implications of this leadershipupheaval for Australia's offshore processing deal with PNG?

Minister Payne:

We will obviously deal withthose issues as they arise and I think it's premature to speculate on those. Aswe've seen in recent weeks, Papua New Guinea politics is historically andclearly currently very dynamic and I think you would be a very brave person to predictoutcomes at the moment. So we will work with the leadership as it is determinedby both political parties and members. But one of the things that we've seen inrecent years is the great strengths under the leadership of Peter O'Neill andthe holding of APEC last year - its delivery is a very, very successful keymeeting in this region has demonstrated the growth and the progress of PNG. Ivery much look forward to continuing to work closely with counterparts. We havevery close relationships across ministers here in Australia and in Papua NewGuinea and I'm sure that they will continue into the future.

Fran Kelly:

So you are not worried. Areyou suggesting you're worried about their growth and progress if they replacePeter O'Neill?

Minister Payne:

No, I'm not. I'm sayingthat I'm sure the relationship which is very deep, which is multifaceted, it'scomprehensive, I'm sure that will continue into the future.

Fran Kelly:

The Prime Minister is goingto make a statement, I suppose, his first overseas trip since the election willbe to Solomon Islands. The Solomons like some other countries in the Pacificare being courted by China, which is trying to get them to switch allegiancefrom Taiwan to Beijing. That's one of China's priorities. Is Scott Morrison'strip a bid to counter that Chinese influence?

Minister Payne:

I think the PrimeMinister's decision to visit the Solomon Islands is an absolute reinforcementof the importance of our Pacific Step Up which of course we have been pursuingover a number of years now and strongly reinforced by Prime Minister Morrisonlast year.

The Solomon Islands and Australiahave a bond which was formed decades ago particularly through the conflicts ofWorld War II, but strongly reinforced through the Regional Assistance Missionto the Solomon Islands over many years. And Australian military and policemembers who were part of that, I recall their great engagement and so do thepolitical leaders between our two countries.

So it's been electionseason right around the region. The Solomon Islands has only recently formed anew government as we have here and the Prime Minister is taking the firstopportunity to visit with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Prime Minister Sogavare isvery well-known to Australia. We have worked with him closely before and I knowthat in visiting there what Prime Minister Morrison is doing is reinforcing thestrength of our Step Up, is reinforcing that close collaboration we developedduring the RAMSI period and most importantly saying to our family in thePacific our neighbours in the Pacific, this is where Australia lives and thisis what is important to us.

Fran Kelly:

But how worried isAustralia about Chinese plans for instance to establish a naval base in theSouth Pacific? A top US state official the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretaryfor East Asia and Pacific Affairs Patrick Murphy was in Canberra last week. Hesaid the idea of a Chinese military base in the South Pacific is quitetroubling. Are you troubled by it?

Minister Payne:

What we've always said thatthe establishment of facilities of that nature by other parties, and it couldbe a number of other parties, but in this case of course Mr Murphy was talkingspecifically, but the establishment of a facility like that would change andaffect Australia's strategic outlook. But that is not the focus of our PacificStep Up. If you look across the comprehensive programme which we haveestablished as part of the Step Up, you will see it goes to people-to-peoplelinks, it goes to education, it goes to infrastructure development, it goes tochurch-to-church relationships, it goes to Pacific Labour Mobility which is soimportant for delivering economic growth to our Pacific Island neighbours. Soit's much, much broader than that.

Fran Kelly:

Can I ask you about ourrelationship with China? Labor's Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wongduring the election campaign said Australia should have, "A more considereddisciplined and consistent approach to its relationship with China." Alsoduring the campaign, the Prime Minister seemed to describe America as a friendand China as a customer. He said you stand by your friends and you stand byyour customers as well. Is that the right tone to take, an approach to have toChina? Describe it as a customer and America as a friend?

Minister Payne:

We have consistently saidthat we have a relationship with China which we value very deeply. In fact, oneof my first and early bilateral meetings internationally when I was appointedas Foreign Minister last year was to visit Beijing and to sit down with ForeignMinister and State Councilor Wang Yi there and to reinforce that the importantbasis of our relationship is mutual respect and shared interests. Now therewill be issues from time-to-time on which we don't agree. It's how you managethose which is important. They have to be managed respectfully using that basisof mutual respect in our relationship.

Fran Kelly:

The US President DonaldTrump has asked his Attorney General to look into Australia's role in sparkingthe 2016 FBI probe into links between his campaign and Russia. He said, "I hopehe looks at Australia." He can't be in any more direct than that. Our former HighCommissioner to the UK Alexander Downer of course met with an official from theUS President's election campaign in London in that year. Will Australiaparticipate with this investigation into the origins of the Mueller report?

Marise Payne:

Well Fran, I think thePrime Minister made our position clear yesterday in relation to commentary onthe report. We have not been asked to participate. We would of course considersuch a request were it to be made. But we don't intend to engage in a publiccommentary that might entail any risk that we're seen to prejudice the ongoingexamination of these matters in the US.

Fran Kelly:

Sure, but I think a lot ofpeople were surprised to hear the US President directly say he wants China investigated.You were in Cabinet at the time of a meeting in question between AlexanderDowner and George Papadopoulos. Are you satisfied Australia followed correctprotocols in reporting in George Papadopoulos' comments about Russia on HillaryClinton to the American authorities?

Marise Payne:

Well as I've said and as thePrime Minister said, I'm not going to comment on the details of these mattersbecause we don't want to be seen to risk any or prejudice any ongoingexamination of them in the United States. If such a request is made as you haveadverted to, then of course we'll consider that.

Fran Kelly:

President Trump isdeclassifying large amounts of intelligence material in order to allow hisAttorney General to investigate. Is Australia concerned about the security ofour intelligence?

Marise Payne:

Well Fran, it is a longheld position of foreign ministers and other ministers of the National SecurityCommittee not to comment on intelligence matters and I don't intend to changethat approach now.

Fran Kelly:

You're the Foreign Minister,but you're also the newly appointed Minister for Women. There are eleven womenon the Coalition frontbench, seven in the Cabinet. But on women more broadly interms of a policy issue, what would be your top policy priority? Have you had athink about it yet?

Marise Payne:

I've had a think about itfor a long time actually…

Fran Kelly:

It's true.

Marise Payne:

…because it has been a particularpassion of mine over many years in the parliamentary environment and thepolitical scene. I think with our landmark Economic Security Statement for Womenlast year really reinforced the importance of securing economic opportunitiesfor women, also focusing on their safety. And we have been only too tragicallyreminded in the last couple of days again in Melbourne with the appallingmurder of Courtney Herron that the safety of women is something which mustconcern us all. And of course achieving genuine gender equality.

What I think isparticularly good about the opportunity the Prime Minister has given me toserve as both the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Women, thereare great opportunities to make gains for women and girls both at home andinternationally and I very much look forward to embracing those.

Fran Kelly:

What about achievinggenuine gender equality within your own party? The Nationals managed to tripletheir number of female employees that was a very good effort, but the number offemale Liberals overall has barely moved.

The figures I've seen - itmay be slightly different than this - but the Coalition, in terms of lower Houseseats, just 21 per cent of your representation is female. That's a long wayfrom equality and a long way from good enough isn't it? What are you going todo about that?

Minister Payne:

What you are going to seein Canberra in the coming weeks and months is some fabulous Coalition womenentering the House of Representatives and the Senate benches.

Fran Kelly:

No doubt, replacing somepretty great women who were there already. But what about the total?

Minister Payne:

Well that is somethingwhich we have to continue to address and I have been absolutely consistent overthe time that this has been discussed – particularly in recent months – in sayingthat these issues have to be addressed. But we have great outcomes in seatslike Lindsay in western Sydney and Reid in the inner west with Melissa McIntoshand Fiona Martin, in Victoria with great women. I look forward to you and yourmedia colleagues meeting all of those and seeing what fabulous additions theyare to our frontbench, sorry, to our party ranks.

Frank Kelly:

But the numbers haven'tshifted. What are you going to do to change that?

Minister Payne:

Well I have said consistentlyand I think that both the Federal Director and the Prime Minister and I'm surein the National Party support these views as well, but we have to continue towork on this.

It is not a turn up at theelection and decide what you are going to do matter. It's a matter that we haveto work at consistently within our parties across Australia to ensure that wehave great women standing for selection, great women able to be elected to keyseats across the country and that is certainly going to be a priority of mine.

That said though, as theMinister for Women my job is for women right across Australia and for them – young/oldand everything in between, every state and territory, every region, every capitalcity – and I very much look forward to working with them, for them.

Fran Kelly:

Marise Payne, it's great tohave you on Breakfast thank you verymuch for joining us.

Minister Payne:

Thank you, Fran.

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