Interview by Q+A, TVNZ

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

6 October 2013

HOST, SUSAN WOOD: Julie Bishop spoke to Jess earlier this week during a visit with our Foreign Minister, Murray McCully. Jess began by asking her if Indonesia is Australia's new best friend, where does NZ stand?

JULIE BISHOP: They are different relationships. The relationship with Indonesia has a geo-strategic element to it. Our relationship with NZ is one of very close partners in virtually every respect. There are few matters where Australia and NZ disagree, and when we do, we can sort out our differences. But Australia and NZ would both, I suggest, view Indonesia as an important regional player and increasingly an important global player, and its economy in pure GDP terms over time will dwarf Australia's and NZ's. So it's an important trading partner, and geo-strategically, it's a very important partner for us. So the relationships are different.

JESSICA MUTCH: I want to move on to the issue of boat people now, speaking of Indonesia and its importance. You've been in Indonesia, you're heading there now. Will you need to do some mopping up there because of some of the comments around turning the boats back that the Prime Minister made?

JULIE BISHOP: The Prime Minister and President Yudhoyono, have just concluded a very successful series of meetings in Jakarta, and I believe that we have set the relationship on the right course to resolving the people-smuggling issue. Both Australia and Indonesia want to dismantle the people-smuggling trade that is operating in Indonesia and beyond. Both Australia and Indonesia want to stop the deaths at sea that are occurring in the waters between our two countries. And after our visit to Indonesia, I'm confident that we will be able to achieve that in close cooperation with Indonesia, because Indonesia acknowledge that not only is it a regional issue, as evidenced by the Bali Process, but also that more needs to be done bilaterally between Australia and Indonesia, and that's what will happen.

JESSICA MUTCH: Have you also had to soften your stance on that as well, though?

JULIE BISHOP: It's not a question of softening our stance. It's a question of both sides recognising that we need to work together to dismantle the people-smuggling trade. We've seen now over 1000 people die at sea as a result of the revitalisation of the people-smuggling trade after 2008, and we are determined to do all we can to stop the boats coming to Australia in that way.

JESSICA MUTCH: In terms of us being able to live and work over there, we're paying taxes, we're raising children there, but we're still only considered temporary citizens. Is that fair, do you think?

JULIE BISHOP: I think there are about 650,000 New Zealanders living in Australia, and New Zealanders have unparalleled access to Australia. No other country on Earth receives the same kind of access to Australia that New Zealanders do. They're free to travel and live and study and work in Australia, and they also receive benefits and entitlements while they're there. And we don't provide that to any other country. So it's a unique level of access provided only to New Zealanders.

JESSICA MUTCH: In contrast, though, for Australians who come and live in New Zealand, they're automatically treated as permanent residents, and then after five years, they can apply for citizenship. Don't you see that as a double standard?

JULIE BISHOP: This was an agreement made between the Australian Government and the NZ Government some years ago, and we've seen the success of it because so many New Zealanders have come to live in Australia and work there and study.

JESSICA MUTCH: Is that the problem? Are there too many?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, it's not a question of too many, but it should be put in relative terms – the number of Australians that are living in NZ compared with the number of New Zealanders living in Australia. But I believe that New Zealanders are very welcome. They take advantage of the opportunity to travel to Australia-

JESSICA MUTCH: But they're not made to feel welcome in terms of the rules and things that are set around them living there.

JULIE BISHOP: Well, they are obviously well aware of the rules, because before they come to Australia, I assume that they look into these things and see what entitlements they would have should they choose to live in Australia. So it's not as if this is a secret. It's publically available information, and I would encourage anybody who's thinking of coming to Australia to determine in advance what the conditions are. But, no, New Zealanders are very welcome friends of ours, and we love having them over in Australia.

JESSICA MUTCH: So no changes under your government?

JULIE BISHOP: Foreign Minister McCully did raise it with me in our meetings, but we think that the arrangement is pretty well set. And of course we'll always listen to concerns that our friends in NZ raise with us.

JESSICA MUTCH: But it's no at this stage?

JULIE BISHOP: We have no plans to change the arrangements.

JESSICA MUTCH: In terms of the UN Security Council, we're obviously trying to get one of those temporary seats. Will you be supporting us in that bid?

JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely. We're publically committed to supporting NZ in its bid for a Security Council seat.

JESSICA MUTCH: So we can count on your vote.

JULIE BISHOP: You can absolutely count on our vote, and if there are any lessons that we've learnt from our experience, we'll be only too happy to pass them on to NZ. I know that Prime Minister Key and Foreign Minister McCully were doing a very good job advocating NZ's interests at the UN Security Council recently and at the UN General Assembly Leaders' Week in New York. So we hope that whatever support Australia can provide, we will do so, and we hope that NZ is successful.

JESSICA MUTCH: I'd like to move on to another matter now. You're the only female in your cabinet at the moment. Is that embarrassing for you, though, being the only person at that top table?

JULIE BISHOP: I've been very used to being the only woman at a lot of top tables in my career, and it's just a question of timing. I believe that over time, we will see many more women in the Liberal Party assume positions of leadership, as they have in the past. The Liberal Party has had a number of firsts when it comes to women in Parliamentary life.

JESSICA MUTCH: The brand 'token woman' has been mentioned in reference to you. How do you feel about that?

JULIE BISHOP: I think it's unfortunate that women make such comments about other women. Because, of course, we all know that women who do reach leadership positions do it through hard work and dedication and determination. There's no free ride for any woman to the top in Australia or New Zealand, I would suggest, and I think it's just an unfortunate term. But anyone who knows me and knows my history and the careers and jobs that I've undertaken in the past would be quite mistaken to suggest that my life has been one of tokenism. I expect that as more women choose to enter federal politics, and in a country the size of Australia where Federal Parliament sits in Canberra for almost half the year, you really have to have a very organised personal life in order to become a federal politician. I come from Western Australia. It's a significant journey to get to Canberra for sittings, and a lot of my time is spent travelling. I'm away from home much of the time, and so your personal circumstances have to be able to fit in with that life. And so not every woman can find it amenable to her personal circumstances. So we will see more women coming into Parliament over time, but at present, it is a juggling act.

JESSICA MUTCH: So you're saying it's harder for women because of all the responsibilities they've got at home, if you like.

JULIE BISHOP: Well, if you take into account the fact that Australian women are still the primary carers of not only children but often parents-

JESSICA MUTCH: Is that a bit old-fashioned, a comment like that?

JULIE BISHOP: No, it's a fact. It's a fact. I would be misleading you if I said that men in Australia were the primary carers of children and parents. They're not. But it's just a fact of life that if you want to enter federal politics, you often have to make choices and compromises that means that maybe you're put off your ambition to go into federal politics until you're children are at a stage where they don't need mother at home all the time, or when I say 'at home', in the State in which the children are. Please don't assume that I'm suggesting women should stay at home! But I mean, if you live in Western Australia for example, it's a four, five, six-hour flight to Canberra. You just don't pop home for the night to see how the family is going!


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