Sky News interview

Subjects: Smartraveller campaign and travel insurance, China, Indonesia and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

28 November 2013

COMPERE: China has rebuked the Government after Foreign Minister Julia Bishop criticised Beijing's Air Defence Zone in the East China Sea. Julie Bishop joins us now live from Sydney speaking with our chief political reporter Kieran Gilbert.

KIERAN GILBERT: Foreign Minister, thanks very much for your time. A lot to discuss on China and Indonesia, but first of all you're joining us from Sydney Harbour this morning where the Government's launching a new Smartraveller campaign. Can you first of all talk us through the details of that?

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, Kieran. The Australian public are very keen travellers. In fact, about half of the Australian population has a passport, so they undertake a lot of travel overseas. We're launching a campaign in the lead up to the holiday season to provide advice to travellers so that they can have a safe journey overseas and return home safely, and this includes asking people to register their overseas travel details with the Smartraveller website, that's at smartraveller.gov.au, so that our consular officials can locate them in an emergency, but also encouraging people to take up travel insurance. We have a number of examples where people have taken out travel insurance and it has literally saved their lives while they've been away. So it's about ensuring that Australians travelling overseas are well-informed and are able to come home safely.

KIERAN GILBERT: Now to China, and some strong language in response to your concerns over their new Air Defence Identification Zone. I want to read to you and our viewers; this is from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. They've said it's completely a mistake for Australia to make irresponsible remarks on China's establishment of an Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea. China won't accept it. It says it urges Australia to correct its mistake immediately to prevent damaging Sino-Australian relations. How will you placate them on this?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia has a key stake in ensuring peace and stability in the region, and it's been long-standing Australian policy to oppose any unilateral action by any side that could increase the tensions in this contested territorial zone, and so we're joining with other countries in expressing our concern, particularly as China's announcement of this Air Defence Identification Zone was made without warning and without consultation, and we invited the Chinese ambassador to Australia to come and talk to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and clarify why this announcement was made and in this manner.

KIERAN GILBERT: Given the language used by the Foreign Ministry, though, do you accept, Minister, that there could be ramifications for the Government's bid to finalise the free trade negotiations?

JULIE BISHOP: No, I don't accept that. This is a matter of long-standing Australian policy. We've raised it before and the response from China was to be expected, but Australia has a key stake in peace and stability in the region and we would oppose action by any country that we believe could add to the tensions or could add to the risk of a miscalculation in disputed territorial zones in the region.

KIERAN GILBERT: To Indonesia now, and you're likely to have to negotiate the new protocols, the rules of engagement on intelligence sharing with your counterpart. Is this just window dressing or is it feasible, given what is inherently a top secret area?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, these matters are still to be decided between the Australian Government and the Indonesian Government, but President Yudhoyono's letter in response to Prime Minister Abbott's letter was warm and encouraging. The relationship between our two countries is vitally important to both sides, and so we expect to have a constructive engagement with Indonesia and be able to build on our relationship. We are deeply engaged on a whole range of issues across a broad range of areas, and it's in our interest to ensure that the Australia-Indonesia relationship remains strong.

KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of building on that, though, we already have treaties in intelligence sharing preventing us from, for example, spying on the US, UK, New Zealand. We have treaties that say we don't spy on each other. What precludes Australia from doing that with Indonesia, which Prime Minister Abbott says is our most important international relationship?

JULIE BISHOP: These are all matters for negotiation. We have only just received President Yudhoyono's letter and we'll be responding and we'll be working through these issues in a positive and constructive way with Indonesia.

KIERAN GILBERT: Later in the day you'll be meeting the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. She's expressed her ambition to run for the presidency in Myanmar. Is that a realistic hope, in your view?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to meet Aung San Suu Kyi. In fact, I met her in Burma in 1995 and it's just amazing to think that she's now in Australia all these years later as the leader of the opposition in Myanmar. I think that it's important for everyone in that country to have the opportunity to vote and have the opportunity to stand for public office, and of course it's a concern if Aung San Suu Kyi is prevented from doing so, but it's a matter for the people of Myanmar to consider how they can best run their internal affairs, but I'm delighted that she's going to be in Australia and she's meeting a wide range of people and attending many community events. I'm sure it will be a great success.

KIERAN GILBERT: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop thanks for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

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