JOURNALIST As to Thailand are you going to put any further sanctions against the military there in light of what’s happened?
JULIE BISHOP We are deeply concerned about the progress toward democracy in Thailand. There has been a long history of coups. We know, from past consideration, how it will progress and hopefully there will be an election and that the people of Thailand will have their say.
I am concerned about the support for a post-coup, post-election government but at this stage the Australian Government is sending a message that we want to see Thailand returned to democracy as soon as possible but we will consider this in a measured way as events unfold.
JOURNALIST Closer to home, why are we seeing mixed messages from the Abbott Government on things like the uni fees? Today the drug testing for the dole which has been knocked on the head. Why is it we’re seeing these inconsistencies in the Budget sell?
JULIE BISHOP Well I see that as a public discussion about various issues. There’s not a one size fits all answer to every issue and public debate and public commentary is natural and to be welcomed.
But the Government is quite clear on what we’re seeking to do and that is to restore the Budget, repair the Budget to a sustainable and responsible and affordable level. We are determined to live within our means as a Government and that’s what the Budget was designed to do. We promised the Australian people that we would repair Labor’s debt and deficit disaster and that’s what we’re seeking to achieve.
JOURNALIST Do you think it’s appropriate that the US negotiated with the Taliban to organise a swap deal?
JULIE BISHOP I understand that Bowe Bergdahl, the American serviceman, had been detained for five years and in these circumstances it’s understandable that the United States Government would want to get his release as soon as possible and this is essentially a matter for the United States, but in circumstances such as this negotiations often happen.
JOURNALIST Will talks on the TPP form part of negotiations when the Prime Minister visits North America this week?
JULIE BISHOP I’m sure that economic diplomacy will be a central feature of the Prime Minister’s discussions, particularly when he’s in New York. The TPP is an important measure. We certainly support it. We hope that a Trans Pacific Partnership will be concluded, the negotiations will be concluded, and that in time it will be the foundation for the APEC dream of an Asia-Pacific free trade zone.
JOURNALIST What sort of negotiations do you think will happen between the PM, what will he..
JULIE BISHOP The Prime Minister is not the trade negotiator, we leave that to our officials, but I’m sure the Prime Minister will reiterate our support for the Trans Pacific Partnership.
JOURNALIST Is it insensitive of him though to mix messages in terms of, talk about trade with D-Day commemorations in his message yesterday?
JULIE BISHOP The Prime Minister is going overseas for a number of reasons and he discussed those various reasons. He’s going to the D-Day commemorations he’s also going to the United States on various issues, including our economic diplomacy initiatives. He wouldn’t give several press conferences to isolate each issue that he’s attending to overseas - he gave one statement that included all the various aspects to his overseas visit. I think that’s appropriate.
JOURNALIST So you don’t think that’s clumsy at all? Especially, I suppose, given the significance of the commemorations of D-Day and the efforts of trying to differentiate that with some of the political..
JULIE BISHOP The Prime Minister is going overseas for several reasons and he mentioned all those reasons. The Prime Minister is showing great sensitivity around the D-Day commemorations and showing great support for those various commemoration events.
I was in Villers-Bretonneux recently for ANZAC Day and Australia’s focus in commemorating what went on in World War 1 is deeply appreciated around the world for those countries who are so deeply affected by the First World War and the Prime Minister is also giving appropriate attention to that.
JOURNALIST Has the Government exhausted all opportunities to help Peter Greste?
JULIE BISHOP We are continuing to make representations. As recently as last week I spoke to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, I’ve spoken to the Foreign Ministers of a number of neighbouring governments who have greater influence I believe with the Egyptian Government than we have. We continue to do so, we’re not giving up, we continue to make representations at the highest possible level.
There’s been an election in Egypt and we’re having to work through that process as well but we’re determined to bring Peter Greste home.
JOURNALIST Does it give you hope that the 500 Muslim Brotherhood prisoners escaped conviction? Does that give you hope in terms of what will happen for Peter Greste?
JULIE BISHOP I don’t believe the two are connected but I am pleased to see that the Egyptian judicial process has made that decision, but I had been informed that that would be the case even when the announcement was first made. We have to continue to make representations, we’ll continue to do that and, as I said, our aim is to bring him home as soon as possible.
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