KIERAN GILBERT: First of all the Prime Minister is going to make his first visit to the White House next week, this comes, as overnight the US power sector has been ordered to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
What’s your response to that development? It’s a clear move by Obama to make this the centrepiece of his climate change strategy. It’s a big move isn’t it? It sends a message to the whole world including us.
JULIE BISHOP: Yes, in 2015 all nations are reassessing their commitment to climate change policies so I anticipate that other countries will, in the lead up to 2015, announce changes or directions where they’re heading.
Australia already has a target for 2020, that’s a five per cent reduction on 2000 emissions by 2020. That was the same as the United States but we are looking to negotiate outcomes next year, 2015 which was the date set for the review of climate change targets.
KIERAN GILBERT: Well the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, Australia will move when the rest of the world does, it looks like, well and truly, the rest of the world is, led by the US.
JULIE BISHOP: There are a number of countries that will be making announcements in the lead up to the 2015 negotiations next year. Australia is engaged internationally, through our aid program, through our own direct national action plan and we are addressing the issue of climate change.
KIERAN GILBERT: Do we have enough uplift in direct action for example to meet some higher targets beyond 2020.
JULIE BISHOP: This is what we’ll consider in 2015. We know that we can meet our target for 2020, that’s what we’re aiming to do through our direct national action plan but more broadly we have negotiators in Bonn at present at a UNFCCC meeting. Our Climate Change Ambassador is already there, hearing from other countries as what they are proposing to do.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Government is committed to it? The Government is committed to a substantive increase in emissions beyond 2015?
JULIE BISHOP We’re certainly looking to see what the rest of the world will do. We don’t want to damage the Australian economy, that’s why we’re getting rid of the carbon tax. We will repeal the carbon tax because it damages the Australian economy and it’s costing households an additional $550 a year, yet it’s not having an environmental impact.
KIERAN GILBERT: You saw President Obama’s West Point speech on foreign policy, he criticised political leaders who deny global warming is happening, obviously targeting a number in his own country the United States. Do you think he’s got some scepticism or some doubt as to Australia’s commitment in this area? Will the Prime Minister try and reassure him this week?
JULIE BISHOP: There would be no reason for him to have that because we have in place a Direct Action Plan that is directed at climate change. So we have a national policy that is directed at climate change so these criticisms couldn’t be directed at Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT: Ok let’s move to Indonesia. Indonesian journos were accidentally allowed to stay in the room during a phone call between the Prime Minister and President Yudhoyono. What’s your reaction to that? It’s obviously not the best diplomatic protocol.
JULIE BISHOP: Well I understand that the conversation was very positive. So in one way if the Indonesian media have heard a very positive exchange between our Prime Minister and President Yudhoyono then that’s a good thing.
But I know that the President and the Prime Minister have a very good rapport, a very good relationship. Every time they meet there’s a warmth and a friendly rapport between them. I’m very pleased that the Prime Minister is meeting with President Yudhoyono. He did invite him, after the Prime Minister wasn’t able to go to a forum in Bali the week before our Budget was being handed down, our first Budget, the President invited him to come back in June. So this is the first opportunity the Prime Minister has had.
In the meantime I’ve been in constant communication with my counterpart Dr Marty Natalegawa and we’re planning our 2 + 2 meeting - that is the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers from both countries we’ll be meeting shortly.
My Parliamentary Secretary Brett Mason was in Indonesia recently discussing the roll out of our New Colombo Plan, this signature policy of the Abbott Government, whereby Australian undergraduate students have the opportunity to study at universities in our region. A significant number of students have chosen Indonesia which is great for our long term and enduring friendship.
KIERAN GILBERT: When Bob Carr released his diary though, you expressed the need for confidentiality and trust between international players. Having journos, as much as I love access to political leaders and foreign ministers, but the fact is that doesn’t breed that sort of confidentiality or trust.
JULIE BISHOP: This is a funny line for you to be taking Kieran, I would have thought that the media was delighted to have an insight into the friendship between President Yudhoyono and the Prime Minister. These things happen and the journalists pick up all sorts of information from time to time, through accident or otherwise, but in this instance it’s proven what I have always said, that the rapport between the Prime Minister and the President is very strong.
KIERAN GILBERT: Diplomats, Indonesian diplomats, are quoted as saying - full relations, the full strength of the relationship won’t be restored until this code of conduct is finalised between you and Marty Natalegawa, the Indonesian Minister. How far away are we on that?
JULIE BISHOP: Marty and I have been discussing that for some time. There’ve been a couple of drafts and I expect that that’ll be the topic of discussion of our meeting, our 2 + 2 meeting, which is likely to be held later this month or early in July.
KIERAN GILBERT: So could it be done before the new President is elected?
JULIE BISHOP: We’re talking about it now, the new President would be likely sworn in at the end of the year, October-November. So we’ve certainly got plenty of time to discuss it.
KIERAN GILBERT: And you’re confident it will be done, finalised by then?
JULIE BISHOP: I have no doubt that the relationship will be restored, normalised. It’s already operating at various levels, our officials are visiting Indonesia, we have Indonesians visiting Australia. Recently I spoke at a conference in Perth with Dino Djalal, the recent Ambassador from Indonesia to the United States, so there’ s a high level of interaction across many fronts. The relationship with Australia and Indonesia is very strong. There’s a lot of ballast in the relationship that’s been built up over many years.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Australian artist detained in Beijing - this has come in the lead up to the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre. Are you willing to condemn the Chinese Government over that detention?
JULIE BISHOP: This is a reported detention of a Chinese-Australian artist and we have asked the Australian Embassy in Beijing to make contact with the authorities to find out precisely what is going on and of course offer consular support should that be needed. But we are currently seeking more details on this report.
KIERAN GILBERT: That’s obviously concerning though, particularly given that this seems to have come out of the blue, and reports suggest they will hold him for 15 days, an Australian citizen. Is this reasonable actions?
JULIE BISHOP: That’s why we are getting more details immediately. Our Embassy in Beijing is finding out from the authorities in Beijing the precise details. This is a report at this stage so we need to have it confirmed and get as many details as we can and of course as an Australian citizen we will do what we can to release him, if the case is that he’s been detained.
KIERAN GILBERT: On the Nigerian schoolgirls, there are reports today that Australian troops are on standby to provide assistance if need be. Is that report correct?
JULIE BISHOP: Australian troops, the SAS, are always on standby for contingencies. We have made an offer to the Nigerian Government to provide whatever support they need to release the girls. We’ve made a specific offer to our United States and United Kingdom allies because they have made offers to the Nigerian Government and we have said in conversations with my counterparts from the United States and the United Kingdom that we are ready to assist in whatever way we can.
So the report is true to the extent that we have made an offer, but we’ve not had a response from the Nigerian Government. They’ve thanked us for our willingness to be involved in trying to rescue the girls, but we haven’t had any specific acceptance of the offers that we’ve made.
KIERAN GILBERT: Australia’s calling on Sudan to stop executions, particularly relating to this story that’s captured much attention around the world - the 27-year-old Sudanese woman sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.
JULIE BISHOP: Apostasy is the crime under Sharia Law and we’ve called on the Sudanese Government to uphold its own constitution which recognises religious freedom. Meriam Ibrahim, this 27-year-old has been sentenced to death, as she married a Christian, a number of years ago, she was brought up by her mother as a Christian, her father is Muslim. Under Sharia Law an interfaith marriage is not permitted and she’s been convicted of adultry and apostasy which is the crime of converting from Islam.
So we’ve called on the Sudanese Government to recognise its own Constitution. Apparently her case is on appeal, so we’ve joined the international community in urging for religious freedom and religious belief to be respected.
KIERAN GILBERT: And Australia has ratified the arms treaty on conventional arms, what’s the significance of that?
JULIE BISHOP: We will be ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty today. This is 12 months since we signed the treaty and in fact Australia was one of the original authors of a resolution for an Arms Trade Treaty way back in 2006.
This is to put in place common standards for the international trade of arms, to focus on the illicit trade in arms which causes so much destruction around the world. We even know in our own neighbourhood, in Bougainville in the 1980s, and the Solomon Islands in the 1990s, what an impact the illicit trade of even a small number of conventional weapons can have on the community and it’s estimated about half a million people die from illicit arms each year. So this is an important treaty and Australia is going to be one of the first countries to ratify it. When there are 50 countries that have ratified it then it will come into force.
KIERAN GILBERT: The last question, on domestic politics, Clive Palmer has made comments related to the Paid Parental Leave scheme, saying it’s to benefit the chief of staff of the Prime Minister. What do you say to those comments?
JULIE BISHOP: I hope Mr Palmer reflects on what he’s said, it’s a particularly hurtful thing for him to focus on the Prime Minister’s chief of staff whom we know has been struggling with IVF and for him to single her out is a particularly hurtful thing for him to do.
Of course he can debate policy, but he shouldn’t attack staff members in doing so and I hope he reflects on it.
KIERAN GILBERT: Foreign Minister thanks for your time, appreciate it.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
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