CHRIS SMITH: As I said earlier Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has arrived in Australia. It’s a
visit that will include an address to a joint sitting of Parliament and the
issues of free trade and energy security are said to be the main topics for
Energy security, it’s reported, will be the key underlying issue with Japan
reportedly looking at doubling LNG volumes from Australia and Papua New Guinea,
doubling, so at the moment more than 60 per cent of Japan’s gas that is used to
produce power comes largely from the Middle East. Now the gas is shipped through
disputed waters in the South China Sea where you’ve got China, South Vietnam and
the Philippines involved in what’s been described as ‘open territorial
conflict’. Increasing gas and LNG imports from Australia and PNG from 18 million
tonnes a year to 36 million would aim to avoid that.
Mr Abe and Tony Abbott will sign a Free Trade Agreement known as the
Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement which Mr Abe has described as
“very significant”. Mr Abe says that Australia is the largest trading partner
Japan has concluded such an agreement with. As I said earlier, Mr Abe has also
pointed to the history behind the agreement and it’s quite interesting - in 1957
his grandfather, and then Prime Minister, Nobusuke Kishi welcomed Robert Menzies
as the first Australian PM to visit Japan in the wake of World War 2.
I thought we’d talk about all of this and some other current issues, there’s
plenty of those too, with the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who is on the line.
Minister good morning.
JULIE BISHOP: Good
CHRIS SMITH: Thank
you so much for your time. How important and significant is this visit by Prime
JULIE BISHOP: This is a
very significant, indeed historic visit. During this visit to Australia Prime
Minister Abe and Prime Minister Abbott will sign the Japan-Australia Economic
Partnership Agreement or a Free Trade Agreement. This is enormously good news
for Australian business because they’ll be able to get goods into Japan at
reduced or zero tariffs, great news for Australian consumers who’ll be able to
buy cheaper Japanese goods.
And it is the first such agreement that Japan has undertaken with a developed
economy and it’s by far the most liberalising trade agreement that Japan has
ever included. So it’s going to deliver significant benefits particularly to
Australian farmers, manufacturers, exporters, service providers and of course
CHRIS SMITH: You
say that you’ll get cheaper prices on Japanese goods for Australians but, you
know, the truth is there’s always a degree of cynicism towards these so called
free trade agreements with Asia, any Asian country, because we cannot compete on
wages. Are there guarantees in this agreement that those benefits will flow on?
JULIE BISHOP: Well under
the agreement, let me take resources and manufacturing, on entry into force of
the agreement, almost 100 per cent - 99.7 per cent of Australian resource,
energy and manufacturing product will enter Japan duty free. Then on full
implementation of the agreement all of our resources, energy, manufactured goods
will benefit from duty free entry into Japan. Now this is a multi-billion dollar
sector of the economy. These products exported to Japan in 2013 were worth over
$40 billion. So there will also be big benefits for Australian consumers because
tariffs on Japanese imports will be eliminated on full implementation.
So this is a significant agreement and it’s something that we took to the
last election as an election policy. We promised the Australian people that we
would work very hard to conclude free trade agreements that benefit Australian
businesses and Australian consumers with South Korea, Japan and China. Well
we’ve concluded one with South Korea, we’re now about to sign off on the
Japanese one and we’re very busy negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with China.
So these are all designed to boost the Australian economy, boost job
opportunities and to open up new markets or enhance existing markets for our
CHRIS SMITH: I
think it’s fair to say that the consumer focuses on our relationship with China
when we think about and purchase goods on a daily or weekly basis but until
recently Japan was our number one trading partner wasn’t it?
JULIE BISHOP: That’s
right. From the time of the 1957 Commerce Agreement, to which you referred,
Australia and Japan have had a very broad and deep relationship and for many
years Japan was our number one trading partner and it’s only been surpassed in
more recent years by China because of China’s immense growth and its economy is
demanding iron ore and coal and other resources from Australia as its economy
develops. And Japan is now our second largest trading partner, our third largest
foreign direct investor but that still means Japan has been for over many
decades a most significant partner.
Now I come from Western Australia and I know how important Japan has been to
that state and of course the West Australian resources sector. I would say it
drives the Australian economy, people on the East Coast might differ, but
nevertheless Japanese companies have been very responsible corporate citizens in
Western Australia, and indeed throughout Australia, for many many decades.
CHRIS SMITH: So is
that where traditionally foreign investment has gone?
JULIE BISHOP: Well
indeed the Japanese have been investing in significant levels in Western
Australia in mining and resource projects for decades and I think it’s quite
fitting that Prime Minister Abe is visiting the Pilbara with Prime Minister
Abbott. And this is about 40 years, in fact exactly 40 years, since a previous
Japanese Prime Minister, Tanaka, visited Western Australia’s North West in 1974
and that preceded the huge growth in Japanese steel making and so that’s when
the relationship with the Pilbara really took off after the previous Prime
Minister visited the Pilbara. I think it’s quite fitting that Prime Minister Abe
will visit the Pilbara and it’s also as you mention, quite a historic nicety
that it was Prime Minister Abe’s grandfather, Prime Minister Kishi who signed
the original Commerce Agreement in 1957 with Robert Menzies.
Tonight we will be awarding the Kishi Fellow to a young Australian
undergraduate who has been awarded a 12-month scholarship to study in Japan
under the Government’s New Colombo Plan. This gives students an opportunity to
study in universities in our region. It’s a reverse of the original Colombo Plan
of the 1950s that used to bring Asian students to study in Australia and these
people have gone on to become political leaders, business leaders and community
leaders in the region. Now, the Abbott Government has reversed that and we’re
sending young Australians to study at universities in the region and so tonight
we’ll be awarding a fellowship to a young Australian who will be studying for
12-months in Japan and called the Kishi Fellow.
CHRIS SMITH: An
I mentioned energy security earlier and suggested this is likely to be the
big underlying issue. Why?
JULIE BISHOP: Well
energy security is so very important to Japan. Of course they had a focus on
nuclear security, because of the Fukushima Tsunami incident they have downgraded
their reliance on nuclear and they have a huge demand for energy and so they are
now looking to supplement with energy from other sources including LNG and
that’s where Australia has so much to offer with our LNG projects. In the North
West of this state we can supply Japan.
It won’t be only Australia, there’s also a significant LNG operation in Papua
New Guinea that will be supplying energy, LNG, to Japan and so I understand
Prime Minister Abe is also visiting PNG which I know will be an historic moment
for the citizens of that country.
CHRIS SMITH: Prime
Minister Abe is also addressing our National Security Committee, would that be a
first by a Japanese leader?
JULIE BISHOP: I believe
it would be. It wouldn’t be the first by a leader of another country but Prime
Minister Abbott was invited to sit in on the Japanese National Security
Committee meeting and so we are returning the compliment. And I think it’s a
positive that Prime Minister Abe is going to take the opportunity to discuss his
announcement recently that Japan will be exercising the United Nations Charter
right to collective self-defence.
For decades Japan has demonstrated a really strong commitment to peacekeeping
operations, humanitarian and disaster relief and this decision will enhance
those efforts. We’ve worked very well with Japan in difficult security
environments overseas and I think this decision will support future efforts to
deepen the practical defence cooperation we have with Japan.
I’m hoping Prime Minister Abe will explain the new policy. I understand that
under this policy Japan can now respond in the event of an armed attack against
a close partner of Japan or where there’s a clear danger to Japan’s survival and
to the Japanese people and so here we will be taking an opportunity to discuss
that with him and I think it’s important we be transparent about our defence and
CHRIS SMITH: Okay,
a couple of other quick issues and some which will develop later this afternoon
- Sri Lanka is in the news, a case involving asylum seekers goes before the High
Court at 2 o’clock. You’ve twice been to Sri Lanka, once as a Minister. How
would you describe the political climate, and secondly, given the fact that we
intercepted one of these boats outside of our waters, is it the jurisdiction of
the High Court?
JULIE BISHOP: Well,
you’ll understand that I won’t be making any comment because the matter is
before the Court and it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment about
matters that the High Court will be dealing with.
But in relation to Sri Lanka, yes, I visited there in opposition as Shadow
Foreign Minister with Scott Morrison and with Michael Keenan, who is our Justice
Minister as well, Scott of course is Border Protection. We went there in
opposition and we were accompanied by Tamil Members of Parliament to the north
of Sri Lanka and so I visited the previous war torn areas of Jaffna and
Kilinochchi, all these Tamil areas in the North where most of the fighting went
on. And we’ve got to remember that the Tamil Tigers were, are a proscribed
terrorist organisation. This was a bloody, horrible civil war for 30 years
inside Sri Lanka.
Although the war is over are there reprisals still going on though?
JULIE BISHOP: There are
challenges in reconciliation.
JULIE BISHOP: Not that I
was aware of, and not that I have seen and we’ve had assurances from the Sri
Lankan Government that that will not occur. I met with many Tamils both in the
South and the North. I know they have challenges with reconciliation but they
are holding elections. There was an election in the North, the Tamils won by a
substantial majority, they have Members of Parliament, they are free to travel,
they are free to speak. There’s a very vibrant Tamil and Singhalese community in
I believe the best way for there to be reconciliation between the Tamils and
the Singhalese after 30 years of the most horrible conflict is for the
international community to engage with Sri Lanka and assist Sri Lanka in
resettling people who are displaced by the war, reconciling their differences
and working with them so that it can be a country that fulfils its potential.
CHRIS SMITH: So
are the vast majority of those jumping on a boat and heading to Australia,
whether it’s with their dog or without their dog, are they – the vast majority
economic asylum seekers?
JULIE BISHOP: Well I can
quote Bob Carr, former Foreign Minister of the Labor Party, and he said indeed
that these were economic migrants coming to Australia.
CHRIS SMITH: Do
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t
believe that Tamils are being persecuted in Sri Lanka. If anyone were in fear of
persecution they can go to Tamil Nadu in India which is a mere few kilometres
away from Sri Lanka where India promises anyone experiencing persecution access
to medical services, educational services. In fact the United Nations, the
UNHCR, says India is a model for the way it treats Tamils. So if you were
feeling persecuted or you had been persecuted in Sri Lanka you wouldn’t get on a
boat that is probably unseaworthy and pay criminal syndicates to travel
thousands and thousands of kilometres at sea when you could get shelter in Tamil
Nadu which is a few kilometres away.
CHRIS SMITH: And
worse still you don’t take your dog with you if you think you’re being
persecuted. I don’t get that.
You’ve described the situation with the ISIS extremists and Australians
thought to be fighting for ISIS at the moment as one of the most disturbing
developments on the security front in recent years. Is it getting worse?
JULIE BISHOP: I believe
so. We are already tracking about 150 Australians who have been, or are, in
Syria and Iraq and they are, to our knowledge supporting or promoting or indeed
even training with ISIS which is an offshoot of Al Qaeda, it is so violent that
even Al Qaeda has distanced itself from this terrorist organisation.
CHRIS SMITH: So if
they weren’t twisted, murderous extremists before they went, this is exactly
what they’ll end up being after this war?
JULIE BISHOP: Our fear
is that they are being radicalised and that they are being brought into this
extremist terrorist organisation whose atrocities are truly appalling, who revel
in mass executions and then we fear that they’ll be coming back to Australia
having trained as terrorists.
CHRIS SMITH: Can
you promise our listeners this morning that you won’t let them back in?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m
already cancelling passports, or rejecting passport applications from those who
our intelligence community believe put our country at a security risk.
CHRIS SMITH: What
about if their only passport is an Australian passport?
JULIE BISHOP: They are
CHRIS SMITH: So
they will be stuck in this no man’s land in the Middle Earth, northern Iraq?
JULIE BISHOP: I am
cancelling passports on the advice of our intelligence community.
CHRIS SMITH: What
is your advice to families of those who have either got people fighting for ISIS
in Iraq or Syria and/or about to send a family member over to that part of the
world? What’s your advice to families?
JULIE BISHOP: My advice
to families, but particularly to the women, I’m urging them to see what they can
do to prevent their husbands, or sons, or brothers, or uncles - please prevent
them from leaving Australia and joining up with these terrorist gangs and then
coming back to Australia. They must do all they can, because it’s an offence
against Australian law, terrorist offences are punishable by sentences of up to
25 years in jail and..
CHRIS SMITH: …and
they’ll be left on their own because they won’t be allowed back in.
I’ve got to leave it there I’m getting to news but thank you so much for your
time this morning Foreign Minister.
JULIE BISHOP: You take
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