PETER VAN ONSELEN: Thanks very much for your time I know it’s been a busy day and it will be a busy evening as well.

Two elements, two key elements I suppose to the Prime Minister of Japan’s visit, one economic, the other the defence idea of the treaty and that space – that’s the more controversial of the two, there hasn’t been as much focus on it.

JULIE BISHOP: Except that Japan and Australia have been long term strategic partners and this is a natural consequence of the deepening of our relationship. Yes the economic focus was all on the signing of the Free Trade Agreement and that will bring huge benefits to Australian exporters and manufacturers and service providers because over 97 per cent of our exports will get preferential treatment or duty-free treatment, zero tariffs into Japan, but there’s also the deepening of our defence ties and that was a highlight of the visit of Prime Minister Abe as well.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Can we just focus on that to start with and then maybe move to the economic after that? You wouldn’t have had a chance to hear it but on Stan Grant’s program before mine Professor Hugh White was being interviewed and he completely agreed with what Tony Abbott had had to say about it being about time after 70 years that Japan be allowed to free up its defence arrangements but he didn’t think that the next step of us being involved in the framework that they’re looking to put in place was necessary for Australia simply because of our relationship with China and I guess our slight geographical removal from that East Asian area. What’s your view on that?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I disagree to this extent – the South China and East China Seas are extremely important for Australian trade. We have a deep vested interest in peace and stability and security in that region. Over 50 per cent of our exports are to North Asia and so we want to ensure that there’s freedom of navigation, open peaceful seas and so we have an interest in maintaining that.

I also think it’s important for Australia to engage more deeply with Japan and with China. We do joint military exercises with both. Japan and Australia are strong allies of the United States so we think that greater engagement in defence terms is important for maintaining peace and stability in the region.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Obviously the links or relations between China and Japan are not great at the moment – they haven’t really been for quite some time. How does Australia balance its obvious attempt to have good relations with both? Good relations as you’ve just mentioned to some extent in that defence base, but particularly obviously in that economics base.

JULIE BISHOP: Well regional security is not a zero sum game. We believe that it’s important for all of the stakeholders in our part of the world to remain engaged, to consult, to work through the regional architecture, particularly the East Asia Summit that Australia joined under the Howard Government. That has the right membership, the right mandate, including China, the US, the ASEAN countries to be a real forum for debate and discussion on strategic and economic issues and so we have been encouraging all of the members of the East Asia Summit to remain engaged to continue to consult.

And that’s how Australia has always balanced the competing demands of various countries, not only the United States and China, but also the other ASEAN countries – Korea, Japan. We aren’t a threat. We want to be friends with everybody and we of course have our deep national interest in the region because that’s where most of our trade is done.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: The focus obviously with Prime Minister Abe in Australia is on Japan but something else that’s in the mix I suppose is the Free Trade Agreement, or the possibility of a Free Trade Agreement, with China. We’ve had the one with Japan signed off on, the government is hopeful by the end of the year of making it happen with China but it is more complicated. How likely is that looking in your view?

JULIE BISHOP: Peter, at the last election we took a policy to the Australian people that we would seek to conclude Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Japan and China and the Prime Minister said that he hoped we’d be able to do it within 12 months. Well we’ve concluded the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, we’ve now signed today the Free Trade Agreement with Japan which will now go through the usual parliamentary process of going to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and we are advanced in our negotiations with China. We’re determined to conclude all three agreements, hopefully this year, because it’s unquestionably good for the Australian economy. It grows our economy, it provides job opportunities, it’s new and enhanced markets as well as existing markets and it’s also new sources of capital so it’s good news for the Australian economy for us to conclude these free trade agreements and I’m very optimistic that we will conclude a Free Trade Agreement with China.

And what I thought was interesting today about Prime Minister Abe’s comments in the House of Representatives when he addressed the joint sitting - he linked the Free Trade Agreement with Australia with the Trans Pacific Partnership that involves the United States and 11 other countries and the RCEP which is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that involves China and ASEAN and their free trade partners. He linked them all together and said that this would realise the aspirations of an Asia Pacific Free Trade Zone and I thought that that was very promising.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: If we could just move on to other issues before we run out of time. You are obviously the Foreign Minister but in your pre-Parliamentary career you were a very senior lawyer at Clayton Utz. Today we’ve seen the High Court take a bit of a look at what’s been going on in the high seas in relation to the idea of asylum seekers being sent back to Sri Lanka. Now we don’t know the exact details of what’s going on because the Government, as part of its operation Sovereign Borders, maintains a certain amount of secrecy but how much attention to the High Court’s concerns here is the Government going to have to take?

JULIE BISHOP: Well Peter we provided all the information that the High Court requested, the matter has been adjourned until Friday and as a lawyer I know that you don’t provide a running commentary on a court case that is still underway. So we have provided the High Court with the information that it required. We will of course abide by our undertakings to the court and we await the outcome.

But the Australian Government has made it clear from the outset that we intend to disrupt the people smuggling trade. We do not intend to see men and women and children drown at sea because they’ve paid people smugglers to put them on unseaworthy boats to make a dangerous journey to Australia and we intend to disrupt that trade so that it cannot continue.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Just finally Julie Bishop it would be remiss of me not to ask you for an update, I suppose, on the situation with Peter Greste over there in Egypt, obviously he’s had the trial and he’s been convicted and now there is the aftermath of that whatever that might entail. Have you got anything to tell us from the Australian Government’s perspective on what’s happening?

JULIE BISHOP: Well Peter as I understand it the family have been considering their options about an appeal. We have continued to make representations at the highest level in the Egyptian Government. Indeed last night I spoke to US Secretary of State John Kerry specifically about the Greste matter. You might recall that he came out and strongly condemned the verdict at the time and I asked the United States to remain engaged. They have a particularly close relationship with Egypt and Secretary Kerry agreed to continue to remain engaged in this matter, continue to make representations on behalf of Peter Greste because as he agreed with me, we want to see Peter Greste home as soon as possible.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: How important is that do you think for the US Secretary of State, someone like John Kerry, keeps that closely involved?

JULIE BISHOP: It’s important for us to have our friends and partners and allies continue to point out to Egypt that this is not the way to transition to democracy – jailing journalists for doing their job does not reflect a path to democracy.

And I think the power and the influence of the United States is important worldwide. They have a particularly close relationship with Egypt and as we have done from the outset when Peter Greste was first detained we have sought to make representations, not only to the authorities in Egypt, but to governments that we hope have some influence over Egypt. So I’m grateful that the United States has agreed to remain deeply engaged in this matter.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Julie Bishop thanks very much for coming on the program.

JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Peter.

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