CHRIS UHLMANN One keen observer of the Indonesian election is Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister. Good morning.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning, Chris.
CHRIS UHLMANN Julie Bishop, are you concerned at all that both candidates are claiming victory in the Indonesian poll?
JULIE BISHOP Well the official result won’t be announced by the Indonesian Electoral Commission until 22 July. The new President and the Vice President will be inaugurated on 22 October and a new Cabinet appointed thereafter. So there is a way to go until the results are officially announced. It appears that trends in the results based on unofficial quick counts indicate that Joko Widodo is in the lead, but the result won’t be confirmed until 22 July.
Overall though I believe Indonesia deserves deep congratulations on the successful running of a presidential election. This is a significant milestone for Indonesia to conclude this presidential election given it’s an exceedingly complex logistical exercise. 190 million registered voters across this vast archipelago and voter turnout appears to be high. So I think it’s a significant milestone in what is the world’s third largest democracy.
CHRIS UHLMANN A lot of commentators have said that their expectations that relations between Indonesia and Australia would be worse after this result, no matter who won. Is that your expectation?
JULIE BISHOP No, not at all. As a fellow democracy we respect the will of the people of Indonesia and we will certainly work closely with whomever is elected through this democratic process and we look forward to the results being confirmed and we will of course work very closely with the new administration.
CHRIS UHLMANN Shinzo Abe of course leaves Australia for Papua New Guinea today. Why has Australia made such a point of enhancing its defence ties with Japan during this visit? Isn’t that inviting trouble from China?
JULIE BISHOP We’re working to deepen all of our relationships in the region. We know our future lies in this part of the world and since coming to Government we’ve focused our foreign and trade and defence priorities and efforts on our region. We have Free Trade Agreements signed with South Korea and Japan. We’re deeply involved in negotiations to conclude a Free Trade Agreement with China.
We have been increasing our security ties with a number of countries in the region, including with China and we’ve just undertaken joint defence exercises with China in what’s called the RIMPAC exercise. So our focus on Japan is consistent with our deeper engagement in the region generally.
CHRIS UHLMANN But China’s made no secret of the fact that it believes that Japan’s aim is to ring fence it and contain its growth and now we might well see Australia as being part of that.
JULIE BISHOP Well we believe that the answer to any tensions in the region is deeper engagement and continual and regular consultation and that’s what we seek to achieve with all of our partners and friends and neighbours in our region.
CHRIS UHLMANN The dispute mostly at the moment is concentrated on the Senkaku Islands which Japan of course administers. When President Obama went there earlier this year he said that if there was a dispute over that between Japan and China that would trigger the alliance between the United States and Japan. Does the ANZUS Treaty apply if the US gets involve in a dispute in the East China Sea?
JULIE BISHOP I’m not going speculate about a hypothetical. The ANZUS Alliance is an obligation to consult and so these matters would be considered on a case by case basis. But I don’t think it’s helpful to look at whether the ANZUS Alliance would be triggered in a particular circumstance because it is a commitment to consult each other when the circumstances demand it.
CHRIS UHLMANN But you do believe the best way to deal with China is to speak frankly to it?
JULIE BISHOP I made the point yesterday, in an interview I gather you’re referring to, that this Government will stand up and defend our national interest. We have an open export-oriented market economy; we are an open and free democracy committed to the rule of law and international norms. That’s who we are and that’s what we will protect. I believe it’s better to be clear and direct about where we stand on issues than allow confusion or misunderstanding to occur.
CHRIS UHLMANN And you were pretty frank about the East China Sea and you were met with a furious response.
JULIE BISHOP Well yes, I did say that we didn’t support unilateral action or coercive action and I’ve made that clear and we have also – in relation to the South China Sea – made it quite clear that we believe that any dispute should be resolved peacefully through negotiation and particularly through a Code of Conduct involving the nations of South East Asia and China. We do not take a side on these territorial plans, we do not take one side or the other on any of them, but what we do say is that these kinds of issues need to be resolved peacefully through negotiation.
CHRIS UHLMANN You’re acting Immigration Minister at the moment - now Government lawyers have told the High Court this week that the asylum seekers boat with 153 people on board won’t be sent back to Sri Lanka. Where will it go?
JULIE BISHOP Well this is a matter before the court, Chris, and I’m not going to comment on matters that are in the midst of a judicial hearing. That would be entirely inappropriate.
CHRIS UHLMANN Certainly, but it is the Government’s decision as to where these people might go. Have you been in discussions with the Governments of Papua New Guinea or Nauru?
JULIE BISHOP I’m not going to go into the details, Chris, because any matter that involves the people smuggling trade is subject to the policies of Operation Sovereign Borders under the command of General Campbell and part of the success to date has been not to provide the people smugglers with information that they use to ply their trade.
This Government was elected to stop the practice of the people smugglers from putting people on unseaworthy boats and sending them on a dangerous journey to Australia. We saw men, women and children drown at sea and die on this journey to Australia and the Australian Government is determined to stop that practice and dismantle the people smuggling trade. And they work on information so I don’t intend to provide them information that they can use to continue their criminal activities.
CHRIS UHLMANN One thing we do know though is that the High Court is hearing this case. These people do have legal representation. Will the asylum seekers be able to access that legal representation by speaking to their lawyers?
JULIE BISHOP The Australian Government is aware of our obligations under international law. We’re aware of our obligations and will abide them.
CHRIS UHLMANN Is that a yes, Minister?
JULIE BISHOP Well that’s an answer to your question.
CHRIS UHLMANN Is it your intention to keep these people at sea until this case is heard?
JULIE BISHOP As I said, Chris, it’s before the courts, we’ve given undertakings to the court, we’ve given information to the court and it would be entirely inappropriate for me to discuss on air matters that are in the middle of a judicial hearing.
CHRIS UHLMANN Julie Bishop, we’ll have to leave it there, thank you.
JULIE BISHOP Thank you.
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