JOURNALIST Minister does John Key know something we don’t know when it comes to sending troops to Iraq?
JULIE BISHOP We’ve already got 200 Special Forces in Iraq. New Zealand has now joined the Coalition and is also sending forces and we certainly welcome that, but any discussion or announcement on the composition of our efforts in Iraq is a matter for the Prime Minister and I’m certainly not going to pre-empt that.
JOURNALIST Is it embarrassing to have him make this announcement before the Government had a chance to, if they are indeed planning to?
JULIE BISHOP We already have 200 Special Forces in Iraq, New Zealand has now announced that it will join the Coalition and it will send troops.
JOURNALIST Defence has sent an email of requested details about it and they said that the Minister is expected to make a statement on this tomorrow.
JULIE BISHOP Well I’m not going to pre-empt any statement by the Prime Minister or the Defence Minister but of course our efforts in Iraq are under constant review and discussion. We have 200 Special Forces there who are advising and assisting the Iraqi Defence Force so that we can build its capability and capacity. We have about 400 personnel involved in the air strikes which are taking place to disrupt and deter Daesh or ISIL in its advances so we are already there with a significant presence, the composition of that presence is obviously something under constant review.
JOURNALIST Do you agree that Gillian Triggs should have been asked to resign in exchange for another job within the Government?
JULIE BISHOP Gillian Triggs was not asked to resign. She was not offered any inducement.
JOURNALIST Is the debate around the inducement, and around the way that the Senate Inquiry took place yesterday? Does that threaten to derail the Government’s message on the forgotten children report which is that you have got a lot of children out of detention?
JULIE BISHOP The message is clear. Under Labor there were around 2000 children in detention. The Human Rights Commission deemed that it was too political to hold an inquiry into the 2000 children in detention after the President had meetings with the Labor Ministers at the time.
We have now managed to get a significant number of children out of detention, as we should, we’re down now to less than 200 – that’s still too many, but we’re working on that and yet now it’s deemed to be appropriate to have an inquiry when we are actually making significant progress. So that’s very disappointing and I’m not surprised that the Government is disappointed with the direction and priorities of the Human Rights Commission in that regard.
JOURNALIST Are you disappointed with the latest developments in the Bali 9 case?
JULIE BISHOP Yes I’m dismayed that this further legal avenue has now been closed but I understand there is another opportunity for the lawyers to make an appeal for the clemency bids to be reviewed and I understand that they will be taking further action.
In the meantime I make this plea to President Widodo – he is a generous and forgiving man, the Indonesian people are generous and forgiving – these two men have rehabilitated in the most remarkable way. They committed grievous crimes and they will pay for their crimes by spending the rest of their lives in jail, but I don’t believe they should pay with their lives. They are making a valuable contribution to the prison system in Indonesia, they are assisting in the rehabilitation of other prisoners and so I ask that their lives be spared.
JOURNALIST Is there any more that the Government can do?
JULIE BISHOP We are continuing to make representations at every level, across every department in the Indonesian Government, of course there are a number of departments that are involved in this process and we are continuing to make representations.
JOURNALIST Just on the McClure Report, the report flags quite a tightening of disability payments and payments on welfare with a view to put people into work, but if there aren’t jobs are you essentially putting people back at risk of going back on Newstart?
JULIE BISHOP This is a report to the Government, it’s not a report of the Government, so we’ll be looking very closely at those recommendations and I understand that Minister Morrison will be speaking about it later today so I won’t pre-empt his announcements. But our aim is to ensure that people who can work, who want to work, are given an opportunity to gain the skills and the opportunity to get a job, that’s why we’re focussing on growing our economy so more job opportunities are available.
Australia does have a generous welfare safety net and that will continue but we want to ensure that the people who need help receive it but those who can work are given the skills and opportunity to do so. We need to see as many people across all cohorts working in Australia. It’s not only good for our economy, but also the social dividend for the individual in having the dignity and the independence of a job.
JOURNALIST But don’t the jobs need to be there in the first place and at this time of high unemployment that doesn’t seem likely.
JULIE BISHOP Well that’s why we are working on growing the Australian economy. We are, for example, concluding Free Trade Agreements that provide enormous opportunities for Australian businesses to export goods and services overseas and if they grow their businesses that means more jobs. Everything we do is with a focus to growing the economy because that means more jobs. That’s why we’re so critical of the Victorian Government cancelling the East West Connect project in Victoria, 7000 jobs were lost when they cancelled that. The Federal Government is about creating the environment that will encourage more jobs. Jobs growth is a key to this and that’s what we’re focussing our attention on.
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