JOURNALIST Foreign Minister, there have been more reports of debris of washing up on Reunion. Have you had any discussions with Malaysia about this or been given any information about this from your Malaysian counterparts?
JULIE BISHOP I had a meeting this morning with Dato’ Sri Anifah, the Foreign Minister of Malaysia. We discussed the details of the debris that has washed up on Reunion. He was of the view that the debris had been sent to France or was being sent to France for further consideration and analysis. We discussed the finding of the wing of the aircraft and the fact that Malaysia is firmly of the view that it is part of MH370. But I don’t have any specific further details on the status of that other debris. I think it is important for us to allow the investigation team to conduct their analysis and ensure that, if it is part of the plane, that the announcement is made as soon as possible, but also ensure that whatever tests that need to be carried out are carried out.
Australia now has a representative from our Transport Safety Bureau in France as part of the investigation so we will be able to get direct communication in relation to it. And of course we are still taking a lead role in the search effort to locate MH370.
JOURNALIST The communique from the East Asia Summit spoke of tensions created by reclamation of land in the South China Sea, but it didn’t really propose a solution to that. Is that communique wording strong enough and how do you think these tensions should be resolved in the future?
JULIE BISHOP This communique was the result of the Foreign Ministers Meeting. It will be provided to Leaders for their meeting in November, and so I am confident that the issue of the South China Sea reclamation work, construction work, and the risk of militarisation of the artificial structures and islands in the South China Sea will be a topic of discussion for the Leaders in November. There was a difference of opinion within the East Asia Summit and within the ASEAN Regional Forum on the reclamation work in the South China Sea. There are a number of territorial claims and, as I said from the outset, Australia does not take sides. We do not take positions on the various territorial claims, but we have long called for a moratorium on land reclamation by China and other countries and that should also include a moratorium on construction activity and any militarisation. We believe that this risks miscalculation, it risks raising tensions and what we need in our region is peace and stability and security so that ships and aircraft can travel through the region unimpeded. Freedom of navigation and freedom of over-flight must be fundamental to the peace and security of the region.
JOURNALIST And what about the Malaysian Foreign Minister’s description of you earlier today where he said that you were hitting it from all corners? He said that you had a reputation as the “iron lady” of the conference. What do you say to that?
JULIE BISHOP Do you think it was a reference to the performance of our cricket team? I’m not too sure but anyway, he is a very good friend and he’s been an outstanding Chair of the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum meetings over the past couple of days. I have welcomed him to Perth in the past. We have spent a lot of time together in recent months talking about how we can solve the problem of getting a prosecution authority in place to try those responsible for the bringing down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. We’ve spoken on a number of occasions on our joint search for MH370, so as two Foreign Ministers we have spent a great deal of time together. I’ll have to think of a description of him in the next few days that I hope he appreciates.
JOURNALIST Minister, can I take you back to your meeting with Indonesia earlier this week. Were you able to get any clarification on the live cattle issue and whether or not the quota will be revised?
JULIE BISHOP Yes, that was a discussion we had, it was part of our overall discussion on the bilateral relationship and I‘m encouraged that our Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce will be visiting Indonesia at some point and this is a matter that they can continue to discuss. But generally we have said that we recognise Indonesia’s desire to be more self-sufficient in their need for food security. Of course, when the previous Labor government banned live exports to Indonesia it just heightened their desire to be more self-sufficient in food security, but I believe that Australia’s beef is of such high quality and there will be supply requirements in Indonesia that we will be able to increase our supply of beef and live cattle to Indonesia over time. So it was a topic of discussion but my friend Barnaby Joyce, as Agriculture Minister, will be raising this in one-on-one discussions later this year.
JOURNALIST Indonesia has been looking to other countries apart from Australia to get its beef supply, its cattle supply. Was that raised? Did you get any reassurances on that issue and why? Or did they give you an explanation as to why Indonesia is looking elsewhere other than Australia?
JULIE BISHOP I won’t go into any specifics of our discussions. The topic was raised, we discussed it in detail. But I should point out that Australia also seeks to supply our beef across a number of countries. We diversify our trade as much as we can and I would expect other countries would do similarly. We have opportunities to get our cattle—our beef—into China and into other markets. We see the region as our marketplace, we see the globe as our marketplace. So we are always looking for opportunities to enhance existing markets or indeed find new markets.
JOURNALIST Just on a domestic issue, is it appropriate for the Prime Minister to question the decision of the Federal Court over the approval of the Adani Mine in Queensland?
JULIE BISHOP I believe the Prime Minister is focusing on how we can ensure that there is certainty for foreign investment and ensure that Australia has a welcoming foreign investment environment. After all, there are many projects over many decades that would not have gotten off the ground in Australia had it not been for foreign investment. And Australia must present as being “open for business”, welcoming of foreign investment and ensuring that businesses and potential investors can have certainty if they are to invest in our country. So I hear he is making statements in relation to it but I won’t go into further details—I’ll leave that for the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST On the separation of powers though, is it appropriate for the Prime Minister to question an independent court’s decision and criticise that court for overturning the Federal Government?
JULIE BISHOP The Prime Minister has not sought to influence the Federal Court in any way. What the Prime Minister has been doing has been commenting upon the need for there to be certainty in our foreign investment environment and it’s quite appropriate for him to seek to do that—to send a message that we welcome foreign investment, that we need foreign investment if we are to provide the job opportunities for Australians in the future. And that means ensuring that a major project, subject to all the appropriate approvals, can get underway. So it’s appropriate for the leader of our country to remark upon how necessary it is for there to be that kind of economic development in Australia to provide job opportunities for Australians.
JOURNALIST An important Party Room meeting on Monday—do you have a preference as Speaker?
JULIE BISHOP I will be voting for one of the contenders but I don’t think I’ll share it with Sky News, as much as you’d like me to. I believe that we have a very strong field of candidates for the position of Speaker. I’ve spoken to a number of them and I’m looking forward to our Party Room choosing someone who I believe will uphold the appropriate standards required of the Speaker and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks in Parliament as we push forward with our reform agenda. And I’m assuming that the Labor Party will behave with appropriate decorum in the Parliament in the weeks, months and years ahead.
JOURNALIST What sort of qualities do you think the new Speaker should have?
JULIE BISHOP I’m not about to give the new Speaker advice. I have no doubt that there will be no shortage of advice for the new Speaker, but I won’t add to that person’s burden. I’m sure that whomever we choose will be competent and carry out the duties professionally and competently.
JOURNALIST Looks like the Prime Minister’s putting together a team to look at travel entitlements for MPs. Is this something that’s necessary? Is it time for MPs to reign in their expenses or does this have the potential to inhibit the work that politicians need to do?
JULIE BISHOP Ever since we came into government we have had entitlements and travel expenses and travel allowances under review and the Prime Minister has already made a number of changes. But I think it comes down to the guidelines being adhered to using common sense and judgement. It’s very difficult sometimes to specifically identify what can and can’t be done on any particular day in any particular circumstance. So if you apply common sense and judgment—is this a necessary part of me carrying out my official duties—then I think that the system can operate. What the Prime Minister has done is put in place a review so that if there are grey areas, we can make them clearer, then that’s in everybody’s interest that we do that.
JOURNALIST So you think hard and fast rules potentially can make things difficult?
JULIE BISHOP Well I don’t want to pre-empt the Review. We have some distinguished people involved in that Review, I believe the Prime Minister wants to broaden it so that there’s some practical experience – former politicians who know what it’s like to fill out the travel allowance forms and fill out the travel entitlement forms from time to time. So some practical experience and no doubt they’ll have some examples of how the entitlements and travel allowances and business expenses can work in a more efficient and effective way. But at the end of the day, it comes down to each Member of Parliament, each Member, each Senator, being accountable to the taxpayers for the use of taxpayers’ funds. Applying the guidelines, applying common sense and good judgement and I hope that’s what all my colleagues continue to do.
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