JULIE BISHOP Good morning. Thank you for being here. I have just launched a Ministerial statement called Creating Shared Value through Partnership which reflects the Australian Government's commitment to working in partnership with the private sector in the delivery of our foreign aid program. We know that the private sector is essential to driving economic growth and economic growth is the key to lifting standards of living and lifting people out of poverty in our region. So this partnership between government, NGOs and the private sector will be part of what we call the new aid paradigm - a new and creative and innovative way of ensuring more effective aid delivery in our region.
JOURNALIST So this is essentially pushing the responsibility for the aid budget onto the private sector?
JULIE BISHOP Not at all. This is harnessing the skills, the expertise, the understanding of supply chains, of the delivery of goods and services in our region - with the government. Our aid program will continue, but what we will do is leverage the skills and funding and resources of the private sector with the Australian Government's substantial commitment so that we can get better outcomes. The private sector is already doing a lot in the development space. By partnering together we can align our objectives and get better outcomes and so it's a win/win for government, for NGOs, for the private sector, but most importantly for the developing countries and the people within those countries who have an opportunity to be lifted out of poverty, to be living in a country with a sustainable economy rather than relying on hand-outs. And the fact is foreign aid is dwarfed by foreign direct investment, remittances and private sector input and investment in countries. This is using our aid budget in a much smarter and more creative way.
JOURNALIST Minister, why should more European countries carry out air strikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria?
JULIE BISHOP Over 40 per cent of the people currently seeking asylum in Europe are from Syria and we need a united front to defeat the terrorist organisations that are driving the displacement of so many people. It's absolutely essential that ISIL or Daesh, Al Nusrah and other terrorist organisations are contained and then defeated. They are currently operating in Syria, in Iraq. They are responsible for driving the majority of people out of this region and people are seeking asylum in Europe. So it's quite obvious that we need to work together in a global coalition to defeat terrorism that is causing so much misery around the world.
JOURNALIST Which countries in particular do you think could play a larger role?
JULIE BISHOP All countries that have an interest in ensuring that people are not displaced and not persecuted and not subject to war and conflict would of course be welcome to join the Coalition. Already there are about 60 countries that are providing support in one way or another to the US-led Coalition. But there's more countries can do in terms of supporting the air strikes which are proving effective in stopping Da’esh from claiming territory off sovereign governments and from inflicting so much barbaric violence on the populations.
JOURNALIST Today's announcement is about using foreign aid more efficiently and yet today we're hearing about Cambodia saying it's not going to take more than four of the people who've been moved from Nauru and the government has spent $4 million on that. Is that now a collapsing deal?
JULIE BISHOP That is not correct. You are relying on an alleged statement of one official. I had a very positive meeting with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Kuala Lumpur recently, on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit. We had a very productive, constructive discussion about how Cambodia can continue to work in partnership with the Australian Government and others. Cambodia is part of the Bali Process. Cambodia is committed to a regional solution and has committed through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Government to resettle some asylum seekers who are found to be genuine refugees. Cambodia is an aspiring country, it wishes to increase its GDP, it wishes to harness the skills of foreign workers and in this way they can resettle people into Cambodia and help boost their GDP.
JOURNALIST And yet the human rights organisations say that the human rights there are being trammelled and that we shouldn't be supporting it?
JULIE BISHOP Human rights organisations are very quick to continue to condemn countries for their past. Cambodia is determined to put its past behind it, and to build its capacity to be a developed country and just as other countries in South East Asia have gone from developing to developed countries, and they can be very difficult and painful journeys, so Cambodia and other countries wish to become a developed country and we should give them every support.
JOURNALIST How fast do you think Cambodians will take on asylum seekers?
JULIE BISHOP Obviously Cambodia is determined to ensure that the people they do take are integrated well into their society, into their communities and so that's what they have done with the first four but we're working closely with them. As I said I had a very productive meeting with the Foreign Minister in Kuala Lumpur recently.
JOURNALIST Joe Hockey still seems to be a drag on the Government. Is it time to cut him loose?
JULIE BISHOP I think that instead of criticising Joe Hockey, people should recognise the enormous task he has in repairing the Budget that was so trashed by Labor in its six years in office. Labor inherited in 2007 the very best set of national financial accounts of any incoming government and yet Joe Hockey as Treasurer inherited from Labor the very worst - record debt, record deficits. Not only does Joe have to deal with repairing the Budget, we're also dealing with irresponsible Labor senators who are refusing to pass measures in the Senate, including their own savings that they had identified. So Labor should try and be part of the solution, accept the responsibility that comes with having trashed the Budget and work with Joe Hockey and with the government to find solutions.
JOURNALIST How would you rate his performance out of 10?
JULIE BISHOP That's a ridiculous question. I don't go around rating performances of journalists, I don't rate performances of actors. I'm not going to rate performances of my Cabinet colleagues. That's nonsense.
JOURNALIST Is an early federal election being considered for March next year?
JULIE BISHOP I don't believe so.
JOURNALIST Minister, you've been very successful with the first roll-out in this aid program. I just spoke with Westpac and for an initial investment of $500,000 it's obviously providing dividends in aid support and for Westpac now as a commercial prospect. Do you think that's the model you will use around the Asia Pacific to roll out a new form of aid that is commercially viable and should other countries follow suit?
JULIE BISHOP Well, that's a matter for other countries. We work closely with aid agencies and governments around the world to ensure that we get the most effective and the most innovative ways of achieving development outcomes.
We've had some very successful partnerships - with Westpac, with ANZ, with Carnival Cruises and with other companies who are operating in the areas where we deliver aid, and together we've been able to maximise our efforts to deliver better outcomes for the people in those countries. So the Westpac example is a great one where we have helped Westpac with its financial literacy operations. Westpac are bringing more people into the banking system - about 80 per cent of the Pacific are not involved in the formal banking system, they've never had a bank account or credit or been able to borrow or expand businesses on loans. So in this way, working with financial institutions such as Westpac, we're able to introduce a whole new level of economic activity that will underpin economic growth in these countries.
JOURNALIST Who would you like to see replace Dyson Heydon if he stands down as Royal Commissioner this afternoon?
JULIE BISHOP Those leading the charge against Dyson Heydon have one motivation and that is to protect union officials who are guilty of corrupt behaviour at the expense of the honest union members they were meant to be representing. Those who are leading the charge against Dyson Heydon are determined to stop an investigation into systemic corruption and bad behaviour on the part of corrupt union bosses. The work of the Royal Commission must go on already about 26 union bosses have been referred for further investigation and prosecution. So the work is designed to support honest union workers who've had their interests and their funds ripped off by corrupt union bosses and no amount of posturing on the part of Labor should prevent this important work continuing.
JOURNALIST Does Jeremy Stoljar have a case to answer as unions claim for withholding correspondence he had with Dyson Heydon?
JULIE BISHOP I take no notice of the unions' protestations in this regard. It's quite obvious that their sole motivation is to derail an investigation into corrupt, illegal union behaviour. And Labor can express all the outrage they like, but until such time as they focus on cleaning up the union movement from the activities of corrupt union bosses they have no credibility on this subject at all.
JOURNALIST You earlier gave a good example of Coke in the distribution link. Would you be able to repeat that?
JULIE BISHOP What I was saying is that by harnessing the skills and expertise of the private sector, we may well be able to get much more effective and efficient delivery of fundamentals like pharmaceuticals into the more remote areas of the Pacific, including in Papua New Guinea. Already I gave that example and one of the companies operating in PNG has come up to me and said that they take half empty trucks up into the remote areas of PNG and they would be able to work with us and with the PNG Government to deliver basic supplies into these regions. So it's this idea of partnering with the private sector who are able to do things very effectively. Government doesn't have all the answers, the private sector doesn't have all the answers but together we can come up with solutions that work.
JOURNALIST Should Scott Morrison take over as Treasurer if there is a swing against the Government in the Canning by-election?
JULIE BISHOP These are all hypotheticals. I'm working very hard with our outstanding candidate in Canning, Andrew Hastie, and I believe that the people of Canning will see in him the kind of representative that will best serve their interests. He has the character, the calibre of personality, he has the temperament, he has the life experience to make him an outstanding representative for the people of Canning.
JOURNALIST Is that something being discussed by Cabinet Ministers?
JULIE BISHOP No. Winning in Canning? Yes the Canning matter is discussed in Cabinet. But is that what you were referring to?
JOURNALIST No I'm talking about the possibility of Scott Morrison ...
JULIE BISHOP Of course not.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555