JOURNALIST: What were the main outcomes from the Prime Minister’s trip to the United States?
JULIE BISHOP: The Prime Minister’s visit to the United States was a success, according to the White House Administration, and most certainly it has been judged to be a very positive opportunity where we enhanced our already strong ties with the United States, not only in economic trade and investment terms, but also in new areas of challenge such as the cyber security agreement that was signed between the United States and Australia during the Prime Minister’s visit. So the focus on security, intelligence cooperation as well as our trade and investment ties was very important.
JOURNALIST: Did the President and the US Defence Secretary, Ashton Carter, accept Australia’s reasoning for refusing that request to deploy more assets to the Middle East?
JULIE BISHOP: Their response was precisely as I expected it to be. An acknowledgement of the enormous contribution that Australia is already making to the Coalition effort to defeat ISIL/Daesh in Syria and Iraq, I have met with Secretary Kerry, I have met with President Obama on numerous occasions when they have acknowledged the significant support that we are already providing and so their acknowledgment to Prime Minister Turnbull was expected. I know that the United States is seeking to broaden the Coalition to seek more support from other nations at the same time as noting the significant contribution that Australia is already making.
JOURNALIST: Labor’s Defence spokesman Stephen Conroy has called on the Federal Government to conduct a freedom of navigation exercise in territorial waters claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea, is that something that the Government is considering?
JULIE BISHOP: Decisions involving regional political/strategic matters, issues involving naval operations, should only ever be untaken after the most careful consideration and advice from our security, intelligence and defence advisers. It is not the sort of issue that you just throw out there on a whim. This matter will require very careful and detailed study and advice.
JOURNALIST: But is that something you are considering?
JULIE BISHOP: The matters involving security, the matters involving intelligence and defence operations, are not matters that I would raise on television, but of course Australia has called for a de-escalation of tensions in South China Sea. We have called for all parties to resolve their disputes peacefully and to negotiate peacefully any territorial disputes and that remains our position.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister would the Turnbull Government support Kevin Rudd in the bid for the United Nations Secretary-General and is this something that you are considering?
JULIE BISHOP: Well the matter of the Secretary-Generalship of the United Nations is to be determined this year, I understand that there has been a call for nominations and should Kevin Rudd nominate, then of course the Australian Government would consider what sort of support he would require but nominations have not yet opened and as far as I’m aware, Kevin Rudd has not yet nominated.
JOURNALIST: And on the issue of the search for MH370 there’s a report today about the 100 million dollar shortfall in financing the search I understand to do with currency fluctuations, has this money been sought from Malaysia and has it been secured?
JULIE BISHOP: The issue of MH370 focuses very much on seeking to find that aeroplane and to provide closure for the families of those who were aboard that flight. It remains one of the great aviation mysteries of our time. Australia has played a significant role in coordinating the search effort and funding has been provided by a number of countries including China, because the majority of passengers aboard were Chinese. So a number of countries have contributed and issues such as funding shortfalls will be a matter of negotiations between the parties who are involved, and of course Malaysia as being the airline state of origin would be part of those discussions.
JOURNALIST: Minister what do you hope to achieve with your visit to Washington DC next week?
JULIE BISHOP: I will be visiting Washington as a part of what has become an annual visit to meet with security, intelligence, law enforcement representatives as well as senior members of congress and of the White House administration. We have so many shared interests and it’s important that senior Australian ministers meet with their counterpart ministers on a regular basis. I will take the opportunity in Washington to canvass our military deployment in Iraq and Syria, our deployments elsewhere, our commitment to trade and investment opportunities, and also areas where Australia and the United States can work jointly. I mentioned in my speech earlier the opportunity for us to work together in foreign aid and development challenges. These are just a few of the matters that I’ll be discussing with counterparts and colleagues in Washington.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister spoke to, as I understand it, a couple of the Presidential candidates. Are you planning to do the same?
JULIE BISHOP: On my previous visit to Washington I most certainly spoke to a number of the candidates and I hope to do so again. I will be meeting with various members of Congress. The race for the Presidency is a fascinating one and I’m sure that Australia will work exceedingly well with whomever the American people choose as their President, but in the meantime we are making contact with those who we believe are likely to be contenders, and that’s the role of our Ambassador-designate Joe Hockey.
JOURNALIST: Does that mean you’ve spoken, or anyone in the Australian Government has spoken to Donald Trump?
JULIE BISHOP: I haven’t spoken to Mr Trump, I’m not sure if other colleagues have, but he’s most certainly one of the contenders. I have spoken to other Republican and Democrat contenders in the past, and as time goes on and as the likely contenders become more apparent, then we will continue to increase our efforts to maintain communication with them because the relationship between whomever is in the White House and Canberra is of vital national, economic and security interest to us.
JOURNALIST: Will you seek to talk to him while you’re here at all?
JULIE BISHOP: Well that would be a matter of my itinerary so I’m not sure who is in Washington at present but we certainly want to speak to both Republican and Democrat side of politics.
JOURNALIST: Do you share any of the concerns that the UK members of parliament have about Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims, for example, let alone some of the other comments he’s made during the campaign?
JULIE BISHOP: Well one thing that I don’t do when I’m in the United States is comment on domestic politics and domestic political figures, and so I think we will leave those comments of the British parliamentarians to them, and I’m not going to give a running commentary on presidential candidates in the lead up to the election.
JOURNALIST: How do you plan to spend the snowstorm in the next 24-48 hours?
JULIE BISHOP: We have a very busy schedule of meetings. Tonight I will be at the G’Day USA Dinner that is honouring Australians who have made a contribution to the US-Australian relationship. I have a busy day tomorrow with an innovation technology roundtable. We are meeting with groups of young Australian innovators who are making their mark in New York. This morning I met with the “100 Women in Hedge Funds”, a group of women in financial and banking sectors. So these are the kinds of meetings that I’m having in New York and they’ll continue through to Washington and then Los Angeles at the end of next week.
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