JOURNALIST Minister, I believe you’ve spoken with Jocelyn Elliott, can you tell us a little bit about that phone call?
JULIE BISHOP I can confirm that Mrs Jocelyn Elliott has been released to Australian officials in Niger. I spoke with her this morning; she was well, she was relieved, she was very tired. Our overriding concern now is for her husband, Dr Kenneth Elliott, who has not yet been released. I spoke to the Elliott family again this morning, they are in Western Australia, I had spoken to them previously, and I join with them in thanking the authorities of Burkina Faso and Niger for facilitating Mrs Elliott’s release. The Burkinabé authorities are coordinating the facilitation of the release. We are working with them; all the relevant Australian agencies are working with the governments of Burkina Faso and Niger and others.
JOURNALIST Foreign Minister, reports North Korea’s launched another missile; what’s Australia’s response to that?
JULIE BISHOP I am aware of the reports that North Korea has launched a ballistic missile test, there is no reason to doubt the veracity of those reports at this stage. It does follow on from North Korea’s very provocative act in launching a nuclear weapons test recently and North Korea continues to pose a threat to the region and to the globe. They are a threat to world peace and the Australian Government joins with the international community in condemning North Korea’s provocative, dangerous and destabilising behaviour. Australia calls on the North Korean Leader, Kim Jong Un, to focus on the plight of the long-suffering people of North Korea and not to engage in nuclear weapons testing and ballistic missile testing, which is against all unanimous United Nations Security Council resolutions on this topic.
JOURNALIST Minister, a Perth man has been sent back from India apparently having had material on his laptop. What can you tell us about that?
JULIE BISHOP I am aware of a report that an Australian has been deported from India. Due to intelligence and security considerations, I won’t be commenting further. Our relevant agencies are investigating this matter very closely.
JOURNALIST Ms Bishop, is a GST increase dead in the water now?
JULIE BISHOP What we’re seeking to do is find the best tax system that ensures that Australia remains internationally competitive, but it provides incentives for people to work, to invest, to save, so we’re looking at a whole range of options. The Prime Minister made a number of statements about that today and I think what differs from previous debates about tax is that we’re having a mature conversation with the Australian people. We’re not playing rule in, rule out. We’re not trying to start a lettuce war. We’re having a mature sophisticated conversation about a very fundamental issue to support Australia’s economic future and that’s our tax system. We want to have lower, fairer, simpler taxes, and that’s what we’re seeking to model and seeking to find.
JOURNALIST Minister, have you spoken to Philip Ruddock or written to Philip Ruddock about what his post-political future may hold?
JULIE BISHOP I don’t comment on speculation. I’ve seen there’s some speculation but I’m not going to comment on speculation about post-political futures. If I have an announcement to make, I’ll make it. If I don’t, I won’t.
JOURNALIST What do you make of the UN’s ruling on Julian Assange?
JULIE BISHOP I spoke to Julian Assange’s legal team in London just prior to flying out on Thursday. This was prior to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention's report being released. I met with Geoffrey Robertson QC and Jennifer Robinson, who are part of his UK legal team. So we were discussing the range of options should the report find one way or another. I have re-iterated that our offer for consular support is still on foot and that’s been standing for quite some time. We had a discussion about what would happen if the British authorities were to release him. So that’s why I’ve been seeking legal advice on the implications of the report but, more particularly, what the British authorities and the Swedish authorities intend to do.
JOURNALIST So the GST increase is still on the table?
JULIE BISHOP Well, I’m not the economic spokesman for the Government – or the spokeswoman for the Government for that matter – on GST matters. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer will make an announcement on any proposed tax reforms in the lead up to the election.
JOURNALIST Do you think that a decision needs to be made soon rather than have an open debate continuing?
JULIE BISHOP I think the Australian people are mature enough and sophisticated enough to have an ongoing debate about tax reform. I mean, this is not a once-off issue; it’s a matter that we continually review. I’ve been overseas recently and I know how competitive it is globally for countries to continue to maintain the kind of standard of living that we have in Australia. One element of maintaining that standard of living is ensuring that we have a tax system that provides incentives for people to work, to invest, to save and that boosts our economy. That’s what we’re seeking to do.
JOURNALIST But when will we see an actual model taken to the people so that people can debate whether or not they think it’s an appropriate form?
JULIE BISHOP When we have a model ready. Thank you.
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