JOURNALIST Julie Bishop, welcome to Insiders.
JULIE BISHOP Thanks, Fran.
JOURNALIST Minister, three Australians were injured in the terror attack in Nice. Do you have an update for us on their condition?
JULIE BISHOP I do indeed. There were three Australians injured in this terrible attack that occurred in Nice. One of them has had treatment for her injuries and has left hospital. Two other Australians remain in separate hospitals in Nice. I have been in contact with the family of one of them – she’s sustained injuries that are more serious than we first thought, but they are not life-threatening and she's in a stable condition. Our consular staff have visited both Australians and we wish them a full and speedy recovery and hope they'll be home with their families very soon.
JOURNALIST This tragedy in Nice, this terror attack in Nice, has made it crystal clear that all in one needs now to create mass casualties, civilian casualties is basically ill intent and a truck. Does this signal to you a new phase, extended phase of the threat of ISIS?
JULIE BISHOP There have been a series of horrific attacks in Europe and elsewhere, and this was another mindless, barbarous act claimed by an individual, it would seem, although ISIL have now claimed responsibility however the prosecutors are yet to make a connection between this man known to French police for antisocial and violent behaviour, but French intelligence and other intelligence agencies had no connection with this man and radical Islam, radicalisation or terrorism. However, an investigation is underway, so it's too early to say whether or not he does have connections with radical Islam or terrorism in any way. Nevertheless, it is a reminder of the insidious nature of terrorist attacks and that's why we are focusing on defeating ISIL in the Middle East, and also taking whatever steps we can to keep Australians safe both at home and abroad.
JOURNALIST Well, on that front, our intelligence agencies have been telling us for a while it's not a matter of if, but when, there is another terror attack here, and a big terror attack here. How can our agencies stop this kind of under the radar lone wolf attack if it was to occur? What's the key to that?
JULIE BISHOP I have said on many occasions that Australia is not immune, cities in Australia are not immune. We have seen attacks across the world but we do have a number of advantages. We have very strong border protection laws and in practice we have some of the best intelligence agency, law enforcement agencies in the world, and we are coordinating very closely, particularly in our region, to thwart any form of terrorist attack. But we do rely on intelligence and cooperation with our own community, as well as communities abroad.
JOURNALIST Just on that front, Pauline Hanson, soon to be in the Senate. She says Islam is not compatible with the Australian way of life. Are you concerned, on her elevation to the Senate, about the impact of that kind of comment of anti-Muslim rhetoric, if you like, and that it plays into the Islamist narrative, that it might get in the way of that cooperation you are talking about?
JULIE BISHOP There will be a number of senators who hold very diverse and different views and views with which I would not agree. However, we have to work constructively with them. They are all duly elected members of the Senate and we have to work constructively with them. Some of the suggestions being made obviously go against the grain. I mean, some suggestions about banning mosques and the like, I would suggest would be unconstitutional, because freedom of religion is guaranteed in our Constitution. But that aside, we must work constructively to ensure that we have a cohesive society in Australia and a community that can come together and embrace difference and not to have divisions within communities.
JOURNALIST Are you worried that that is breaking down, that cohesion? I know you're meeting with the US Vice President Joe Biden later today. He is warning of the gathering forces of racism in Australia and America - do you share those concerns?
JULIE BISHOP There are a number of views expressed by people with which I disagree. I'm deeply troubled by some of the views of the Greens, some of their views about Israel and the United States, for example. But we have to work constructively with people and advocate our point of view and encourage people to embrace tolerance and understanding, and we are one of the most successful multicultural nations on earth and we should celebrate that fact.
JOURNALIST There were the terror attacks in Nice on Friday. 24 hours later there was a thwarted military coup in Turkey, 160 people killed, many civilians. There is always a lot of Australian tourists in Turkey, I guess there are at this time. Do you have any sense of if they are safe, can they leave the country, are you able to get out of Turkey at the moment?
JULIE BISHOP I have been in constant communication with our Ambassador in Ankara, James Larsen. In fact the Embassy is very close to where a lot of the military activity took place. James Larsen assures me that no Australians have been reported as being involved in any way. A number of Australians are at airports, particularly Istanbul Airport, seeking to leave. We have encouraged them to contact their travel agents, the airlines, and we have consular officials at those airports. I think the situation has now resolved. There is still some civil unrest in areas but the Government is back in control of the military element that I believe was thought to be responsible for this is attempted coup.
JOURNALIST Are you concerned about the schism between the military and the Government in Turkey, that it will diminish Turkey’s effectiveness in their fight against ISIS, maybe distract them from stopping ISIL militants from exiting?
JULIE BISHOP It is still early days to work out the motivations of the plotters of this attempted coup but it appears to be an element within the military. It's speculated that it's the Islamist Gulen movement, so it's not the military as a whole. Also, it doesn't appear to be a coup that was backed by Turkey's secular, political, military and civilian opposition. So it's a small element within the military, but at any time where a democratically elected Government is challenged by elements within the military, it's deeply concerning. Of course, we want to ensure that Turkey's focus is on countering terrorism, because of the role that it can play in the fight against ISIL, but I'm hoping there will be minimal disruption to the Government of Turkey. It is a democratically elected Government and Australia certainly supports the democratic institutions and democratic systems that have given rise to this democratically elected Government in Turkey.
JOURNALIST Let's talk about tensions in the South China Sea. China reacted pretty ferociously to your response to the decision in The Hague. Some analysts here say you should go further and our Government should authorise the Navy and Air Force to move within the 12 mile zone of some of those Chinese built installations. To send a message, not necessarily authorise it, but send a message. Do you agree?
JULIE BISHOP I have been consistent, open and frank about our views on the South China Sea. We are not a claimant, but we urge all parties, all claimants, to exercise restraint, abide by the rule of law and negotiate peacefully.
JOURNALIST Is our Navy and is Air Force, are they authorised?
JULIE BISHOP Fran, I must say I'm surprised that China would be surprised that I'm urging peace, restraint and abiding by international laws. What Australia will do is continue to exercise our right of freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight as we have always done. We have traversed the seas and skies of the South China Sea for decades and we'll continue to do what we have always done. We are not in the business of escalating tensions, doing anything provocative. We have made our position plain. I have been consistent, clear, open and frank about Australia's position on the South China Sea.
JOURNALIST Our Navy has the authority to move within that 12 mile zone, if it sees fit?
JULIE BISHOP Our Navy will do what it has always done and that is traverse the international waters under international law. We will not do anything that is provocative, that will escalate tensions. We are calling for calm, we are calling for the claimants to negotiate their claims peacefully.
JOURNALIST There is a lot of domestic news around too, but before I leave your particular policy area, today is the second anniversary of the downing of flight MH 17 over Ukraine. The families of those who were killed in that crash, are they any closer to getting justice? We still…there's been no blame, really, put anywhere yet, has there?
JULIE BISHOP It is a very poignant day, 17 July, and I remember it so well, two years ago, when this monstrous act occurred, with so many people killed, including 38 Australians, or people who called Australia home. We have maintained contact with the families to inform them of the process that's under way with the Joint Investigation Team. There are five nations involved in investigating how this occurred, why this occurred, who is responsible and there will be a final report due this year. I'm hoping that that report will indicate the names of those who are responsible for this atrocity and then we can decide what action we can take, collectively, but there's a great deal of support within those five nations to ensure that we hold those responsible accountable for this crime. We will do all we can, as a Government, to bring justice to the families of those who were killed aboard that flight.
JOURNALIST Minister, can I take you to domestic politics now, because your first party room meeting since the election is tomorrow. First things first, do you expect to be elected unopposed as the Deputy Liberal Leader?
JULIE BISHOP I never take anything for granted. I will put myself forward to be the Deputy of the Party. I have spoken to many of my colleagues and I'm encouraged by their support, so I'll certainly put myself forward.
JOURNALIST The conservatives are getting restless. I guess there will be a reshuffle; putting Tony Abbott back into the frontbench would be the ultimate reassurance, really, wouldn't it? Why wouldn't he be put back in the Cabinet?
JULIE BISHOP Tony Abbott is a former Prime Minister, a former long-serving Cabinet Minister…
JOURNALIST …Therefore presumably one of the best performers.
JULIE BISHOP …of course he has a contribution to make to the Government, but there are many ways that a contribution can be made. Prime Minister Turnbull has indicated that there will be minimal changes to the Cabinet and Ministry, because there had only recently been a new Cabinet and new Ministry before the election, and we did lose a couple of ministers but I don't expect there to be many changes, other than that is required to honour the agreement with the Nationals.
JOURNALIST So you don't necessarily support bringing Tony Abbott back.
JULIE BISHOP I don't believe the Prime Minister intends to make major changes to the Cabinet. It's working effectively, it’s working well, and he did say before the election that he expected to take that team to the election and that would be the Cabinet ministerial team after the election, subject to people winning their seats.
JOURNALIST Tensions are running pretty high already in your party room ahead of tomorrow's meeting. One unnamed MP has been quoted this week as saying the narrow victory means Malcolm Turnbull needs to kneel at the feet of the conservatives. Now obviously if he tries too hard to appease the conservatives he risks losing the middle ground. What should he do?
JULIE BISHOP I have spoken to many of our backbenchers, many of our colleagues since the election and that's not the sense I get at all. I think there is actually a unity of purpose. People were frustrated, some disappointed by the result, understandably, a number of very talented and good people including a number of female Members of Parliament lost seats. So of course there is disappointment. I also detect a great sense of getting on with governing in the interests of all Australians and that's what people are saying to me. Of course, there will be debates, there will be differences, there will be disagreements. It's a political party or political parties, the Liberals and the Nationals, but we are all focused on getting the best outcomes for Australia and Australians.
JOURNALIST If we can just stay with the campaign for a moment, it's been reported that Malcolm Turnbull donated $1 million in the final weeks of the campaign because the coffers were bare. Whose fault is that, the corporate donations dry up under Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull?
JULIE BISHOP I don't believe the coffers were or are bare. In fact our Federal Director has said that's not the case. I'm not surprised if Malcolm Turnbull did donate to the Liberal Party, he's certainly done it in the past. Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull are some of the most generous benefactors that I know and if the Liberal Party is one of their causes, well then I’m pleased to receive it.
JOURNALIST In the middle of the campaign? Would it be because he wanted a particular TV ad campaign or maybe some polling?
JULIE BISHOP That could well be the case but that's the Prime Minister's call, but he's donated to the Liberal Party in the past and I'm pleased that he does so.
JOURNALIST Would it be appropriate if the Prime Minister uses his own money because he wants to direct certain elements of the campaign?
JULIE BISHOP That's speculation, Fran. If the Prime Minister wishes to donate to the Liberal Party, I'm sure the Liberal Party will be delighted to receive it. We all have an obligation to raise money for the Party and I do, other ministers do, other backbenchers raise money for the party as much as we can. We don't have the automatic rivers of gold that come from a union movement.
JOURNALIST Plenty of your colleagues are angry about the superannuation changes and they have done nothing to hide that. You heard some of that anger, I'm pretty sure, when you were out during the campaign in the electorates, were you urging Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison to signal some changes?
JULIE BISHOP Fran, I always pass on the feedback I get from the public and from my my colleagues, that's the role of the Deputy Leader…
JOURNALIST Were you urging changes to be made?
JULIE BISHOP I understand that we have a budget problem, we need savings. I also understand that we needed to fix aspects of our superannuation system. It is meant to be for retirement income, not for tax minimisation, not for estate planning. We put together a package of measures in the budget, we took those measures to the election. We have a responsibility, indeed an obligation, to present those measures again in a legislative form. But there's a long process under way, as everybody knows. The Budget would then be translated into legislative measures, as appropriate, be taken to Cabinet, it would be taken to the party room, introduced into the Parliament, there would be debate in the House and the Senate. So there's a long way to go, but we have an obligation to put forward the superannuation changes which made savings and that's relevant to budget repair, and also to our AAA credit rating.
JOURNALIST Is there a backdown coming already? Can you confirm as reported that the Treasurer will ease up on the $500,000 lifetime cap on contributions, maybe exemptions for farming families, divorced couples, people who inherited deceased estates?
JULIE BISHOP I can confirm that the Treasurer and the Treasury will be drafting the legislation, but I obviously haven't seen it yet.
JOURNALIST So you not heard of those changes?
JULIE BISHOP I have not heard of those changes but the Treasurer will be drafting the legislation that will then be presented to the Cabinet, the party room, the House, the Senate.
JOURNALIST Minister, your party room is severely depleted, you lost 13 members and three senators, a good number of those were women. There’s been much written about this. There's only 13 women now left on your side in the House of Reps, the lowest level for 23 years. Sophie Mirabella, who did not get elected, says the Liberal Party needs an Emily's List kind of organisation, would you support that, it’s what Labor has?
JULIE BISHOP Fran, I was excited by the number of women who were pre-selected and I campaigned with very talented, skilled women throughout Australia for this campaign, but not all of them were elected. Had they been elected, had 30 women been elected we wouldn't be having this discussion.
JOURNALIST That's the key, it's all very well to pre-select them, it's where you pre-select them.
JULIE BISHOP No not necessarily. Fran, might I say there were some very talented women who were pre-selected in Teresa Harding and Freya Ostapovitch and Karen Howard and Pierette Kelly, across Australia and I campaigned with them. But you can't put a quota on the elector's choice, on the voter’s choice so...
JOURNALIST Isn't the answer to that simple - you put where there are safe seats up for grab, a seat for instance like McKellar, where Bronwyn Bishop was no longer standing, You put women into the safe seats then they will get elected?
JULIE BISHOP The safest Liberal seat is mine and I'm female so...
JOURNALIST That's taken, I understand.
JULIE BISHOP Currently [LAUGHTER]. But diversity can come in many ways. Of course, I want to see more women in Parliament and of course I'd like to see more women in the Liberal Party and I think there are a number of issues we can look at such as plebiscites to ensure that we get a broad cross-section of views and women will rise to the top that way, I think plebiscites are worth looking at. But diversity can come in many ways. We had candidates who are gay and they have been elected, we have candidates who are single mums and they were elected, we have candidates from a vast array of back grounds, life experiences, they are not all just cookie cutters out of the union movement. We have got people from a wide range of backgrounds.
JOURNALIST But you don't have women.
JULIE BISHOP We are working on it. I believe that it is an issue for us, but we will continue to ensure that women are not only pre-selected but elected and promoted, and I think the more women who take leadership roles in the Liberal Party that will mean more women will be inspired to make politics a career.
JOURNALIST Just finally, Minister, back to your own portfolio, Boris Johnson has been appointed the British Foreign Secretary. He's been called by some in Europe reckless, a liar, a coward. It's a pretty sensitive time in terms of Britain's relationships abroad. How would you describe Boris Johnson and what do you think of his appointment?
JULIE BISHOP I met him when he was the Lord Mayor of London and I was struck by his charm, his wit, his humour, but his intelligence. I would not under-estimate Boris Johnson. He's mischievous, he's very cheeky, he has got a real glint in his eye. I'm really looking forward to some of the Foreign Ministers’ meetings with Boris Johnson. But he also has a very solemn responsibility as Britain's Foreign Secretary, and I'm sure he will fulfil that with great intelligence and dedication. There is so much at stake, there are so many significant issues for the international community to grapple with, so many challenges, but I feel sure that Boris Johnson will make a significant contribution.
JOURNALIST Julie Bishop, thank you very much for joining us.
JULIE BISHOP It has been my pleasure.
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