JOURNALIST I’m joined by Julie Bishop here in the Canberra studio. A lot to talk about. First of all, what’s the latest on Turkey, your advice?
JULIE BISHOP I spoke to Foreign Minister Cavusoglu last evening and he confirmed to me that the Turkish Government are in control of the country, that the coup failed, the attempted coup did fail. They are currently looking to arrest those that they believe were involved in this attempted coup. They are treating the plotters and those involved as terrorists and this as a terrorist incident and it is all part of their overall fight against terrorism. That was the way he portrayed it to me. He did reiterate their determination to fight against terrorism more broadly, because of course Turkey is an important partner in our fight against ISIL or Daesh. He spoke about the attacks on the Parliament and he thanked Australia and other countries for their support for Turkey’s democratic institutions and systems, and of course its democratically elected government.
JOURNALIST What do you say to the suggestion that this is about the President actually staging this in order to provide cover to purge his opponents?
JULIE BISHOP Well of course the Foreign Minister denies such a suggestion. It is interesting to note that Turkey’s secular, political, military and civilian opposition were opposed to the coup – they might be opposed to President Erdogan but they were also opposed to the coup. So it is a very complex, multi-layered situation. The Gulenist movement, which is an Islamist movement and it has a presence within the military, is being blamed for the coup and the self-imposed exile on the Gulenist leader – he’s living in the United States – is also a complicating factor in this whole situation. Our advice to Australians who are in Turkey is for them to reconsider their need to travel to Ankara or Istanbul…
JOURNALIST It’s that fragile?
JULIE BISHOP It is indeed, and, to exercise a very high degree of caution if they are in Turkey more generally.
JOURNALIST And now to the attack in Nice, it is just a reminder to our Government, and governments around the world, how hard it is to prevent mass slaughter like this.
JULIE BISHOP There are so many different forms of terrorist attacks. On each occasion we learn something more about the thinking, the motivation, the possibilities behind these kinds of attacks. We do all we can to ensure that our security and law enforcement and intelligent agencies have the resources they need, the legislative power they need to try and keep Australians as safe as possible, whether at home or abroad. But these are very challenging times and, as we can see from what happened in Nice, it can be quite unexpected. Even though the country is in a State of Emergency as a result of the November attacks last year, a horrific situation like this can still unfold in a tourist destination like Nice.
JOURNALIST Just a nightmare. And what’s the French Government advising you at the moment? Because as you say, they are in a state of emergency, security is high right across that country and yet soft targets like this, we’ve seen them targeted.
JULIE BISHOP The French Government were feeling that they had got through the summer season, the Euro 16 football, the Bastille Day celebrations, and there was a view that the State of Emergency could lapse at the end of July, but of course this horrific incident has now meant that the State of Emergency has been extended. That means that about an additional 10,000 French military and police are on the streets in Paris and in cities and towns around France. So it’s a very tense situation and we are urging Australians to exercise a high degree of caution if they are in France.
JOURNALIST Let’s look at some other issues now and I know that Joe Biden, the US Vice President, is in town. You spent time with him at the weekend and are also going to be holding talks with him later in the week. One of the issues very high on the agenda at the moment is the South China Sea off the back of The Hague arbitration last week. Now China, there was a delegation just in Canberra late last week of which a few journalists were invited, I was there and this delegation warned that it would be a grave mistake if Australia were to join the US in freedom of navigation exercises, that it would be dangerous and a grave mistake is the way that this delegation put it at the Chinese Embassy on Friday.
JULIE BISHOP The Chinese delegation, and China more generally, should understand that Australia will continue to exercise our right to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight in accordance with international law. We have said that consistently and that’s what we have done over the decades. We are not suggesting we’ll do anything differently, we’re not being provocative. We are the ones calling for peace, calling for negotiations over different claims to be carried out peacefully, and we are calling for a commitment and a respect for international law. So that shouldn’t come as a surprise to China. That’s been our consistent position. We may disagree over the implications of The Hague ruling but Australia is calling for peaceful negotiations, a de-escalation of tensions, calling for no provocative, unilateral acts and for all parties to abide by international law, as Australia would.
JOURNALIST Would you then encourage the US as an ally not to carry out a navigation exercise within 12 nautical miles of Chinese territory right now given how sensitive our situation is?
JULIE BISHOP We respect the right of all countries to carry out their freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight as they see fit. Australia will continue to do what we have always done but that means continuing to traverse the seas and the skies in the South China Sea. It’s an important trade route for us, it’s an area of great importance to Australia. We are not a claimant, we don’t take sides in the claims, that’s a matter for negotiation and that’s what we urge the Chinese and other claimants to do, negotiate their different maritime claims. But we now have a decision that sets out with great clarity the international law applicable to the South China Sea…
JOURNALIST The Chinese don’t accept it, they don’t accept that ruling, they say it’s flawed and a farce.
JULIE BISHOP We have said from the outset that the ruling is final and binding on all parties, that was before we knew what the result would be. We believe that an arbitration ruling such as this is binding on the parties.
JOURNALIST Let’s wrap up with a couple of other questions, one on Trump. Joe Hockey’s just arrived in Cleveland at the Republican Convention. Reports this morning in the Financial Review suggesting that Mr Hockey is going to be, and other officials, targeting those close to Trump to try and build some relationships there because he could well win.
JULIE BISHOP Well of course we have been following the United States Presidential Election very closely. I had a very interesting discussion with Vice President Biden about the Presidential Election yesterday, and I hope to continue to have a discussion when I see him tomorrow…
JOURNALIST Is he worried about Trump? He must be.
JULIE BISHOP He had some interesting observations to make but, being a Democrat, he is very confident that Hillary Clinton will win but it was an interesting perspective from him. Ambassador Hockey is in Cleveland at the Republican Convention to meet the important advisers, the people around the Trump camp. Of course it’s a democracy, they are having a vote for the President in November, there are likely to be two contenders – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. So it is in Australia’s interests for us to get to know the people behind the candidates, those who will be advising them, those who will be providing support to them.
JOURNALIST And my last question on domestic policy. We know the Prime Minister’s going to announce the new frontbench today, also a compromise with members of your party on superannuation. Is it in important though that he doesn’t capitulate entirely on this, from the fact that you just took this policy to the people two and a bit weeks ago?
JULIE BISHOP We will be presenting our superannuation changes to the Cabinet, to the party room, then to the House and the Senate. That’s the usual procedure. We have an obligation to take to the House the Budget measures that we introduced prior to the election. We campaigned on those measures, but of course they do have a process to go through the Cabinet. The legislation has to be drafted for a start, then the legislation will have to be taken to the Cabinet, to the party room, introduced to the House where there will be debate, then into the Senate for review.
JOURNALIST Kevin Rudd for the UN Secretary General – will you support that?
JULIE BISHOP Well Kevin Rudd has requested that the Australian Government nominate him and as the Prime Minister has indicated on a number of occasions that will be a matter for the Cabinet.
JOURNALIST And likely?
JULIE BISHOP Well I’ll certainly put the matter forward. It will be a matter for the Cabinet.
JOURNALIST Minister, thanks.
JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.
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