JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop is the Foreign Minister in Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition Federal Government. She is also Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and has been for a number of different leaders in her time, I might say. Julie Bishop, welcome back to Melbourne.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, good to be with you.
JOURNALIST: I will be running a Cup sweep throughout the course of today and each guest will be asked to pick a horse or two but we’ll come to that in a moment. First up, is Pauline Hanson calling the shots now for the Liberal Party on immigration policy?
JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely not. The announcement the Prime Minister made in relation to changes to the Migration Act is one of the final steps that we have to take to clean up the mess that we inherited from Labor when they abandoned the Howard Government strong border protection policies, and we saw 50,000 people try to come to Australia, 1200 deaths at sea, an $11 billion blow out in our border protection costs, and detention centres set up across Australia and in PNG and Nauru. So what we have now done is ensured that all 2000 children that were in detention are now out of detention…
JOURNALIST: Even though at the time you said…
JULIE BISHOP: …hang on, we’ve closed 17 detention centres and this final piece is to send a very powerful message to the criminal people smuggling syndicates that they cannot market an illegal pathway to Australia.
JOURNALIST: You are trying to shut what’s called the ‘backdoor’ to Australia in preparation for what seems to be some sort of a resettlement deal with the United States, Sky News are reporting this morning, can you confirm that?
JULIE BISHOP: We have constantly been looking for resettlement options and, no I’m not confirming which countries, but we are talking with a number of countries about resettlement options and that will mean…
JOURNALIST: Is the United States one of them?
JULIE BISHOP: The United States is one of a number of countries that take resettlement from places like Manus and Nauru but I’m not in a position to confirm or deny which countries are involved because that is…
JOURNALIST: We’re taking people from Costa Rica and Central America who have been stranded there, some of them for years; they’re going to take the people from Manus and Nauru, that’s the swap.
JULIE BISHOP: That is not my understanding. That is not my understanding at all, but we are working with a number of countries, particularly countries who are part of the Bali Process, and there are 50 countries involved in the Bali Process. Source countries, transit countries and destination countries, all working together to resettle those who have been found to be refugees, and those who are found not to be afforded protection then they should return home.
JOURNALIST: What part of our international treaties do we opt out of? What part of international treaties…we’re cherry picking. What part of international treaties do we say don’t apply to us? How do you do that?
JULIE BISHOP: That is not what we’ve said at all and we have had advice that we are abiding by our international obligations.
JOURNALIST: Our international obligations are to assist with the resettlement of people who have a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of race discrimination based on their religion or whatever else it might be under the UN Treaty Convention. To say, ‘oh but if you came here or tried to come here by boat the Convention doesn’t apply’, how can that be complying with our international obligations?
JULIE BISHOP: There are people on Nauru who are living in Nauru as a result of being found to be refugees, about 300 are living in Nauru in an open and free society…
JULIE BISHOP: Yes. There are others who are seeking to be resettled in third countries, those who are not refugees are encouraged to go home. In Manus they can, if they are found to be genuine refugees, live in Papua New Guinea; if they are not found to be refugees, they should go home and Australia is assisting them in travelling back to their home country. What is happening…
JOURNALIST: All of that is interesting; it doesn’t deal with my question. My question is how do you cherry pick an international treaty obligation?
JULIE BISHOP: We are meeting our international treaty obligations. What is happening…
JOURNALIST: Not if they’ve come by boat seeking asylum.
JULIE BISHOP: What is happening is that there are so called refugee advocates who are giving false hope to people that they can come and resettle in Australia, that immediately…
JOURNALIST: That’s what advocates do, they’re advocates. You are an advocate, that’s what you do, you put the best case you can for your client.
JULIE BISHOP: …that would immediately start up the criminal people smuggling trades and you know that that leads to deaths at sea. We know of 1200 people who died at sea, there are others that would have died at sea – we don’t have the details but there are boats that disappeared between Sri Lanka and Australia and elsewhere – and on our watch we will not be part of a government that supports the people smuggling trade to lure people to their deaths.
JOURNALIST: Are you embarrassed at Andrew Robb using what effectively is inside information as a Cabinet Minister for such a now, presumably, lucrative post-political career? He’s accepted an advisory role with Landbridge Group who, amongst other assets, control the Darwin Port.
JULIE BISHOP: I reject that absolutely. The Federal Government had nothing to do with the sale of or the lease of Darwin Port, that was a matter for the Northern Territory…
JOURNALIST: I didn’t say they did. He’s using the information he’s obtained around the Cabinet table…
JULIE BISHOP: What information has he obtained? You are making an assertion not backed up by facts.
JOURNALIST: He was the Trade Minister; he negotiated the Free Trade Agreement with the Chinese leadership, now he’s taking on advisory roles with key Chinese companies dealing back with Australia.
JULIE BISHOP: There is a Ministerial Code of Conduct. Andrew Robb has said he is aware of the Code of Conduct and he will abide by it, and that provides constraints and restrictions on what Cabinet Ministers can do in their post-political life. But we shouldn’t get into a situation where a former Trade Minister is not allowed to take up post-parliamentary careers…
JOURNALIST: Why not?
JULIE BISHOP: What, so that…
JOURNALIST: Using the same information. Are you intending…post-politics would you go into a career where you use the intellectual property, so to speak, of being a senior minister?
JULIE BISHOP: He’s not using the same information. I would not use any information that I obtained in my position as a Cabinet Minister that was confidential to the Cabinet. But if something is in the public domain, well it is a nonsense to suggest that he can’t be a director of a company. Andrew has said he is aware of the Ministerial Code of Conduct and he’ll abide by it.
JOURNALIST: Are the employees of Crown, and I think you have now confirmed yesterday on Insiders there’s a fourth Australian who’s now in detention, are they getting special treatment because they work for the Packer organisation? They work for Crown?
JULIE BISHOP: Special treatment by whom?
JOURNALIST: By the Australian Government.
JULIE BISHOP: No they are receiving the same level of consular support as any Australian in trouble overseas. I spend a great deal of my time working on consular cases. Not all of them – in fact, few of them – make the media but we provide a level of consular support. Our consular staff seek to visit them under the terms of a consular agreement that applies to all Australians who would be detained in China. They are all subject to the same consular agreement between Australia and China.
JOURNALIST: Have you taken any advice about advising other Australian companies that might be tempted to skirt around the edges of the new anticorruption laws in China? A country notorious for corruption in the past but the current government are determined to try and stamp it out.
JULIE BISHOP: Australian companies often seek advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, particularly from the trade side, about doing business in China.
JOURNALIST: Particularly though about corruption. Is there any communique between the Australian and Chinese Government about guidance for Australian companies? What may have been a nod and a wink and something you got away with in the past will get you into trouble now.
JULIE BISHOP: Not a guidance between the Australian Government and the Chinese Government but of course we are well aware of President Xi Jinping’s campaign on anticorruption, particularly targeting government officials.
JOURNALIST: It’s clearly, as former ANZ boss Mike Smith said in an interview on the weekend, the landscape in China is dramatically different suddenly, perilously, dangerously different to how it was even a few years ago.
JULIE BISHOP: Well in terms of being “dangerously different”, President Xi Jinping has made it quite clear that he is on an anticorruption campaign and has targeted a number of individuals including government officials, and the Australian Government is aware of that. It’s public information, but companies do seek our advice from time to time about doing business in China and elsewhere, and our message of course is to know the landscape – political, economic, social – and try and work within the constraints of the laws and the regulations and the restrictions that apply from time to time.
JOURNALIST: Trouble is they keep changing.
JULIE BISHOP: So it is a matter of being constantly aware and doing one’s due diligence on a constant basis.
JOURNALIST: Seventeen minutes, sixteen minutes to nine really now. Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, my guest in the studio this morning. It seems there are war crimes being committed at the moment, many of them, in the country that used to function as Syria. The latest news, the reports on the weekend of human shields being used by ISIS, Daesh, call them what you will, fighters suggest that maybe the West and countries like Australia need to be doing more.
JULIE BISHOP: That is another example of the appalling behaviour of this terrorist organisation. They have no regard for human life, no regard for governments, for borders; they are utterly amoral, and we have seen it in Syria and in Iraq. That’s why Australia is part of the Coalition to protect Iraqi people from Daesh or ISIL and the collective self-defence of Iraq includes taking part in the airstrikes over Syria…
JOURNALIST: Should we be doing more though, with this latest news?
JULIE BISHOP: The challenge in Syria is that the United States is leading a Coalition; Russia, Iran are also involved backing the Assad regime. I do not see a military solution in Syria. While ever the Assad regime believes that it can win militarily over the opposition forces and the opposition believes it can win militarily over the Assad regime, the humanitarian crisis will continue, the conflict will continue. What we need to do is find solutions – political solutions, humanitarian solutions – and hope that the ceasefire, that from time to time is in place, can hold.
JOURNALIST: It’s almost…I was in tears watching the television news the other day, kids being carried out of hospitals and schools, utterly innocent victims caught not just in the crossfire but even maybe being deliberately targeted, depending on whose news report you believe.
JULIE BISHOP: It is truly appalling; it is one of the most appalling humanitarian crises we have seen…
JOURNALIST: So how do we sit by and, even though you’ve described what we’re doing now, it’s clearly not enough to keep these people from harm. Should we be doing more?
JULIE BISHOP: We’re not sitting by. I’ve attended a number of International Syria Support Group meetings where the parties around the table have sought to find solutions: ceasefires, safe havens…
JOURNALIST: Which last a day at the most.
JULIE BISHOP: Well that’s my point. While ever both sides think that they can win, they will break the ceasefire, they will not abide by the requirements of the United Nations, they will not respond to entreaties that this conflict end. And while the two sides are warring, of course ISIL, the terrorist organisation, is taking land in Syria, although the Coalition is making ground against ISIL in Iraq. The Mosul Offensive is in its fourteenth day. So in Iraq the Iraqi security forces are fighting back, they are seeking to liberate the city of Mosul and while that in itself will have humanitarian consequences, the Coalition and the Iraqi Government have bene planning to support those who will be leaving Mosul as a result of the Offensive.
JOURNALIST: Is Julian Assange being fed material by the Russians?
JULIE BISHOP: It is hard to know what Julian Assange’s motives are. He seems to release material without any regard for its consequences and that is deeply concerning. This is not an issue about whether he is a whistle blower or not, this is about releasing information that has the potential to do great harm without any regard for its consequences.
JOURNALIST: Does the Australian Government have any information whatsoever about the latest developments in his ongoing exile in the Embassy in London?
JULIE BISHOP: If I had such information I wouldn’t be in a position to share it with you.
JOURNALIST: Oh it’s a world of intrigue within intrigue. Speaking of which, the Senate and the activities of your colleague the Attorney General, Senator Brandis, have exercised a lot of us over the last week or two. You used to be a senior lawyer in Perth, how do you feel if your request for advice, legal advice as the Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader of the Party has to be approved by someone who is junior to you in the Cabinet and in the Party before you can get advice from the Solicitor General?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t see it that way at all, I see it as an appropriate management of a very complex situation when many different departments, different Ministers are seeking legal advice and there has to be a management system in place to ensure that there is not duplication, there are not people acting at cross purposes…
JOURNALIST: Well you would have managed a busy practice, you did manage a busy practice. I’m sure Justin Gleeson could have managed a busy practice without George Brandis telling him what to do.
JULIE BISHOP: I didn’t manage a practice the size of the Australian Government, and I think it was an appropriate requirement that the Attorney General be notified that we were seeking advice. I didn’t see it as seeking his approval, I saw it as notifying what was going on and I think that was a very sensible thing to do.
JOURNALIST: A couple of other quick things if we may, I’ll get to you tip for the Cup as well and I’m running a sweep here, I’ve got the sweep cards from the newspaper and…
JULIE BISHOP: You’re very organised!
JOURNALIST: Oh look, it’s not that hard actually quite frankly, Minister, it’s not that hard. [Laughter]
JULIE BISHOP: You’re organising a sweep in the ABC, I’m impressed.
JOURNALIST: We’re agile and nimble in here as well, I might say. You mentioned that Melbourne during Cup Week is a great networking opportunity, is Tony Abbott going to be at the races working the room as well as all the rest of the movers and shakers?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m not sure, I haven’t spoken to Tony for a couple of days so I’m not sure where he is, but if he’s at Melbourne Cup that would be great.
JOURNALIST: Is he still networking furiously?
JULIE BISHOP: Tony is the Member for Warringah. As a Member of Parliament we all maintain contacts with friends, associates, voters, the public. He’s a former Prime Minister of the country, I’m sure people seek him out as well.
JOURNALIST: I’m sure they do, for what sort of advice though? Advice about a revival of his fortunes perhaps?
JULIE BISHOP: You’re just trying to be cheeky now, aren’t you, you’re just trying to stir me up. I am sure the former Prime Minister is very much in demand in his electorate of Warringah.
JOURNALIST: Fullstop? That’s where he should stay?
JULIE BISHOP: Well he is the Member for Warringah, we are all focused on ensuring that our electorates receive the best possible support and advice from their local Member of Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Are you an enthusiast for horses or just when it comes to the Cup and the party attached to it?
JULIE BISHOP: Mildly enthusiastic but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert.
JOURNALIST: But you’re very good at networking so you’re very good at getting other people’s inside information on what’s going on.
JULIE BISHOP: You make that sound sinister!
JOURNALIST: You get to go first, Julie Bishop, on the Cup sweep…
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.
JOURNALIST: And rather than drawing out of a hat you can choose. What’s your tip?
JULIE BISHOP: Well can I have one each way?
JULIE BISHOP: Jameka and Assign.
JULIE BISHOP: Jameka.
JULIE BISHOP: Now I’m told that they wanted to call the horse ‘Serena Williams’ and they couldn’t, so they called her by her middle name Jameka.
JULIE BISHOP: And then Assign has a female jockey and I thought we might be able to do another Michelle Payne.
JOURNALIST: Ok, alright, alright. Well strike a blow there. Julie Bishop, thank you very much. Enjoy Melbourne on what hopefully, well the weather won’t get too much in the way if you’re indoors but if you do go wandering around the marquees I hope your hat doesn’t get blown off.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Jon for your concern.
JOURNALIST: Oh deep concern about the hat! Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, thank you indeed for joining us this morning. We’ve covered a lot of ground and I’ve got you down for Jameka and Assign and we’ll see who is the best tipster amongst the guests on the radio this morning.
JULIE BISHOP: Good to be with you.
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