JOURNALIST: I was able to get just a couple of minutes with the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who is very busy this morning obviously. I recorded the interview. I started by making the point to her that the world seemed to be nervous, and it does, the world is very nervous because of all the uncertainties and my basic question to the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – should the world be nervous?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t believe so. I see this as an opportunity to re-energise US leadership in a number of areas. I am certainly taking the opportunity to engage as positively and constructively with the new Administration. We’re working with the transition team currently and when we know who the senior leadership figures will be in President Trump’s Administration, we will engage very closely with them. We see it as an opportunity.
JOURNALIST: But some strange things have been said on the campaign trails, some of your own Cabinet colleagues have been very critical of Donald Trump. A former leader John Howard said he trembled at the prospect. Why will it be ok? What’s the real Donald Trump?
JULIE BISHOP: I have maintained consistently that the Australian Government would work constructively with whomever the American people chose as their President and that’s why we’ve been so deeply engaged with the Trump and the Clinton transition and campaign teams because as soon as Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, he was a competitive candidate and that’s the approach that I’ve taken.
We have been following his pronouncements and speeches and statements very closely. We’ve been analysing them to see what impact it would have and we’re also seeing the opportunities for Australia to help shape US policy. They are looking for ideas, they are looking for ways to deliver on some of their domestic and foreign policies and I think Australia is in a unique position to assist the US Administration going forward.
JOURNALIST: Do you think they will listen to us?
JULIE BISHOP: We have a very good working relationship with the Republican Party of course, and our connection with the Republican Party goes back a very long time and is very deep. We’ve also been making contacts with the people around Donald Trump and so we’ve been working very hard, assiduously in fact. In the event that there was a Trump election we would be well positioned, exquisitely positioned, to take advantage of it.
JOURNALIST: Look I know we have to work with them, obviously we want to work with whoever’s in power – that’s part of what happens in international relations but there must be some policies there, well such as there are, that you are concerned about – the tariffs on China – that sort of thing, our own trade policies. You must be concerned about those?
JULIE BISHOP: There are matters we clearly don’t agree with the statements that have been made – trade is one, and some of the other statements about the region -but Donald Trump made it quite clear he’s a negotiator, and that everything’s negotiable. I take that at face value and we will work very hard to advise , inform of the strategic interests of the United States has in our region, the longstanding alliances and partnerships that have worked so well for our region. It’s incumbent upon the Australian Government, on the Prime Minister and me as Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister and others to ensure that we work closely with the administration and seek to shape policies that are in our national interest but also in the interest in our region and globally.
JOURNALIST: He has been very clear on his trade partnerships though, he doesn’t like them – can he just turn his back on us?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, we have a very longstanding free trade agreement with the United States and that has been a great benefit to Australia and as it happens we run a trade deficit with the United States, they run a trade surplus, so I can’t envisage a situation where they would seek to renegotiate the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
The Trans Pacific Partnership was opposed by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in its current form - so either candidate as President would have opposed that deal. Donald Trump hasn’t said he is against trade deals but he’s more of a bilateralist, he’s more likely to enter into one-on-one trade deals where he can negotiate what he believes will be a better outcome for American jobs and American industry.
JOURNALIST: We saw a very inclusive speech last night and nothing like the rhetoric we saw on the campaign trail – which is the real Trump?
JULIE BISHOP: It has been by the candidates own admission a very divisive, bloody, bruising campaign and quite bitter but I think we saw some very positive signs in both Donald Trump’s victory speech and Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. They both vowed to bring America together and Donald Trump has said he is going to govern for all Americans. President Obama who is still the President until midday of 20 January has offered a seamless transition and so there is a respect for the vote of the American people and the outcome. I think that all is well for the next few months and hopefully for the rest of this Presidency.
JOURNALIST: When would you expect to have your first meetings, or Australia, whether it’s the Prime Minister or yourself?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m hoping that the Prime Minister will have an opportunity to talk by telephone with the President-elect. Their focus will be on putting together the administration, there are about 4000 political appointments to be made and a number of them have to be approved by the Senate - about 1000 of them can be approved by the Senate - the others the Trump team will have to put together now, so that will be their focus.
During the lame duck period it is unlikely that the President-elect would meet with other world leaders because President Obama still has full executive and constitutional authority as a President. It would not be in accordance with precedence for the President-elect to meet world leaders but I’m sure there will be many phone conversations between President-elect Trump and world leaders including Prime Minister Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: I know you haven’t got long, but just quickly, finally, and this is being said around the world – is the world a less safe place today? Is there a greater security threat? Or will be when Trump takes over?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t believe we can make that assumption. Donald Trump has promised to increase US military spending, increase the defence budget, increase the size of the US military. He’s also determined to crush, defeat ISIL in the Middle East and so these are matters that align with our interests and that’s why we are going to work so closely with the United States to ensure that we can continue to pursue matters that are of interest and concern to us.
JOURNALIST: But he’s also talked about the possibility of nuclear weapons for both South Korea and Japan?
JULIE BISHOP: Well Japan is committed to nuclear non-proliferation and constitutionally I don’t think that we’ll see any change in Japanese nuclear policy but what is said in the campaign has yet to be articulated into actual policy and so we will be working with the administration hopefully to influence as much as we can that policy.
JOURNALIST: Just finally, a lot was made of his attitude to women through this campaign, is it time to move on from that?
JULIE BISHOP: I believe that the American people have made their decision. It’s not helpful for us to enter into personal or offensive commentary about the President.
We have to work closely with this new President, the new administration, because it’s in Australia’s interests for us to do so.
JOURNALIST: Thank you very much for your time.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
JOURNALIST: The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in our Canberra studio.
- Ends -
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555