JULIE BISHOP: Good morning. I take this opportunity to congratulate Rex Tillerson, who has just been confirmed as the Secretary of State for the United States in the new Trump Administration. As the United States is a significant economic and security partner for Australia, I am certainly looking forward to working with Secretary of State Tillerson and hope to be able to meet with him as soon as possible, in Australia as part of the annual Australia-US Ministerial Meeting.
I have this morning spoken about a number of challenges facing the world in 2017, and particularly focused on the benefits of the free trade agreements that we have concluded with China, Japan, Korea and the work that we are doing to ensure that there are more markets around the world receiving Australian goods and services. These are some of the matters that I anticipate I will be discussing with Secretary of State Tillerson as soon as we are able to meet.
JOURNALIST: Will you be calling him before you are able to meet him in person?
JULIE BISHOP: I certainly plan to do so.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns about his ties to Putin and through the oil deals that he’s managed to negotiate?
JULIE BISHOP: I think that we will witness a new era in US-Russia relations and if there can be some positive outcomes through connections that Secretary of State Tillerson has with members of the Russian Government, then that may well be to our advantage. There are a number of challenges around the world involving Russia - in the Middle East and Syria in particular, and also in Ukraine - and if there is able to be a level of engagement that leads to positive outcomes, then that should be welcomed.
JOURNALIST: Minister, how do you explain the apparent confusion coming from the White House yesterday over President Trump’s approach to Australia’s refugee resettlement deal?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t believe there is any confusion at the official level. We have certainly received an assurance that the agreement remains in place.
JOURNALIST: Will anyone on Manus or Nauru be resettled within the 90 day period covered by the President’s executive order?
JULIE BISHOP: The details of the agreement are still being worked through, as they were under the Obama Administration, but I am pleased to say that the White House confirmed that the agreement remains in place.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken recently to any of the officials in the Trump Administration about the confusion overnight?
JULIE BISHOP: Well I would like some clarification as to what you think the confusion is. I am dealing with the official statements of the White House. I am not dealing with unofficial calls from unnamed people. I am dealing with the official representations and statements from the White House.
JOURNALIST: But they seem to be somewhat at odds from what the Prime Minister had spoken to President Trump about?
JULIE BISHOP: There is no difference between the statement President Trump gave to the Prime Minister and the assurance that the deal remains on foot, and the official statement from the White House.
JOURNALIST: There also seems to be some confusion about the exemptions that Australia secured on dual nationals. There were some reports yesterday that there were no exemptions at all. Could you clarify whether or not…?
JULIE BISHOP: I said a few days ago, in fact when I was in the United States, that if any country was receiving preferential treatment under the executive order, then Australia would pursue that same treatment. My understanding is that Australian citizens will not be affected by the executive order.
JOURNALIST: Minister, how much of your own money have you contributed to the Liberal Party for campaigning?
JULIE BISHOP: Whatever money I contribute would be disclosed in the appropriate way, but my efforts have been in raising funds from individuals and corporations who believe in the Liberal Party and who donate through my campaign account which is audited and available for review under the Electoral Act.
JOURNALIST: Labor is saying that Malcolm Turnbull "bought the election” with his $1.75 million donation. Do you think it is healthy for democracy that he is funding the Party so heavily?
JULIE BISHOP: Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy made a personal donation to the Liberal Party and they have disclosed it 12 months in advance of the legal requirements and the fact that the Turnbulls are successful business people, should not come as any surprise to anyone. I welcome the fact that our Prime Minister is prepared to invest his own money in causes in which he believes and that includes the Liberal Party.
Bill Shorten should be answering questions about the millions of dollars that the unions funnel into the Labor Party – in return for what? This is the same Mr Shorten who forgot a donation to him of $40,000. So Malcolm Turnbull has been absolutely forthright and up front about a donation that he made and I am proud of the fact that I have a Prime Minister who is able to invest causes in which he believes.
JOURNALIST: He wasn’t initially keen to reveal that figure though, was he?
JULIE BISHOP: Well the requirements of the Act is that they would be revealed at a particular time and he was being asked to talk about his donations to the Liberal Party 12 months earlier than any other donor. So he was respecting the law, but good on him for saying that he's invested in the Liberal Party and the principles and values and beliefs that underpin our Party.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about the Middle East conflict? Israel has just announced that there will be 300 new homes in the West Bank and also brand-new settlement in the West Bank. What does that say about the two-state solution given that perhaps it might not be (inaudible)?
JULIE BISHOP: Our concern is that both sides, the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, recommence negotiations for a settlement. We believe that until both sides sit down and negotiate an outcome, the tensions will continue. That is why we urge for both sides to recommence negotiations for a two-state solution.
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