PETER VAN ONSELEN: Thanks very much for
your time I know it’s been a busy day and it will be a busy evening as well.
Two elements, two key elements I suppose to the Prime Minister of Japan’s
visit, one economic, the other the defence idea of the treaty and that space –
that’s the more controversial of the two, there hasn’t been as much focus on it.
JULIE BISHOP: Except that Japan and Australia have been long
term strategic partners and this is a natural consequence of the deepening of
our relationship. Yes the economic focus was all on the signing of the Free
Trade Agreement and that will bring huge benefits to Australian exporters and
manufacturers and service providers because over 97 per cent of our exports will
get preferential treatment or duty-free treatment, zero tariffs into Japan, but
there’s also the deepening of our defence ties and that was a highlight of the
visit of Prime Minister Abe as well.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Can we just focus on
that to start with and then maybe move to the economic after that? You wouldn’t
have had a chance to hear it but on Stan Grant’s program before mine Professor
Hugh White was being interviewed and he completely agreed with what Tony Abbott
had had to say about it being about time after 70 years that Japan be allowed to
free up its defence arrangements but he didn’t think that the next step of us
being involved in the framework that they’re looking to put in place was
necessary for Australia simply because of our relationship with China and I
guess our slight geographical removal from that East Asian area. What’s your
view on that?
JULIE BISHOP: Well I disagree to this extent – the South
China and East China Seas are extremely important for Australian trade. We have
a deep vested interest in peace and stability and security in that region. Over
50 per cent of our exports are to North Asia and so we want to ensure that
there’s freedom of navigation, open peaceful seas and so we have an interest in
I also think it’s important for Australia to engage more deeply with Japan
and with China. We do joint military exercises with both. Japan and Australia
are strong allies of the United States so we think that greater engagement in
defence terms is important for maintaining peace and stability in the region.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Obviously the links or
relations between China and Japan are not great at the moment – they haven’t
really been for quite some time. How does Australia balance its obvious attempt
to have good relations with both? Good relations as you’ve just mentioned to
some extent in that defence base, but particularly obviously in that economics
JULIE BISHOP: Well regional security is not a zero sum game.
We believe that it’s important for all of the stakeholders in our part of the
world to remain engaged, to consult, to work through the regional architecture,
particularly the East Asia Summit that Australia joined under the Howard
Government. That has the right membership, the right mandate, including China,
the US, the ASEAN countries to be a real forum for debate and discussion on
strategic and economic issues and so we have been encouraging all of the members
of the East Asia Summit to remain engaged to continue to consult.
And that’s how Australia has always balanced the competing demands of various
countries, not only the United States and China, but also the other ASEAN
countries – Korea, Japan. We aren’t a threat. We want to be friends with
everybody and we of course have our deep national interest in the region because
that’s where most of our trade is done.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: The focus obviously
with Prime Minister Abe in Australia is on Japan but something else that’s in
the mix I suppose is the Free Trade Agreement, or the possibility of a Free
Trade Agreement, with China. We’ve had the one with Japan signed off on, the
government is hopeful by the end of the year of making it happen with China but
it is more complicated. How likely is that looking in your view?
JULIE BISHOP: Peter, at the last election we took a policy
to the Australian people that we would seek to conclude Free Trade Agreements
with South Korea, Japan and China and the Prime Minister said that he hoped we’d
be able to do it within 12 months. Well we’ve concluded the Free Trade Agreement
with South Korea, we’ve now signed today the Free Trade Agreement with Japan
which will now go through the usual parliamentary process of going to the Joint
Standing Committee on Treaties and we are advanced in our negotiations with
China. We’re determined to conclude all three agreements, hopefully this year,
because it’s unquestionably good for the Australian economy. It grows our
economy, it provides job opportunities, it’s new and enhanced markets as well as
existing markets and it’s also new sources of capital so it’s good news for the
Australian economy for us to conclude these free trade agreements and I’m very
optimistic that we will conclude a Free Trade Agreement with China.
And what I thought was interesting today about Prime Minister Abe’s comments
in the House of Representatives when he addressed the joint sitting - he linked
the Free Trade Agreement with Australia with the Trans Pacific Partnership that
involves the United States and 11 other countries and the RCEP which is the
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that involves China and ASEAN and
their free trade partners. He linked them all together and said that this would
realise the aspirations of an Asia Pacific Free Trade Zone and I thought that
that was very promising.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: If we could just move
on to other issues before we run out of time. You are obviously the Foreign
Minister but in your pre-Parliamentary career you were a very senior lawyer at
Clayton Utz. Today we’ve seen the High Court take a bit of a look at what’s been
going on in the high seas in relation to the idea of asylum seekers being sent
back to Sri Lanka. Now we don’t know the exact details of what’s going on
because the Government, as part of its operation Sovereign Borders, maintains a
certain amount of secrecy but how much attention to the High Court’s concerns
here is the Government going to have to take?
JULIE BISHOP: Well Peter we provided all the information
that the High Court requested, the matter has been adjourned until Friday and as
a lawyer I know that you don’t provide a running commentary on a court case that
is still underway. So we have provided the High Court with the information that
it required. We will of course abide by our undertakings to the court and we
await the outcome.
But the Australian Government has made it clear from the outset that we
intend to disrupt the people smuggling trade. We do not intend to see men and
women and children drown at sea because they’ve paid people smugglers to put
them on unseaworthy boats to make a dangerous journey to Australia and we intend
to disrupt that trade so that it cannot continue.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Just finally Julie
Bishop it would be remiss of me not to ask you for an update, I suppose, on the
situation with Peter Greste over there in Egypt, obviously he’s had the trial
and he’s been convicted and now there is the aftermath of that whatever that
might entail. Have you got anything to tell us from the Australian Government’s
perspective on what’s happening?
JULIE BISHOP: Well Peter as I understand it the family have
been considering their options about an appeal. We have continued to make
representations at the highest level in the Egyptian Government. Indeed last
night I spoke to US Secretary of State John Kerry specifically about the Greste
matter. You might recall that he came out and strongly condemned the verdict at
the time and I asked the United States to remain engaged. They have a
particularly close relationship with Egypt and Secretary Kerry agreed to
continue to remain engaged in this matter, continue to make representations on
behalf of Peter Greste because as he agreed with me, we want to see Peter Greste
home as soon as possible.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: How important is that
do you think for the US Secretary of State, someone like John Kerry, keeps that
JULIE BISHOP: It’s important for us to have our friends and
partners and allies continue to point out to Egypt that this is not the way to
transition to democracy – jailing journalists for doing their job does not
reflect a path to democracy.
And I think the power and the influence of the United States is important
worldwide. They have a particularly close relationship with Egypt and as we have
done from the outset when Peter Greste was first detained we have sought to make
representations, not only to the authorities in Egypt, but to governments that
we hope have some influence over Egypt. So I’m grateful that the United States
has agreed to remain deeply engaged in this matter.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Julie Bishop thanks
very much for coming on the program.
JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Peter.
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