JOURNALIST: On the line from Parliament House Canberra, our Foreign Affairs Minister in Australia, Julie Bishop – Minister good afternoon.
JULIE BISHOP: Good afternoon Ben.
JOURNALIST: I asked this same question to your colleague Christopher Pyne and his offsider and your offsider, Anthony Albanese, are you shocked?
JULIE BISHOP: Ever since Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, I have been assuming that either candidate could win the Presidency and have been preparing for either a Trump Presidency or a Clinton Presidency. The Australian Government is ready to work with a Trump Administration should that be the outcome of the count. Of course it is still ongoing. Voting in the 50th state, Alaska, has just closed but it would appear at this stage that Donald Trump is likely to claim the Presidency. There are four swing states that everybody is focussing upon and they appear to provide more pathways for a Trump win than a Clinton win. Ben, as I’ve said throughout, the Australian Government will work with whomever the United States people in their wisdom choose as their President.
JOURNALIST: I bet you’re glad that you have maintained that diplomacy as Foreign Affairs Minister unlike a few others who’ve made spectacular comments about Donald Trump.
JULIE BISHOP: Well, it is unfortunate because of course it’s important and in our national interest that the Australian Government is closely and constructively engaged with the US Administration, whomever will be the President. We have particular economic and strategic interests with the United States. They are our longstanding security ally, the United States is our largest foreign investor, our second largest trading partner and we’ve been assiduous in establishing constructive working relationships with both the Trump team and the Clinton team. I’m confident that we will be able to establish a constructive relationship with the new Administration.
JOURNALIST: You said a little earlier that you have been preparing for a Trump Presidency and for a Clinton Presidency because that’s what you’ve got to do – they are different right, different preparations for both results?
JULIE BISHOP: Well they have run very different campaigns. It has been a very long and at times, divisive and bitter and bruising campaign, but we’ve been focussing on the domestic policy statements and policies of both sides, the foreign policy statements to see how it will impact not only on Australia and our region but globally. Every year the Presidential election is momentous for the United States of course, but also for the globe.
Should a Trump Presidency prevail, we are likely to see a Republican majority in the House and the Senate. The Republicans have also done very well in some of the State Legislative elections and we may well see an opportunity for the United States to put aside the divisions and end the gridlock that has plagued United States politics for some time now. We will see opportunities in whomever the United States choose as their President.
JOURNALIST: Donald Trump has been very vocal and critical about some of the trade deals that the United States has struck, is that a concern for us? How does that impact us here in Australia?
JULIE BISHOP: We have a longstanding trade agreement with the United States – the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement – which was signed over 10 years ago and has been of considerable benefit to both countries but Ben, we run a trade deficit with the United States. In other words, the United States runs a trade surplus with Australia so it is unlikely that any incoming Administration would want to renegotiate such an agreement. Where we are focused is on the Trans Pacific Partnership which we signed along with a number of other countries in our region, and the United States is yet to ratify that Agreement.
The Obama Administration – and let’s not forget that President Obama is still the President of the United States until midday on 20 January. He has full constitutional and executive authority during what’s called the transitional lame duck period – and we are urging the Obama Administration to ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership because both candidates, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were opposed to the Trans Pacific Partnership in its current form. We are very keen to see the Obama Administration ratify the TPP because it would be in our interest, and in the interest of other stakeholders in that Agreement, for it to pass.
JOURNALIST: We’re talking to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, the issue of Donald Trump’s treatment of women loomed large during this election campaign and I’ll get to Bill Shorten in a moment but I know this morning he said ‘Someone who can’t respect women, I can’t respect them’.
You are a woman, Foreign Affairs Minister, so how do you separate those things? Do you need to separate those things? Do you have a view on some of those despicable comments we’ve heard from Donald Trump in relation to women or do you just put those two things separately and say well, they are his comments on women but I’m the Foreign Affairs Minister and I need to look at things through that perspective?
JULIE BISHOP: First and foremost, I’m the Minister for Foreign Affairs for Australia and I will engage with the new US Administration in a positive and constructive way because that is in Australia’s interest.
I don’t have a vote in the United States Presidential election, neither does any other Australian citizen, and so we will work constructively with whomever the people of the United States choose as their President and that’s in our interests for us to do so.
I find it unfortunate that there have been some personal and offensive comments made about someone who could well become the next President of the United States because it doesn’t help our constructive engagement and that’s what I put first and foremost in my mind. I’m focusing on working closely with the new administration and continuing business as usual with the Obama Administration until such time as the inauguration takes place on the 20 January next year.
JOURNALIST: Let me play - just for one moment - one of the comments that the opposition leader in Australia, Bill Shorten, had to say about Donald Trump, this was from May this year.
AUDIO OF BILL SHORTEN: I think Donald Trump’s views are just barking mad.
JOURNALIST: Where does that put Bill Shorten as the man who wants to be Prime Minister?
JULIE BISHOP: Well it would be an interesting meeting, should he obtain one, with President Trump-elect. I think that it’s unfortunate that Bill Shorten couldn’t keep his offensive comments to himself.
Of course one doesn’t have to agree, one can oppose certain statements, but you also have to put the national interest first. It’s utterly incumbent upon the Australian leadership to work in a positive and constructive way with whomever is in the White House. Our relationship is too important for petty political point scoring in Australia in relation to another country’s election.
JOURNALIST: If Donald Trump becomes President, where is Bill Shorten going to be standing as Labor Leader?
JULIE BISHOP: Well that’s a matter for Bill Shorten to consider.
JOURNALIST: Thank you very much for your time.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure Ben.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop, Foreign Affairs, joining us from Parliament House Canberra.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555