JOURNALIST: World leaders are meeting in Japan this morning as North Korea intensifies concerns over its nuclear program with a vow to launch missile tests every week. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in the region and joins us now live from Tokyo. Minister, good morning to you.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Sylvia.

JOURNALIST: We will get to North Korea in just a moment. But first let me ask you about the tough new citizenship test announced yesterday. What prompted the crackdown?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia's success as a nation has been built upon waves of immigration and Australian citizenship brings with it privileges as well as obligations to Australian society. So these reforms are designed to ensure that those who become Australian citizens embrace our values, respect our laws and are prepared to make a contribution to the rest of Australian society. So there are a number of questions that new citizens must be able to answer that give an indication that they are in fact prepared to embrace our values, respect our laws and make a contribution to our society overall.

JOURNALIST: It is very tough, particularly the need to prove your integration into the community. Are you concerned at all that the new test could further alienate those who are already at risk of radicalisation?

JULIE BISHOP: Not at all. In fact, the opposite should be the case. We are asking a series of questions and I don't think anyone could seriously defend an attitude that says women are not equal to men or that violence against women is acceptable. So we are looking to test attitudes to ensure that people who take out Australian citizenship - and it is a privilege to become an Australian citizen but it also has responsibilities and obligations with it - that they are prepared to embrace the values, the laws, the attitudes that we have as a society that's made us so successful.

JOURNALIST: I come back to that need to prove integration again quickly. It is blurry, I suppose, and particularly I wonder with the example of a stay at home mother, who is at home running the household looking after the children and how she perhaps goes about proving her integration without employment. Were community groups consulted before the announcement yesterday?

JULIE BISHOP: There was very wide consultation. In fact a broad national consultation was undertaken by Senator Fierravanti-Wells and Philip Ruddock. We have also had a number of reviews and I know that the Department of Immigration has been consulting widely. So we are putting out a series of reforms that I believe will be embraced by most Australians and most certainly people wanting to become Australian citizens. We want this to be a successful multicultural, tolerant, free and open society. We want people who embrace those values. Other countries would likewise want the same for their new citizens, to embrace the values and the fundamentals that make the country what it is.

JOURNALIST: Let's move on now to North Korea. Let me ask you frankly Minister - are we on the verge of war?

JULIE BISHOP: The increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula have come about as a result of North Korea's belligerent behaviour. It is continuing to defy numerous UN Security Council resolutions that ban nuclear and missile testing and it is continuing to ramp up the rhetoric. Indeed the other day it had mock up videos of ballistic missiles attacking the United States. This kind of behaviour of course increases tensions. The United States has said that it will work with the international community to ensure that North Korea does not achieve the capability that it threatens. Australia will likewise work with other members of the international community including here in Japan, with South Korea, the United States, and particularly with China to bring North Korea into line with international community expectations.

JOURNALIST: Have you offered or made any offer of military support to America if war erupts?

JULIE BISHOP: The United States has not requested it and the United States is focussing on finding peaceful means to ensure that North Korea becomes a functioning member of the international community. There are many things that the United States can do including further sanctions and working with China, who has a unique relationship with North Korea and can do far more to bring North Korea into line. So while the United States has said that all options are on the table, and that clearly includes military options, it is preferring to go down the path of diplomacy as well as finding other ways, including financial sanctions, to make North Korea realise that what it is doing is causing great instability in our region and globally.

JOURNALIST: There is a lot of tough talk though. A lot of talk of military action. A lot of huffing and puffing as well coming from the United States corner. Will you, will Australia, support military action from America if it reaches that point?

JULIE BISHOP: The United States has indicated that there are many options available to it and we would prefer to see peaceful means resolve the escalating tensions. That will be achieved by North Korea abiding by the UN Security Council resolutions that ban nuclear and ballistic missile testing. In defiance of those resolutions, North Korea has increased the tempo and scale of its tests and we must work with other countries, particularly China, who has an ability to leverage North Korea like no other country has, to work with China and the United States to ensure that North Korea realises the impact of its rhetoric and its provocative actions and behaviour.

JOURNALIST: Just finally on news back home and on to the Prime Minister's decision to scrap the 457 visa. Labour market testing is the big grey area here, how is that going to work?

JULIE BISHOP: The whole idea of these reforms is to ensure that Australians are given the opportunity to undertake jobs and that employers are prepared to support the development and training of Australians to undertake those jobs. We had a situation in the past when Bill Shorten was the Employment Minister that Australians were missing out on jobs that were being given to foreigners without testing whether there were in fact Australians available and willing to take those jobs. We want to ensure that Australians have the opportunity to undertake these jobs and that employers are prepared to train and develop them in order to do so.

JOURNALIST: But who will be in charge, I suppose, of that labour market testing which seems to be the big question here at the moment. Who is going to be in charge of that and how will it play out?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, employers have a responsibility, of course, to abide by the law. If the law is that you market test first, to advertise to see if there are Australians available to take the jobs, then that will be abiding by the law. I don't think anyone is seriously arguing against the proposition that if there is an Australian willing and able to take a job that they should be overlooked in favour of a foreign worker brought in to take that job. I think that the community sentiment is that Australians, people who live here and want to contribute and pay taxes, should be given the opportunity to do so.

JOURNALIST: All right, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you very much.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555