CARRIE BICKMORE: This is no doubt high on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s radar and she joins us now.
Minister, North Korea has now given us a timeline for a missile strike on Gaum, the US has resorted to blatant threats, I mean, does this mean war?
JULIE BISHOP: No, I believe that North Korea can be deterred. North Korea has been conducting illegal tests for some time now. It is in flagrant violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions banning its intercontinental ballistic missile tests and its nuclear weapons program.
What has changed is that last weekend North Korea ran out of friends because the UN Security Council, which includes Russia and China, voted for the most comprehensive and toughest set of sanctions against North Korea yet. And this shows that the globe is united against North Korea’s provocative and illegal actions and this provides a significant deterrent to North Korea and an encouragement for it to change its behaviour.
WALEED ALY: But Minister if that was going to deter them why are we only seeing them escalate the rhetoric?
JULIE BISHOP: That is the way North Korea behaves, we’ve seen it over many years. They are seeking attention, they want to sit down and have a dialogue with the United States, but they want to have the most leverage.
What we’re seeking to do - and this is a collective strategy that has been in place for some time - is to increase the diplomatic and economic leverage over North Korea so it will change its behaviour and change its calculations as to the risk involved.
CARRIE BICKMORE: Is Trump’s tough talk helping or hindering the situation?
JULIE BISHOP: Secretary Rex Tillerson is in Guam and he summed it up by saying that the President had to send a very tough message to Kim Jong-un in language that he would understand and I believe that the President has sent that very blunt message.
But in the meantime Secretary of State Tillerson is seeking to ensure there’s universal implementation of the sanctions and all countries are being called upon to use their diplomatic and economic engagement with North Korea, such as there is such engagement, to put maximum pressure on North Korea to change its behaviour and step back from what is blatantly illegal conduct.
RYAN FITZGERALD: Julie, should we be worried? Is Australia under threat?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia is not the primary target of Pyongyang’s focus. They have been threatening South Korea, Japan, the United States, for some time but Australia is not the primary threat. However if North Korea does have the ability to establish a nuclear device on an intercontinental ballistic missile that has the capability of hitting the United States, well you just have to draw a circumference to see where they could cause damage.
WALEED ALY: Yeah, well we assume that circumference could include Darwin which I suppose is a concern but if war were to break out, whether or not they intend on hitting Australia, what would our involvement be? What would it look like?
JULIE BISHOP: Waleed, we are seeking to avoid that at all costs and the US has made it plain that they are ready to talk with North Korea. The increased economic pressure, I believe, will help bring North Korea to the negotiating table.
We are doing all we can to avoid such an outcome.
WALEED ALY: Just while I ‘ve got you, on another issue, Cassie Sainsbury is now seeking to defend herself in court in Colombia rather than take a deal, is that legal defence that she’s now going to mount, is that going to cost Australian taxpayers money?
JULIE BISHOP: She has had a legal team from the outset. There is provision under the Attorney General’s office for Australians who are in legal proceedings overseas that are very serious criminal proceedings they can apply to have access to a fund to support their legal defence.
I’m not aware that she’s made application to such a fund but there is one available.
She has sought some consular support and we’ve been providing it, including having our consular officers in the court today, but she has her own legal team.
WALEED ALY: So just to be clear, we could pay if she applied for us to pay?
JULIE BISHOP: If she were to meet the requirements, there is a fund available for Australians who are facing serious criminal charges overseas but obviously each case is assessed on its merits and it’s a decision for the Attorney General to make.
PETER HELIER: Julie we can’t let you go without asking about marriage equality, how will you be voting in the postal plebiscite?
JULIE BISHOP: I remember being in at The Project when you got the scoop and you asked me this ages ago and I said I’ve got nothing against same sex marriage and then suddenly it was all over the papers. The Project got the scoop. So my view hasn’t changed.
I’ll be working hard to get my electorate out to vote. We’ve changed from the issue of how it’s going to happen, because Labor have voted down the plebiscite there won’t be a formal yes/no campaign because it’s not being conducted by the AEC under the normal plebiscite arrangements – Labor blew that opportunity – so I think what members of parliament should be doing is allowing people to have a free vote on this and then the members of parliament should be encouraging people to actually vote because it’s not compulsory.
So get people out to vote, and I’m certainly encouraging them to do that, have their say.
PETER HELIER: Will you be encouraging people to vote for same sex marriage as you are?
JULIE BISHOP: No, I’m not going to encourage them one way or the other. The whole point of this is to enable people to have their say. It’s the people having their say.
What members of parliament should be doing is now that we’ve got a postal vote, a postal plebiscite, as opposed to the plebiscite legislation that we put through the parliament – tried to put through the parliament – last year and again this year - I mean we could have had this plebiscite done and dusted in February if Labor had supported it. If they really believed in same sex marriage, if they really wanted people to have their say, we could’ve had it done and dusted by February.
But now that we have this postal situation I think that Members of Parliament should be encouraging people to get out and vote, but it’s up to people to vote according to the way they see the issue.
WALEED ALY: Minister, I’m noticing though, on the part of the senior members of your government, a distinct lack of preparedness to campaign on the yes side.
There are high profile people who are campaigning vociferously on the no side, but nothing on the yes side from senior members on the yes side as far as I can tell.
Isn’t that a short coming, or an imbalance, particularly if there are people who are senior members who are supportive but just won’t talk up about it?
JULIE BISHOP: No, I disagree. You couldn’t get anybody more senior than the Prime Minister and the –
WALEED ALY: But he said he didn’t want to campaign on it, he said –
JULIE BISHOP: No, that’s not true, the Prime Minister said-
WALEED ALY: …said he would vote yes, he said he would encourage others to do so but not that he would campaign, he was literally asked that and he refused to say anything on it.
JULIE BISHOP: The Prime Minister’s words carry a great deal of weight and he said he and Lucy will be voting yes.
You see, we’re not having a formal yes or no campaign. That was the opportunity Labor had when we put the plebiscite legislation before the Senate last year. Now if they truly supported same sex marriage they would’ve supported the quickest way to get there, and if you believe the supporters of same sex marriage that the community supports it, then we could have had this done in February.
But now there is no formal campaign, no 'yes' campaign, no 'no' campaign, so I think responsibility on members of parliament is to encourage people to take part in the postal vote and have their say.
JOURNALIST: We know you need to leave so I guess we’ll have to wrap it up. Thanks so much for your time tonight.
JULIE BISHOP: It’s my pleasure
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