JOURNALIST: With me now is Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister. She is in Seoul in South Korea for high-level talks. I will come to those in a moment, Minister. If we can start with that hack. You are in Cabinet's National Security Committee, how is it possible that almost a year after the breach authorities still have not been able to work out who is responsible even to the degree of whether or not the hack came from overseas?
JULIE BISHOP: First, this was not classified information. It was not generated by the Australian Government, it wasn't our classified information. It was commercially sensitive information that was being shared between contractors. I believe that our intelligence agencies know who did it and how it happened and the circumstances behind it. We place a very high priority on cyber security, increasingly so as more non-state and state actors are active in cyberspace and we are certainly leading the world in the work to get a set of rules to govern cyberspace activity and I think a number of states need to acknowledge that the activity in cyberspace needs to be governed by a set of rules such as military and security operations are in traditional domains.
JOURNALIST: You say the intelligence agencies know who did it, are you able to confirm if it came from a foreign source?
JULIE BISHOP: I won't discuss intelligence matters to that extent, but I can assure you that the information was not classified information from the Australian Government.
JOURNALIST: You are there in South Korea for the 2+2 security talks between the Foreign and Defence Ministers. Is Australia going to increase its military exercises with South Korea in response to North Korea's recent belligerence?
JULIE BISHOP: We are in South Korea for the purposes of the 2+2 meeting, that is the meeting between South Korea's Foreign and Defence Ministers and me as Australia’s Foreign Minister and Marise Payne as our Defence Minister. We are talking in any event about increasing our cooperation across a range of areas, including defence, security, intelligence. We would be doing that in any event because of the nature of our relationship and the strategic threats that we face and our commitment to regional security, but not specifically in response to North Korea's provocative actions. We have said to South Korea that we stand with them in their collective strategy of maximising the diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea.
JOURNALIST: Who in the United States Administration is correct in the policy approach on North Korea? The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who says that diplomacy is still a live option or the President Donald Trump, who says that diplomacy won't work?
JULIE BISHOP: It is a combined approach. They are both correct because all arms of government, all arms of strategy are working towards ensuring that North Korea is deterred from any future illegal acts, that is nuclear weapons tests or ballistic missile tests, and also ensuring that they are compelled to return to the negotiating table. Now, there are different approaches, different strategies, but it is all part of one collective approach to ensure that there is maximum pressure brought to bear on North Korea. Whether that is through the rhetoric from the various players or whether it is through the diplomatic and economic pressure that is being deployed, all efforts are being made to ensure that we deter North Korea from further illegal acts and compel them back to the negotiating table.
JOURNALIST: Is it credible that the US could increase its nuclear stockpile of weapons in response to the threat posed by North Korea?
JULIE BISHOP: We are concerned that if North Korea is left unchecked, if North Korea continues its trajectory, its capability, in terms of acquiring nuclear weapons, then this will trigger proliferation, not only in our region but around the world. That is why we are working so hard with partners like the United States and Korea and Japan, also with China and the other members of the Security Council to bring maximum pressure to bear so that North Korea doesn't achieve its ambition of having an intercontinental ballistic missile with a miniaturised nuclear device capable of reaching mainland United States.
JOURNALIST: There are reports that President Trump could withdraw his support from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as soon as this weekend. What is Australia's view on whether or not the United States should stick by that treaty?
JULIE BISHOP: I discussed this matter with Secretary Rex Tillerson on Monday and made the point that Australia believes that this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal with Iran, should be maintained because there is no credible alternative in relation to Iran's nuclear program. The United States is concerned about other activities on Iran's part, such as its support for organisations such as Hezbollah, its approach towards Israel, what it is doing in the Middle East. Our point is, let's maintain what is called the JCPOA because there is no credible alternative to it, but deal with Iran's other behaviour in separate arrangements or negotiations. I don't believe the President yet has made a decision or has yet publicly stated what his decision will be in regard to re-certifying the Iran deal, but we are urging that it be maintained and Iran's other behaviour be dealt with in different circumstances.
JOURNALIST: Just one final question, Minister, regarding Tony Abbott's speech in London this week about climate change. Is he going to lose the next election for the Coalition with his constant undermining of Malcolm Turnbull?
JULIE BISHOP: Tony Abbott is entitled to express his views, as any other Member of Parliament, particularly in the Liberal Party, is entitled to do. The views he expressed recently are different to those he expressed as Prime Minister when he supported the Paris Agreement, in fact set our nationally determined targets and the Renewable Energy Target was established under then Prime Minister Abbott. So it is up to him to explain the differences between his opinion then and his opinion now, but we are determined to have a plan that delivers affordable, reliable energy, affordable, reliable power generation in Australia and that we still meet our international obligations, which were, in fact, established under then Prime Minister Abbott.
JOURNALIST: You say he is entitled to an opinion like any other Member of Parliament, but isn't it possible that any other Member of Parliament would be disciplined or expelled from their party for the constant breaches of party discipline?
JULIE BISHOP: He is discussing an issue that is controversial in some sectors of society, some sectors of our community. I think the question that has to be asked of Tony Abbott is, why does he have a different view now than when he was Prime Minister? He is entitled to change his mind, but I am sure that is why there is a deal of interest in what he has to say. But the important thing is the Government's position and under Prime Minister Turnbull we are working hard to come up with a plan that delivers affordable and reliable energy and that will meet our international obligations. When we have that plan, it will be discussed by Cabinet and by the party room and then of course announced to the Australian public.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop, thanks for making time to speak to us on your trip.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you, Leigh.
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