JULIE BISHOP: Welcome to another beautiful day here in Perth Western Australia. Overnight the Prime Minister has landed in Israel for the purposes of attending the 100th Anniversary of the commemoration of the Battle of Beersheba. This morning here in Kings Park there was also an event marking the charge of the 10th Light Horse. In fact the 10th Light Horse Brigade was the only one recruited from Western Australia during World War I.
Overnight we’ve also had some very good news from China. A ban on some Australian beef exports has been lifted. This is welcome news for the beef producers here in Western Australia and across the country. There were some issues regarding labelling regulations that have now been resolved very quickly. Given the strength of the trading relationship between Australia and China - of course China is our largest trading partner - and the fact that we have a high quality and comprehensive free trade agreement between our two countries - it’s very pleasing that this matter has been resolved.
The beef export industry is worth about $670 million to the Australian economy each year. I’m pleased to be able to bring this good news for Australia’s beef exporters, one of the largest exports in Australia’s economy.
JOURNALIST: What was the ban in place for?
JULIE BISHOP: It was in relation to labelling regulations in China and the matter has been resolved within three months and I understand that that is a quick resolution for such issues. The good news is that our beef exports can now continue to be traded in China.
JOURNALIST: Given that the SAS is in your electorate, do you have any concerns about the ongoing inquiry into operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?
JULIE BISHOP: I understand that this was an inquiry set out by one of the independent assessors and I am very proud to have the Special Air Service Regiment in my electorate. They are a fine fighting force. They have carried out magnificent work in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have an international reputation as some of the finest and I certainly support them and I work very closely with their families and they do a great service to our country.
JOURNALIST: So will this inquiry sully that reputation?
JULIE BISHOP: This is a matter for the independent inquiry and as it’s on foot it would not be appropriate for me to comment.
JOURNALIST: Have these constituents reached out to you in any way? Are you aware of any concerns that the families have and have passed on to you as their local member?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m in constant communication with members of the SAS and with their families and often take up matters on their behalf. Within my electorate the Campbell Barracks are at Swanbourne Beach within my electorate and I certainly take on board their concerns, but it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk about that given that there is an investigation underway.
JOURNALIST: During next week’s regional summit can Malcolm Turnbull guarantee he will meet with President Trump and if so will he urge an expedited resettlement of refugees?
JULIE BISHOP: The APEC meeting brings together leaders from all the APEC member countries and it is an opportunity for world leaders to meet. I’m not aware of the specific details of the Prime Minister’s schedule or that of President Trump but I’m sure they will have an opportunity to discuss matters of great concern, great interest between our two nations. The United States is our closest security partner, it’s our defence ally and one of our most important economic partners, so I imagine that the President and the Prime Minister will have an opportunity to speak.
JOURNALIST: Has the Government made any contact with PNG to urge against the (inaudible) during the closure of Manus Island centre?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is in constant communication with our counterpart ministers and departments within PNG and we are there to support PNG. Today the regional processing centre on Manus Island will be closed and the PNG Government has made alternative accommodation arrangements for those who are found to be refugees and also for those who are not refugees and are not owed protection and who should leave and should go home.
JOURNALIST: Will refugees and asylum seekers be removed from the Manus Island centre be given the same level of health care, food and security at their new accommodation?
JULIE BISHOP: I understand that the PNG Government has made arrangements for all essential services to be available at the alternative accommodation - food, water, electricity and medical services.
JOURNALIST: Will they be allowed to work in the community?
JULIE BISHOP: That’s a matter for the PNG Government.
JOURNALIST: Will you be meeting Jacinda Ardern when she’s in Australia next week?
JULIE BISHOP: I understand that the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is visiting Sydney just for one day for a prime ministerial meeting with Prime Minister Turnbull, and as appropriate, they will be meeting to discuss matters of mutual interest. I will be in Perth on the weekend on Sunday, I’m the keynote speaker at the Asia Pacific regional conference that is being held here, and I have a number of meetings with my counterpart foreign ministers including the Foreign Minister of Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan, who will be here in Perth on Sunday.
JOURNALIST: The ministerial vacancies created by Senator Nash, who should that go to?
JULIE BISHOP: At present the Prime Minister has allocated Senator Nash’s responsibilities between Mitch Fifield and Darren Chester and at some point the Prime Minister will make other arrangements but that’s a matter for the Prime Minister and a discussion with the National Party.
JOURNALIST: But you would also have some - would you contribute to that discussion?
JULIE BISHOP: The Prime Minister takes counsel from various people from time-to-time. I’ve spoken to the Prime Minister about Cabinet appointments but ultimately it’s a matter for the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Would you like to see it go to a woman?
JULIE BISHOP: I think that Cabinet appointments should be based on merit. There are a number of very capable women in the Coalition and if a woman is chosen I would be very pleased about that, but my first priority of course would be to ensure that the right person is chosen for those portfolios on merit, on capabilities, on experience.
JOURNALIST: From which party?
JULIE BISHOP: Well that’s again a matter for the Prime Minister to determine which portfolios will be allocated between the parties and he will no doubt do that at some appropriate time.
JOURNALIST: Premier McGowan this morning said that should the Federal Government not immediately implement the blueprint for the GST set by the Productivity Commission he would like to see the Federal Government top up WA’s share immediately to the next lowest state which would be 88 cents in this case New South Wales. Would the Federal Government entertain such request?
JULIE BISHOP: The single biggest impediment for Western Australia getting a fairer share of the GST is Mark McGowan. As a Labor Premier of this State he should be contacting his Labor counterparts in Queensland, in Victoria and in South Australia and discussing with them how there can be a fairer distribution of the GST. It’s up to the State Premiers. Now what we have done as the Federal Government is commissioned a Productivity Commission report that has made quite clear that the distribution of the GST is a matter of national economic importance. It’s not just one state versus another. That’s why it is so important for the State Premiers to come together and work out a way to fairly distribute the GST. There have been a number of proposals put forward but the Federal Government cannot and will not impose it from on high. The State Governments – and I point out in particular Mark McGowan – are the single biggest impediment to coming to another arrangement. So I call on Mark McGowan contact his Labor Premiers, pick up the phone to Annastacia Palaszczuk and Daniel Andrews and Jay Weatherill and sort it out.
JOURNALIST: Agreement by the states is not required for a different distribution by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, they’re subject to the federal Treasurer’s direction.
JULIE BISHOP: That would be a parallel universe for a GST, a tax which is a state tax, to be dealt with only by the Federal Government. In a federation, in a commonwealth such as ours of course you need the support of the States in order to implement such a change.
JOURNALIST: So the Federal Government will not act unilaterally on the Productivity Commission’s recommendations?
JULIE BISHOP: The Federal Government will need the support of the State and Territory Governments to make a change to what is a state and territory tax. The GST, the Goods and Services Tax, is a state tax.
JOURNALIST: Politically that’s never going to happen. No state leader is going to agree to a lower share.
JULIE BISHOP: Well politically it can’t happen without the States and Territories.
JOURNALIST: Why should the Citizenship 5 keep the money they got while they were ineligible to sit in Parliament?
JULIE BISHOP: This is matter that is considered on a case-by-case basis. There have been previous examples where because the member of parliament concerned, the member or senator carried out their duties in good faith and diligently a decision has been made to waive any return of funds. I think it’s appropriate for these matters to be considered on a case-by-case basis, as has been done in the past.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it should be waived?
JULIE BISHOP: Well these are matters for the Special Minister of State on advice from the Department of Finance. There are a whole number of steps that must be gone through before a decision is made but clearly the members and senators involved carried out their duties diligently, in good faith and there is a powerful argument that they shouldn’t have their entitlements (inaudible) waived as we’ve seen in the past. This is done on a case-by-case basis.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree that New Zealand Labour is not responsible for Barnaby Joyce being kicked out of Parliament after finding out he was a Kiwi as Jacinda Ardern said this morning?
JULIE BISHOP: I’ve never made that proposition.
JOURNALIST: There is a lot of talk in the eastern states about you auditioning for this job as Prime Minister, Acting Prime Minister?
JULIE BISHOP: Not at all, this is precedent. In the past whenever the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have been unavailable the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party is called upon to carry out the duties of Acting Prime Minister. There is nothing unusual about this. It happened under Malcolm Fraser I’m informed. John Howard as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party acted as the Acting Prime Minister in the absence of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister and also Peter Costello on quite a number of occasions, I recall he was Acting Prime Minister when the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister were not available. It’s a matter of convention. It would be unusual for it to be otherwise.
JOURNALIST: But why should there be so much chatter about you looking so comfortable in this role?
JULIE BISHOP: It’s just chatter. I’m not hearing it. Geoff you obviously move in different circles.
JOURNALIST: Well it’s being written about extensively on the east coast.
JULIE BISHOP: Well here we are in Western Australia where we have a very pragmatic view of life.
JOURNALIST: Do you support a new regional forum between the US, Japan, India and Australia as has been discussed?
JULIE BISHOP: This has been an issue that the four nations have canvassed in the past. Indeed there was a quadrilateral forum set up during John Howard’s time as Prime Minister and that was abandoned by the incoming Rudd Government. There has been discussion that we are likeminded democracies, we are all committed to regional stability and security and already Australia has regular meetings through the Foreign Ministers and Secretaries of State - with Japan and Australia and the US. So it’s natural that we should continue to have such discussions, but there is nothing formal. There has been no decision on that.
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