JOURNALIST: Earlier this morning I spoke with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Fran.
JOURNALIST: The US has become the first country to formally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Pope Francis has expressed his deep worry at this announcement. How much harder now will it be to achieve peace in the Middle East?
JULIE BISHOP: We believe that the best outcome for the Israeli and Palestinian people is for there to be a negotiated two-state solution where the people of Israel and the people of Palestine can live side-by-side in peace behind internationally recognised boundaries and the political identification of Jerusalem, for example, should be the subject of those final status negotiations.
JOURNALIST: As you say it should be, it remains the status of Jerusalem, the question of Jerusalem remains one of the last hurdles, one of the most intractable problems in the Israeli conflict with the Palestinians. You heard Donald Trump there, he said the US supports a two-state solution, if both sides agree this won’t do anything, this won’t change anything about the contested borders – but is that naivety?
JULIE BISHOP: We’ve not ever supported unilateral action on either side. We believe that for there to be an enduring peace both sides must come together and negotiate an outcome and that includes in relation to the status of Jerusalem.
JOURNALIST: We spoke earlier to Mustafa Barghouti, a representative of one of the Palestinian factions, and he said basically this is the end of it, don’t ever talk about negotiation again because by making this declaration the US has no, no capacity to play a role in this.
JULIE BISHOP: The United States has, for a very long time, sought to broker a peace and we’ve seen many examples where the peace has been mediated but then rejected by one or other side.
JOURNALIST: The President when he made the announcement said recognising Jerusalem is “nothing more or less than a recognition of reality, the Israelis regard this as their capital, it’s their seat of Parliament” do you agree with that?
JULIE BISHOP: We believe that the political identification of Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. That’s always been our position. It’s been a longstanding position of both sides of the Australian Parliament.
JOURNALIST: And it remains Australia’s position, we should get this on the record that Australia does not recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?
JULIE BISHOP: We believe that the identification of Jerusalem is a matter for the final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
JOURNALIST: And given the President’s statement there that recognising Jerusalem is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality, I know you have made some comments in recent times suggesting that Australia could extend its diplomatic presence to Jerusalem, are there plans on the table for that?
JULIE BISHOP: I was asked to consider whether Australia would do that and I have considered it and I don’t believe it’s necessary. We have an embassy in Tel Aviv that’s been there – we’ve been there in Tel Aviv since 1949 – and remembering that Australia was the first nation to vote for that partition resolution 70 years ago to create the State of Israel. Australia has been a staunch supporter of Israel but we placed our Embassy in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.
JOURNALIST: The response throughout the Middle East to the announcement from Donald Trump has been universally hostile. Turkey says Donald Trump is “plunging the region and the world into fire with no end in sight”, the Arab League says it’s a blatant attack on an Arab nation, of course, blatant aggression, the Palestinian Ambassador to London says Donald Trump has declared war on one and a half billion Muslims. Are you worried this could lead to violence and unrest throughout the region?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m deeply concerned at the level of unrest now. The fault lines between Turkey and the Kurds, between the Sunnis and the Shiites, between the Saudis and the Iranians and I’m concerned at the level of tension now and of course would not support any action that would add to that.
JOURNALIST: Germany and France are warning their citizens of possible clashes in the wake of this declaration by the US President. Is Australia updating its travel advice for Australians in Israel and in the region?
JULIE BISHOP: It’s most certainly under review at present.
JOURNALIST: What does that mean?
JULIE BISHOP: That means that we’re considering whether we should change our travel advice. We are monitoring the situation very carefully. We’re getting feedback from our Embassy in Tel Aviv and in the region.
JOURNALIST: And beyond our travel advice are you looking at increasing security at the Embassy and around the region?
JULIE BISHOP: We’re taking advice.
JOURNALIST: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, speaking with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Julie Bishop, on the foreign interference laws that are being unveiled by the Government this week, the Chinese Embassy here in Canberra says the laws will undermine “mutual trust between our two countries” and says the Australian Government’s adopted a Cold War mentality. The Prime Minister insists this regime is not aimed at China but that’s not the way the Chinese see it. Are you concerned the Chinese are feeling so bruised here?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t accept that that’s the way our legislation should be viewed. This is not targeted at any one nation and if people are abiding by our laws then there should be no concerns.
JOURNALIST: Have you taken steps to reassure the Chinese given that that is how they are viewing it, clearly?
JULIE BISHOP: We have a very constructive relationship with Chinese Government and with the Embassy here. I believe the Chinese are deeply concerned by the media attention on Senator Sam Dastyari. He really has brought his relationship with the Chinese into disrepute and I can understand their concern about Senator Sam Dastyari but our legislation is of course aimed at ensuring that Australians act in Australia’s national interest and I’m sure the Chinese understand and respect that.
JOURNALIST: And the Chinese statement from the Embassy, the Ambassador’s statement says “China has no intention to interfere in Australia’s international affairs or exert influence on its political process through political donations.” That goes directly to the laws that are being introduced and what many believe is the motivation behind them. Do you believe that statement from China?
JULIE BISHOP: I believe that China is concerned with examples like Senator Sam Dastyari who received the payment of personal debts by a Chinese benefactor and then proceeded to adopt Chinese foreign policy that was directly contradictory to not only Labor foreign policy but the Australian Government’s foreign policy.
JOURNALIST: But do you believe China has no intention to interfere in Australia’s internal affairs or exert influence through political donations?
JULIE BISHOP: Well I’m pleased to hear the Chinese Embassy is making that statement but our legislation is directed at all nations. Australians must support our national interest first and that’s why Senator Sam Dastyari’s case is such a disgrace because he was putting the interests of another nation ahead of Australia’s national interest. Indeed, he was seeking to actively undermine Australia’s national security operations.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of Sam Dastyari’s case, the Government’s seen a revival of fortunes in recent days and it started, really, with the revelation that Senator Sam Dastyari advised the Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo that his phone could be tapped. There’s been a lot of speculation about how that intelligence leaked to the media or how it leaked to Sam Dastyari, or how it leaked at all. Did the Government have anything to do with this?
JULIE BISHOP: No we did not.
JOURNALIST: So how do you – are you satisfied yourself about how the media got hold of that information?
JULIE BISHOP: I understand that the media was informed but certainly not by anyone on the Government’s side. It seems that Mr Shorten was advised by our intelligence agencies about a particular person of interest. Through “back channels” that information made its way back to Senator Sam Dastyari.
JOURNALIST: You think it came from Bill Shorten?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m just saying what I’ve read in the media and that then Senator Sam Dastyari actively took steps to compromise what he believed to be an Australian intelligence operation. Now whether there was or was not I don’t know but Senator Dastyari believed there was an intelligence operation underway and he took active steps to thwart it. I think that is a disgrace and that Senator Sam Dastyari’s position is completely untenable. He’s utterly compromised. He should step down.
JOURNALIST: Just before I finish on this Bill Shorten we should say, he’s said he didn’t tell Sam Dastyari anything, Sam Dastyari said he was in possession of no secret intelligence information and yet what we now know is that Sam Dastyari went, apparently, and warned this businessman that the phones were being tapped. How did we know that he did that, does this represent a misuse of the intelligence agencies?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t believe so. Senator Dastyari is yet to deny that he sought to thwart what he believed to be an Australian intelligence operation.
JOURNALIST: I’m interested in how we know that.
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t know that, I have no idea. It certainly didn’t come from the Government.
JOURNALIST: On another issue the Government is going to try again today to refer a number of Labor MPs to the High Court over their citizenship. Justine Keay, Susan Lamb, Josh Wilson but you won’t agree to do the same for a bunch of Liberals, Jason Falinski, Nola Marino, Julia Banks, Alex Hawke, why not just send all these people up to the High Court end the Parliamentary here, draw a line under this crisis once and for all. That’s what people want the Parliament to do.
JULIE BISHOP: Fran, we did that, with Senator Fiona Nash, with the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, others have already been to the High Court. What we now have is a number of Labor Members who by their own admission were dual citizens at the close of nominations. Now, they must refer themselves or Labor must refer them to the High Court but what they’re now seeking to do is take a number of Liberal Members who are in exactly the same position as their Members. Let me give you the example, Nola Marino has a letter from the Greek Embassy saying she is not, and never has been, oh Italian, an Italian citizen. Tanya Plibersek has a letter from the Slovenian Government saying she is not and has never been a Slovenian citizen. Why would they refer one but not Tanya Plibersek? It’s exactly the same evidence. The Governments of other countries know whether or not they are citizens and if there is a letter from the Government of another country that should be enough.
JOURNALIST: Jason Falinski has legal advice that says on the base of it doesn’t think it is but it could be – it’s got caveats in it. Why not just test it?
JULIE BISHOP: Oh Fran, the situation of Jason Falinski is his father was stateless when he came to Australia and if you read the legal advice it’s quite clear that he would not be caught up by Section 44 of the Constitution, it’s quite clear. But you’ve got Labor Members who by their own admission were dual citizens. Let’s send those dual citizens off to the High Court. They’ve got no right to be sitting in the Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop thank you very much for joining us.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.
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