JOURNALIST: Let’s go live to the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop now. Minister, thanks for your time. This attempted attack could have been a lot worse?
JULIE BISHOP: It is a shocking reminder that a terrorist attack can occur anywhere at any time. Thankfully the device didn't work as clearly intended, but nevertheless it is a terrible reminder, and Australians who are planning to travel to New York should continue with their plans, however they should also be very aware of the directions of local authorities, should they be in the region.
JOURNALIST: And this is, as we're advised by the security agencies, seen as somewhat of a peak period for the terror risk over the festive season, not just in the US but more broadly, including here.
JULIE BISHOP: Well that's right, and we are very conscious of the fact that terrorists do try to carry out their attacks at peak hours when a lot of people are around, so my advice to travellers is be vigilant, be aware, follow the directions of local authorities, but we can't let terrorists prevent us from going about our daily business. And so I urge people who are travelling overseas to log on to our website – smartraveller.gov.au – to get the latest advice as to what's happening in any particular area around the world.
JOURNALIST: Lots to talk about this morning. Let's move to the issue around the Labor Senator Sam Dastyari. The Prime Minister last night confirmed that the leak around Huang Xiangmo did not come from ASIO. Did the Government seek that reassurance from the agency?
JULIE BISHOP: We are aware that it did not come from ASIO. ASIO is a very fine organisation, one of the most important in our security apparatus, but we are assured that it did not come from ASIO.
JOURNALIST: And was that something that you sought reassurance on, given the nature of that leak?
JULIE BISHOP: We understand where the leak came from, and it was not from ASIO.
JOURNALIST: But I'm just wondering how that came to light
JULIE BISHOP: Well, that would be going into obviously confidential information, but we are assured that it did not come from ASIO.
JOURNALIST: On the issue of Senator Dastyari, speculation that the Opposition Leader could move within days to remove him from the Parliament and the Labor Party, and that would nullify the Government's attack on this particular matter as you're headed into the New Year, Minister.
JULIE BISHOP: Senator Sam Dastyari's position has been untenable for weeks. Why hasn't Bill Shorten acted? If he takes action now, why has he waited weeks? Senator Dastyari is utterly compromised. He has provided counter-surveillance advice in an attempt to thwart what he believed was an Australian intelligence operation. That makes his position completely untenable. So why is Bill Shorten keeping Senator Dastyari within the Labor Party, when he shouldn't even be in the Senate? It really does raise questions about Bill Shorten's leadership, let alone the appalling behaviour of Senator Dastyari in acting against Australia's national interest.
JOURNALIST: The Government announced a crackdown on foreign interference in our politics, and within that the reference to Senator Dastyari and so on. Was that the wrong thing to do in terms of the optics of this to China? The Foreign Ministry there, their spokesman said: we're astounded by the relevant remarks of the Australian leader. Such remarks simply cater to irresponsible reports, it poisons the atmosphere of the China-Australia relationship.
JULIE BISHOP: Our foreign interference legislation is similar to other legislation around the world. It's been some time in the development and the drafting, and we wanted to introduce it into the Parliament before the end of the year. It's important legislation, and I'm sure other nations around the world recognise the vital part that such legislation plays. Other countries have similar legislation.
I focus on the positives of the Australia-China relationship. China is our largest trading partner, we have a very deep and comprehensive relationship. I am in constant contact with senior Chinese officials, our embassy works very closely with the Chinese Government. Overall, it's a very positive relationship. There will be differences from time to time, but as long as we can approach them honestly and frankly, as we do, and we're consistent in what we say publicly and privately about this relationship, like every other relationship that Australia has with a vital and important partner.
JOURNALIST: Professor Hugh White recently in the Quarterly Essay wrote his thesis about without America saying that China will win the great power politics of the region, is this about Australia trying to establish the ground rules early with what will likely be a dominant, an ever increasingly dominant China in our part of the world?
JULIE BISHOP: A couple of weeks ago we released the Australian Government Foreign Policy White Paper and that was a very detailed analysis of our values and our interests and our priorities over the next ten years or so and within a framework of guiding principles. So Australia is committed to an international rules-based order that determines how nations should behave, and towards each other in particular, and so that's why the Foreign Policy White Paper is so important. It actually sets out how we see our values and interests and priorities over the next decade. Of course it recognises that there are rising powers and challenges between powers, but Australia is very well positioned to ensure that we can continue to act in the best interests of Australia, whatever challenges or risks we face.
JOURNALIST: And finally Foreign Minister, your department and you yourself are announcing a recruitment drive with a difference. ASIS, the security intelligence service, is looking for people.
JULIE BISHOP: Well that's right. The Australian Secret Intelligence Service has been in operation for about 65 years but not many people know about it. Its overseas counterparts are MI6 in the UK and the CIA in the United States, and because not many people know about it and its work it's sometimes difficult to recruit the right people. So we've got a rather creative online test. If people go to morehumanintelligence.com.au they can take this online test to see if they've got what it takes to be an ASIS officer. We're looking for intelligent people obviously, but those who are bright, observant, curious, from a range of backgrounds and who are prepared to be deployed overseas to work in Australia's national interest. It's a very interesting role and I hope a lot of people see if they are suitable for it and then if they find they pass the test then go on to apply for a job with ASIS.
JOURNALIST: It looks like it would be a rigorous process obviously to get through all of those tests over what would probably be over several months, Minister, yeah?
JULIE BISHOP: It would eventually be and there's obviously a lot of training involved, but we're trying to attract attention to people from a whole range of backgrounds and professions. A lot of people won't think that they would be suited for an intelligence officer role but they might be surprised. So we're encouraging people to take this online test to pique their curiosity and if they pass the test then seek to apply to ASIS, but of course there's a lot of training involved in it but it's an exciting role and I would encourage people to have a look at it.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it as always.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
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This transcript has been redacted in accordance with Digital Transformation Agency guidelines.
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