JULIE BISHOP: I am absolutely delighted to be back here in Bennelong with our candidate John Alexander, and we are here in the innovation capital of New South Wales – John would say Australia – here visiting AstraZeneca Australia. This is a biopharmaceutical company based here in Bennelong that employs over 900 people here. They manufacture and sell overseas, as well as in Australia, pharmaceuticals. Two of their biggest markets are in China and Japan, and of course under a Coalition Government we negotiated and finalised free trade agreements with both China and Japan to give opportunities to export companies like AstraZeneca and others here in Bennelong to sell and manufacture their goods overseas. This is all about creating jobs and opportunities for local businesses and John Alexander is a local champion for businesses that create opportunities and provide jobs for local people. In contrast Labor is hostile to business. Bill Shorten has in fact declared a war on employers and has said that it would be in his political interest and to his advantage to fight with businesses such as this that are providing jobs and opportunities for the Australian people. I’m here supporting John Alexander, a local champion for local businesses and local jobs. JA?

JOHN ALEXANDER: Thank you very much Julie. AstraZeneca is really a great contributor to our economy. Not only are they working towards getting better health outcomes but just recently the announced a further $100 million investment in plant and equipment to build their capacity to export, especially to the number one market which is China. We congratulate them on this initiative and the great things they do for our economy, for employment and growing jobs, and for driving foreign income.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you. Any questions?  

JOURNALIST: Yes Minister, you and the WA Liberal Party have been lavished with Chinese donations. How much access did that buy them?

JULIE BISHOP: All donations to the Liberal Party whether it’s in Western Australia or anywhere else is transparent and it is declared on the AEC website. What I can tell you is that Chinese donations have not impacted any way on Australia’s foreign policy and that’s quite self-evident. We are consistent and principled in our foreign policy unlike Sam Dastyari who accepted money in exchange for changing Labor’s foreign policy position on very sensitive issues. Sam Dastyari was reading talking points that could have been written by the Chinese Government. In relation to donations to the Liberal Party it does not impact on our foreign policy and that’s quite evident and it certainly doesn’t mean that we would give overseas business people counter-surveillance advice in order to avoid what Sam Dastyari thought was an intelligence operation. I think the contrast could not be greater between Sam Dastyari’s behaviour and that of the Coalition Ministers and Members of Parliament.   

JOURNALIST: Could I ask you about your meetings with Mr Huang, how many times have you met him and could you give us any details about those meetings?

JULIE BISHOP: I was invited by the University of Technology Sydney to open the Australia-China Research Centre and I was informed that Mr Huang had donated money to that Centre. When I arrived at that event I was met by Tanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen, Bob Carr, Sam Dastyari, the whole New South Wales Labor Party seemed to be there but I was invited in my capacity as Foreign Minister by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney. I believe that is when I met Mr Huang. I have no recollection of any other meeting with him although it’s possible he could have been at events that I’ve been present at as well.  

JOURNALIST: Both the Labor Party and China are saying that the Government’s statements have damaged the relationship with China, could you tell us what you’re doing try to repair the relationship?

JULIE BISHOP: I don’t accept that at all. We have robust discussions with China. We are consistent, we are pragmatic and we’re principled in our relationship with China and I have constant contact with Chinese Officials and with my counterpart Foreign Minister Wang Yi. He’s visited Australia twice recently and I’ve met with him most recently in overseas during the APEC and ASEAN East Asia Summit conferences. We continue to have a comprehensive strategic partnership with China. They’re our largest trading partner. We have a strong exchange when it comes to tourists and students and it will continue to be a positive relationship. There will be disagreements from time-to-time but the Coalition Government is open and frank, as we should be, and what we say publicly we say privately. The relationship will continue to deepen and broaden as time passes.  

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you if the leaks about Senator Dastyari tipping off Mr Huang about phone being bugged – can I ask if those leaks came from you or your office?

JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely not and they certainly did not come from the Government. They certainly did not come from ASIO. What I can say is at last Senator Sam Dastyari has acknowledged that he is unfit to be in the Australian Parliament. Now why didn’t Bill Shorten sack him when everyone knew that his position was completely untenable as he had been absolutely compromised by his own behaviour. The question is now, is Kristina Keneally being lined up for the vacancy in the Senate? First, Sam Dastyari should resign effective immediately, he shouldn’t receive another cent in salary from the Australian people.

JULIE BISHOP: Well I’m happy to jump in here JA. I can assure you Bill Shorten has failed the most fundamental leadership test. He failed to sack Senator Sam Dastyari when it was quite clear that Sam Dastyari had compromised his position in the Senate. It was utterly untenable yet Bill Shorten held on to him. He just doesn’t have the courage or the principles to be a leader of Australia.

JOURNALIST: Mr Alexander, two years ago Mr Huang donated $20,000 to the Liberal Party in Bennelong when you were the MP. Was he buying your influence?

JULIE BISHOP: There is no equivalence between a donation to a political party which is disclosed on the AEC and a Senator receiving personal funds paid for by a foreign businessman in exchange for which he changed Labor’s foreign policy and he gave counter-surveillance advice. Sam Dastyari is utterly compromised. There is no equivalence whatsoever and at last he’s resigned but that should take effect immediately.  

JOURNALIST: Minister, should Australia be sending a Minister to Beijing for the 45th anniversary and why has it been so long since you and the PM have been to China?  

JULIE BISHOP: We have a relationship whereby it’s China’s turn one year to visit Australia and my turn the next year so I will be going to China next year as part of an ongoing relationship. Foreign Minister Wang Yi has visited Canberra and I met him in Canberra. He visited Sydney and I met him in Sydney. It’s a two-way relationship. They come to Australia, I go to China and we see each other at difference places around the world in different forums. In relation to the 45th anniversary we will be represented at a high level. There are often anniversaries, indeed every 5-10 years there can be anniversaries and we are represented at an appropriate level on each occasion.

JOURNALIST: Ms Bishop, Tony Abbott has accepted flights from an American organisation, Alliance Defending Freedom. Should MPs accept flights from foreign not-for-profit organisations?

JULIE BISHOP: I don’t know the details of that but I’m assuming it’s been disclosed on his Register of Interests. I don’t know the details.  

JOURNALIST: Well, should MPs accept flights from foreign not-for-profit organisations?  

JULIE BISHOP: I don’t know the details of this particular circumstance but if it’s on his Register of Interest I’m assuming that that’s how this disclosure has come about, but I don’t know the details and when I find out I can make a further comment.

JOURNALIST: There are reports that the Prime Minister approached Kristina Keneally with an Ambassadorship to the Vatican. If she’s unfit for public office why would she be a candidate?

JULIE BISHOP: I have oversight on all appointments that are ultimately made by the Prime Minister but I have oversight and I have never heard of Kristina Keneally being offered an Ambassadorship. Let’s remember she is a failed former Labor Premier. She was Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi’s choice for the leader of the Labor Party in New South Wales and she presided over one of the most corrupt and incompetent governments in New South Wales political history. She’s now Bill Shorten’s pick for the seat of Bennelong but as we see the Sam Dastyari matter play out we can see that she’s got a backup position to take Dastyari’s spot in the Senate. This isn’t about the people of Bennelong, this is all about Kristina Keneally’s ambition. It is not all about her, it’s actually about the people of Bennelong. They deserve a local champion and they have that in John Alexander.

- Ends -

This transcript has been redacted in accordance with Digital Transformation Agency guidelines.

For a full transcript please visit juliebishop.com.au.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555