JULIE BISHOP: I am very pleased to be here in Avalon with the Member for Corangamite Sarah Henderson on this auspicious occasion – the announcement that Avalon Airport will have an international carrier, AirAsia, conducting twice daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Australia. This is great news for Avalon, for Geelong, for this region and also increases Australia’s connections and engagement with South East Asia. It is a very exciting day and I want to congratulate Sarah Henderson. She has been a passionate advocate for this initiative since about 2010 so I’ll ask Sarah to say a few words.
SARAH HENDERSON: Thank you very much Julie. Good morning everyone. Well this is certainly a great day for Geelong, for Corangamite and for Victoria. A wonderful announcement by AirAsia X and of course the Linfox Group and Avalon Airport. Julie, thank you for your incredible support. There is more hard work to be done, of course, but it is so exciting and a utter game changer for our region that we will have an international terminal here at Avalon opening our region, our great region up to the world including the wonderful wineries of the Bellarine, our great City of Geelong and the magnificent Great Ocean Road. So, congratulations. Julie, thank you for your support. It is an absolutely wonderful day for Geelong, for Corangamite and for Victoria.
JULIE BISHOP: Thanks. A good news story.
JOURNALIST: There has been a lot of talk about Avalon being an international airport. The past few MOU’s with the Philippines and China nothing has come to fruition yet so how can we be sure that this is a done deal that we will see international flights by the years end?
JULIE BISHOP: The commitment of Linfox, Avalon Airport, AirAsia, the federal and state governments means that this will internationalise Avalon Airport and I am delighted by the presence of Tony Fernandes and the AirAsia team here today and with Sarah Henderson’s backing and pushing the federal government, I am confident that this will come to fruition. It has been a long time coming but the federal government is determined to provide more job opportunities, more economic developments in the regions and that includes regional Victoria.
JOURNALIST: How much is the federal government contributed to get them here?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government has been involved for some time in facilitation issues, in ensuring that the environment has been created for an airline like AirAsia to see this as an attractive destination and obviously we’ll continue to provide whatever support we can and we continue in discussions with Avalon. I know that Sarah Henderson will make sure that we are deeply involved in whatever is required to bring this to fruition - that is an international airport with international air carriers here at Avalon.
JOURNALIST: And why do we need to have international flights from this airport? Some people in Melbourne might find it a greater inconvenience to come down here. Why do we need to have two international airports in Victoria?
JULIE BISHOP: This is about bringing people to Victoria so that there will be an opportunity for more business travel, more tourists from South-East Asia starting with Kuala Lumpur to regional Victoria so that tourists and businesses can immediately access the regions and the attractions, the wineries, the food, the exports here but also it is providing people with choice, with options. With AirAsia flying out of Avalon, that will give people opportunities to fly from the region directly to South-East Asia. It is about more options and the more we can connect Asia, South-East Asia, which will be the biggest middle-class population in the world, the better it is for economic development and jobs here in Australia.
SARAH HENDERSON: Can I also add to that – Avalon Airport is a very easy airport to fly in and out of. There is great access. We have great aspirations for an Avalon railway station, a rail link straight to the door. So there are very, very big plans for this region. This is an incredible airport. It makes it very easy whether you’re doing business or whether you’re a tourist and we see great days ahead and even greater days ahead for this airport.
JOURNALIST: Julie, will the federal government commit to a rail link to the airport?
JULIE BISHOP: Obviously this is early days. There is a commitment by the federal government through Defence and through a whole range of areas to ensure that Avalon and the region is part of our master planning and we will certainly be working with the airport and with the City of Geelong and others to ensure that this is a success.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree it needs a rail link to make it a success?
JULIE BISHOP: We have to see the development first. Obviously there are a number of components but the announcement today is a significant milestone and then other things will follow. I am not going to pre-empt announcements by other ministers in other portfolios.
JOURNALIST: And what would your timeline be on a possible rail link?
SARAH HENDERSON: We have been very strong supporters of supporting the construction of an international terminal. That of course is very important. There will also be a very significant commitment that will be required from the federal government in terms of the Border agencies. That’s also a very significant contribution that we will be making. But I will say that there is an incredible support from the Turnbull Government for this airport in contrast to what happened in 2008 when very regrettably the previous Rudd Labor government, when Richard Marles was the local member rejected the notion of an agreement between AirAsia X and Linfox. That really did put the airport back. So I am very, very proud that under our government we are full steam ahead in making this happen.
JOURNALIST: Sarah, in light of Jetstar pulling their flights from out of Avalon to Hobart, how much does the success of this rely on the people of Geelong using this airport?
SARAH HENDERSON: I think it relies on the success of the people of Geelong but also the people of Victoria. I’ve spoken to people in Gippsland who say it is easier to use Avalon than it is to go to Tullamarine. Certainly this is a very attractive international airport option. As we’ve heard, to fly into KL opens up the world to 130 different destinations. And we’ve also heard some great news today - Tony Fernandes has flagged the possibility of flights to both Thailand and also Bali. So already we are hearing about possible expansion plans by AirAsia X. So this is very exciting. The news is even better than I anticipated.
JOURNALIST: Just on the cabinet files episode – the Prime Minister has called it: “A disgraceful act of negligence”. What have you done to assure Australians foreign intelligence partners that the Australian Government can be trusted with sensitive material?
JULIE BISHOP: Clearly this was a failure of process and procedure and the government has launched an investigation into it. It is a regrettable incident but we have assured our counterparts that we do treat highly classified information very carefully. We have a very strong long standing relationship with a number of intelligence partners around the world and we’ve explained how this incident occurred but pending the investigation we will continue to assure our partners that Australia can be trusted in keeping confidential information confidential.
JOURNALIST: Which governments have raised the issue with you?
JULIE BISHOP: None have raised it directly with me. We have reassured other governments.
JOURNALIST: Liberal backbencher Jason Falinski is being targeted by Labor as a suspected dual-citizen. Are you satisfied that he’s not?
JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely satisfied. This is a complete smokescreen because Bill Shorten has been caught out lying to the Australian people. He said he had no members of his party had any concerns under the citizenship requirements of Parliament and he’s been found to have lied. Now there are a number of Labor members who are suspected of being dual-citizens by their own admission. David Feeney has done the right thing by standing down as he should have some time ago. But to raise Jason Falinski’s circumstances is just a cheap distraction and Bill Shorten should own up to the fact that his statements about citizenship are in fact false and look at the people in his party who have serious questions around their eligibility to sit in Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Will you seek to refer suspected Labor MP’s to the High Court?
JULIE BISHOP: That is a matter for cabinet discussion.
JOURNALIST: Why won’t the Liberal Party field a candidate for the voters of Batman to be given a choice in the by-election? How can it be a test of Bill Shorten if there is no government alternative to choose from?
JULIE BISHOP: From time-to-time the state divisions of our party make decisions about which seats we will contest and that is a matter for the Victorian Liberal Party. The point is that Labor is very concerned about losing Batman. They are very concerned about losing Batman to the Greens. David Feeney has done the right thing by standing down. Bill Shorten should have expected this but the question as to who runs in this contest is a matter for the Victorian Liberal Party and I’m not about to tell them what to do.
JOURNALIST: But won’t this give a free kick to the Greens by not having a Liberal candidate there as we saw in the state election?
JULIE BISHOP: What it will do is show that Labor is unfit for office, that Labor can’t hold the seat of Batman and that it is a vote of no confidence in Bill Shorten.
JOURNALIST: What is your viewpoint on the news that has come through, a survey taken by the local state government on the possibility of including Aboriginal relatives in Anzac Day marches after frontier fighting and wars?
JULIE BISHOP: My deep concern about this is Daniel Andrews is trying to confect an ideological war by using Anzac Day as a political football. Anzac Day is a commemoration of the sacrifice of generations of members of the Australian Defence Force. It is a sacred day and Daniel Andrews should not try and involve it in some confected ideological war. Daniel Andrews would be better off spending his time focusing on delivering basic services to the people of Victoria like cheap, reliable electricity for a start and shouldn’t engage in this kind of political ideological war.
JOURNALIST: The Winter Olympics are starting on Friday. There has been some gesture of unity to invite North Korea ahead of the games. Are you confident that they will behave?
JULIE BISHOP: Any period of restraint from North Korea is to be welcomed. However North Korea is in continued defiance of numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions banning its illegal weapons program and nuclear weapons program. So while I welcome any period of restraint, and the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula the onus is on North Korea to abide by numerous UN Security Council Resolutions that ban its illegal behaviour.
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