LARRY WILLIAMS: Minister, good evening to you.
JULIE BISHOP: Good evening. Good to be with you.
LARRY WILLIAMS: So what’s going to be on the agenda with Mr Peters? Is it more than just Australian-New Zealand relationships?
JULIE BISHOP: Well it’s an opportunity for me to get to know your Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters better. I have met him but of course it’s important to build a strong relationship and friendship. We’ll be discussing a whole range of issues from bilateral matters between Australia and New Zealand, our focus on our region, of course Australia and New Zealand have a very deep friendship and we see New Zealand as our essential partner in the Indo-Pacific and a natural partner in the work that we do in the Pacific. We work together bilaterally but also in regional challenges and what we’re doing globally, Australia and New Zealand together, tackling challenging and also embracing opportunities.
LARRY WILLIAMS: Mr Peters said last year that there were aspects of our relationship that needed work. I thought it was actually pretty healthy. What do you say?
JULIE BISHOP: I think it’s a wonderful relationship. There are few countries that can claim to be as close as Australia and New Zealand, and as I said I think we’re natural partners, but of course from time-to-time there are issues that need to be managed and discussed and that’s what I’ll be doing in Auckland, having a very deep and long discussion with Winston Peters about a whole range of things and how we can work together more successfully.
LARRY WILLIAMS: I’m guessing Minister you’ll bring up the citizens living in Australia, you don’t have a path for citizenship, do you consider that done and dusted now and we move on? Where are you with that?
JULIE BISHOP: We certainly have a framework of working closely together and I believe that we can continue to successfully manage this. We have different challenges from time-to-time but you can count on Australia and New Zealand to work together to sort them out.
LARRY WILLIAMS: Australia has some issues with ISIS, like most countries actually, what threat do they pose in this part of the world?
JULIE BISHOP: We are still concerned about foreign terrorist fighters returning to our part of the world. Indeed, Australia believes we have about 110 Australian citizens who are deemed to be foreign terrorist fighters in the Middle East. We’re seeking to monitor and track them but they do pose a real threat. Next week I’m heading to Kuwait to a meeting co-hosted by the United States on what we do now in terms of ISIS and the continuing threat it poses even though we’ve had considerable success in Iraq in defeating ISIS.
LARRY WILLIAMS: How much of a worry is North Korea and Kim Jong-un in your view? I mean, tensions seem to have abated lately, President’s Trumps aggressive stances are working, increasing sanctions, China is on board and even Kim Jong-un is talking about unification and has seemed to have backed off somewhat. What do you see in it all?
JULIE BISHOP: Well we welcome any lessening of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and we’re seeing North Korea participate in the Winter Olympics being hosted by South Korea. So that’s a good sign but the fact remains that North Korea is in continuing defiance of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding its illegal ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program. So North Korea must abide by international laws, it must abide by the resolutions of the Security Council. In the meantime we will work with other likeminded countries in maintaining diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea so that it stops its illegal programs and comes back to the negotiating table, and I’m particularly concerned about the fate of the longsuffering people of North Korea, while the regime focuses on illegal weapons, you know, the people are suffering.
LARRY WILLIAMS: And on the United States Minister, President Trump gets a lot of bad coverage but there has been some good stuff, ISIS have been beaten in Syria, Iraq – you said that before – and Afghanistan, and he seems to be hitting North Kore, how do you see him performing internationally?
JULIE BISHOP: The United States continues to be the global indispensable strategic power. You’re quite right, there’s been success against ISIS in Iraq, the United States is continuing to build capacity in Afghanistan, there’s been a change of approach from China in relation to North Korea and I think that’s as a result of the urgings of President Trump, so strategically the United States is continuing on its path of being the indispensable power. It’s also obviously, along with China, one of the world’s most important economic partners for many nations and I think that the game changer is President Trump’s reduction of corporate tax rates. That really does put pressure on other countries including Australia to reduce our corporate tax rate so that we can remain competitive against US companies.
LARRY WILLIAMS: Minister, do you think that the US will come back in the TPP?
JULIE BISHOP: The TPP is an open arrangement, we would welcome countries joining if they would abide by the very high standards and rules that we’ve put in place and so we’d welcome the US returning to the TPP. It’s no doubt a matter that our Prime Minister will raise with the President when he meets him shortly in Washington.
LARRY WILLIAMS: And Minister, finally on the domestic front, Barnaby Joyce and the baby story – what did you make of the coverage of that?
JULIE BISHOP: Well it’s in the public domain now so I feel very sad for all the people involved. Private relationships are fraught with difficulty from time-to-time and it doesn’t help by having it on the front page of newspapers. However, we are all public figures and increasingly our public lives, through social media and otherwise, and becoming in the public domain, I just feel for the people involved.
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