KIM LANDERS: Minister, good morning.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, good to be with you.
KIM LANDERS: Will Australia send assistance to Greece to cope with the aftermath of these horrific fires?
JULIE BISHOP: This is a shocking tragedy. Australians know all too well the devastating impact of bushfires and the loss of life is astounding. Our thoughts are with the people of Greece. Our Embassy in Athens is in close contact with the authorities. We have offered assistance and we are ready to provide that assistance if we are asked, but at this stage we stand ready to provide whatever support the Government of Greece may seek.
KIM LANDERS: You have spent two days with your US counterpart – did Mike Pompeo tell you who is going to be the next US Ambassador to Australia?
JULIE BISHOP: No he didn’t – he did tell me that he was advanced in his thinking on the matter and we would certainly welcome an appointment-
KIM LANDERS: Have they settled on a name?
JULIE BISHOP: No, he didn’t say that they had. He said that he was considering the matter. We would certainly welcome an appointment sooner rather than later, but this is not affecting our interactions with the Trump Administration. They are yet to appoint Ambassadors to a number of countries. This is not unprecedented – we have waited for more than 12 or 18 months in the past for the appointment of a US Ambassador. Our Ministers are meeting on a regular basis. Marise Payne and I have just concluded two days of meetings with our counterparts in Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis.
KIM LANDERS: Let me ask you something about that – on the Pacific, Secretary Pompeo says “Australia and the US will be taking concrete action to step up involvement in the region”. What did you agree on? What will that take?
JULIE BISHOP: That means we are going to engage on infrastructure investment. We are talking about greater cooperation on the delivery development assistance in the Pacific. We work closely on regional peace and security and we are going to continue to do that. So it was on the economic front as well as the regional peace, stability and security front.
KIM LANDERS: So you got a clear signal from the US that it is with Australia when it comes to this battle with China for the hearts and minds of Pacific nations?
JULIE BISHOP: That is not the way it was put – they are your words. What we were talking about was that the United States is a Pacific power, Australia has a deep and abiding interest in the wellbeing of the nations of the Pacific and we believe that together, and with other countries as well of course, we will be able to support the Pacific continue to be a region of stability and hopefully prosperity. I think that with Australia and the US working together, but also with Japan that has a significant development assistance budget in the Pacific, with the United Kingdom who recently said that they were opening more posts in the Pacific, more missions in the Pacific, with China - we are doing some work in Papua New Guinea in the development assistance area in health particularly – so want to work with more partners in developing the Pacific to increase the standard of living, reduce poverty and drive economic growth.
KIM LANDERS: The FBI Director said last week that China, from a counter-intelligence perspective represents the most pervasive, most threatening challenge that the US faces. Is it the same for Australia?
JULIE BISHOP: We are certainly concerned about cyber-attacks. They are not confined to China. We are concerned about foreign interference. That is certainly not country specific either, so we do work closely with like-minded countries to ensure that our nation and our region can be as safe and secure as possible.
KIM LANDERS: When do you think you might be able to travel to China?
JULIE BISHOP: We are in the process of negotiating a timetable when both I and the Foreign Minister are available. Foreign Ministers travel the world constantly, and so trying to match up times can often be a challenge, but I am looking forward to visiting China as soon as possible.
KIM LANDERS: On Russia, are you pleased to hear that the US President has postponed his planned meeting with Vladimir Putin to next year?
JULIE BISHOP: That is a decision for the President as to when he schedules a meeting with President Putin. Our interests in the US-Russia relationship also focus on our interests and that is holding Russia to account for its role in the downing of MH17, and we received a very strong level of support from the United States as I expected we would in relation to holding Russia to account for its part in the bringing down of that plane
KIM LANDERS: On Iran, there was a tweet from President Trump that indicated a possible US military strike. Is Australia doing any contingency planning for that possibility?
JULIE BISHOP: We have concerns about Iranian behaviour in the region, as does the United States. We are concerned about Iran providing support to proxy groups that are working against regional peace and security. For example, in Yemen, Iranian support for groups in Yemen is actually extending the suffering and making humanitarian relief very challenging, and we are urging Iran to be a force for peace and stability.
KIM LANDERS: But is Australia planning for that contingency of the US possibly launching a military strike?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia is urging Iran to be a force for peace and stability in the region. The relationship between the United States and Iran is a matter for them. What we are looking to do is to ensure that all parties embrace peaceful and stable principles to ensure that our region is safe. We are concerned about its ballistic missile program and we talked about ways of constructively engaging with Iran to prevent the development of that program, but more specifically, we talked about urging Iran to not support proxy-groups whether it is in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere and that is the level of discussion we had.
KIM LANDERS: Minister, thank you very much for speaking with AM this morning.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
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