SABRA LANE: Marise Payne has just returned to Australia from her first trip abroad as Foreign Minister. The Senator attended the Pacific Islands forum in Nauru. The forum agreed to the Boe declaration yesterday which says climate change is the greatest threat to the Pacific. Australia was also a signatory.
Marise Payne joins us now.
Good morning, if climate change is the greatest security threat to the Pacific, would it be unconscionable Marise Payne for the government to abandon the Paris agreement as some Coalition MPs are calling for?
FOREIGN MINISTER: Well the government is committed to implementing our obligations under the Paris agreement, Sabra. What was most important I think about the discussions in Nauru this week is the chance to really focus on those key issues of concern across regional stability, security and prosperity. We had a very, very productive couple of days and it was a very valuable opportunity for me.
SABRA LANE: If climate change is an urgent challenge as the declaration says, should Australia contemplate deeper and swifter cuts to our emissions?
FOREIGN MINISTER: Well I think we’re on the right track and certainly the Prime Minister is very focused on ensuring that at the same time as we are pursuing our obligations, we are going to bring energy prices down and that is a task which is to be undertaken by the new Energy Minister Angus Taylor and I know that he will look forward to bringing submissions to Cabinet to pursue that focus. But we have a very significant focus ourselves on supporting the Pacific with the work that we do through our contributions to multilateral organisations like the Green Climate Fund, but also more focused within the Pacific itself. In the last couple of years, we’ve committed over $300 million — two hundred million of which was already being expended on work focused on adaptation and on resilience. And certainly that was a significant part of the discussion this week.
SABRA LANE: Some Pacific leaders say that Australia watered down some of the language on climate change in the final Pacific Islands communique. Why did you do that?
FOREIGN MINISTER: Well I’m not going to discuss the internal workings of a private leaders’ retreat of course, but I think it is important to note that the communique and the Boe declaration are produced by agreement and that is the focus of our discussion there. We are always having robust and frank discussions with our colleagues and we talked about a whole range of issues. But the focus that is placed on the security aspects of this issue in the Pacific was first and foremost in our minds.
SABRA LANE: Robust and frank. Is that as far as you’re prepared to admit?
FOREIGN MINISTER: It’s not an admission, it’s a description. It’s a description of very productive discussions with a range of colleagues, many of whom I had the opportunity to meet before, some of whom I was meeting for the first time. And I think the forum in its breadth is a very important engagement. Australia, New Zealand and 16 other regional neighbours who work together very, very closely more like family than anything else and it is an important opportunity for us to come together.
SABRA LANE: Nauru has stopped the court ordered medical evacuation of a mentally ill detainee. Have you made representations about this particular case?
FOREIGN MINISTER: I know those matters have been discussed with the Department of Home Affairs given the role of the processing centre and those engagements with Nauru. It wasn’t a matter which was raised with me this week.
SABRA LANE: It’s pretty embarrassing though, an Australian court has ordered that this detainee be brought to Australia for urgent medical treatment.
FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, it’s a matter that I know has been taken up through Home Affairs, but most importantly, the government of Nauru was very focused on its opportunities to raise issues of concern right across the forum discussion and that was not raised.
SABRA LANE: What efforts will the government go to, to ensure that James Ricketson is pardoned by Cambodia?
FOREIGN MINISTER: Well I understand that Mr Ricketson has indicated that he intends to lodge a petition for clemency and we will certainly be supporting that application. We’ll continue to work with his family which we have been doing for many months now and provide him with full consular support. We’ve been making extensive representations to the Cambodian authorities concerning Mr Ricketson and we are very careful not to prejudice in any way his current situation, but now that his team and Mr Ricketson have decided on their next legal steps, we will certainly support that application.
SABRA LANE: Mr Ricketson’s family says that the 69 year old is in very poor health. What do you understand his condition to be?
FOREIGN MINISTER: I understand that the consular visits that he has received have been focused on his health and welfare. We’ve been making representations to the government and to prison officials about that and we are watching that very closely with our consular representatives.
SABRA LANE: Domestically, your colleague Sussan Ley says she’s not a fan of quotas, but now thinks maybe that might be required to address the lack of women in the party and in its structure. What do you think?
FOREIGN MINISTER: Well I think that we do have a very serious issue concerning the role of women in the parliamentary process and also in the efforts to engage more across the community. I’ve spoken about this myself publicly before and I’ve certainly met with my women’s council in New South Wales quite recently to talk about some of these issues. As a party, we did a very, very good job in 1996 — but I hesitate to say 1996, because it was a very long time ago — in the election of the Howard Government to ensure that we had a very, very broadly representative team facing the community at election. We’ve proven we can do it. I know we can do it again and we have to bring the same determination as we brought those many years ago to addressing this task now.
SABRA LANE: Electorally, how concerned are you that these recent allegations surrounding bullying and harassment will simply turn off women from voting for your party and indeed putting up their hands to being Liberal MPs.
FOREIGN MINISTER: Well I would always be concerned about any allegations of bullying and harassment and certainly concerned that we present a very positive and very constructive face to the Australian community that shows we’re getting on with the job — man, woman, all of us — and that is what I’m focused on. But I’m also very concerned to make sure that I work with my colleagues in the party and across the Cabinet to demonstrate to the Australian people that that is what we’re doing — getting on with the job, and making sure that we are including the breadth of the Australian community in our efforts.
SABRA LANE: Before you go, what do you make of the anonymous opinion article in the New York Times from acclaimed insider in the White House who says that there is a quiet resistance within the White House working to resist the President’s worst inclinations?
FOREIGN MINISTER: I think that sort of anonymous work is worth about the same as most other pieces of anonymous work. If you’re not prepared to put your name to it, then I don’t see how you can expect to be taken seriously.
SABRA LANE: Foreign Minister Marise Payne, thank you very much for joining AM this morning.
FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you Sabra.
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