JOURNALIST: After years of negotiations and months of delays, Australia and Indonesia have finally signed a historic free trade agreement. Indonesia put FTA talks on hold last year after Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested Australia's embassy in Israel could be shifted to East Jerusalem. Today the deal was inked, but with both countries headed to the polls in just a few months, there are questions over whether or not it will ever be ratified. I caught up with the Foreign Minister Marise Payne a short time ago.
Marise Payne, welcome.
MINISTER PAYNE: Good afternoon Patricia.
JOURNALIST: This free trade agreement with Indonesia almost didn't happen. Then Prime Minister Tony Abbott was on hand for the signing of the free trade deals with Japan and China and South Korea. Why wasn't Scott Morrison on hand for the signing of this one?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well as I understand it, it was always intended for the Trade Ministers to sign the agreement and what it shows for us is that we are now in a new chapter of cooperation with Indonesia. There'll be significant new opportunities in trade for both Australian and Indonesian businesses, and I think it is a very good outcome.
JOURNALIST: This is Indonesia's first free trade deal in more than a decade, how significant is it that the agreement is with Australia?
MINISTER PAYNE: Patricia, I think it is very significant. We know that we have a very strong and very close relationship. I work closely with my counterparts, the Defence Minister with his, Prime Minister and the President and so on. But this really is embedding between our two economies a very, very firm and deep economic management. Given the signing, it means that 99 per cent of Australian goods, by value, are going to be able to enter Indonesia duty free or under significantly enhanced preference arrangements by next year. So the changes come very, very quickly.
They're positive for farmers, they're positive manufacturing, they're positive for service industries. So it's a significant outcome. We've come a long way in these negotiations and I also acknowledge former Trade Minister Steve Ciobo who's contributed to that as well of course along the way.
JOURNALIST: This deal gives Australian farmers and producers better access to Indonesian markets. What's Indonesia getting in return?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well from Indonesia's perspective, they are very positive about the opportunities back into Australia and that has been a core part of our engagement. The opportunity for economic growth, which will enhance their security and stability is important to growing both of our economies and encouraging trade and investment in areas that have high potential for Indonesia, but which they have not really had a chance to develop with such an important close neighbour, is a really important step.
JOURNALIST: Labor has vowed to renegotiate this FTA, but today they told us that because the labour market testing provisions were not traded off, they see no need to. You must welcome that?
MINISTER PAYNE: I think that is a positive step Patricia, yes, we do. And I think it's a constructive step. We hope that all Australians acknowledge the potential of this FTA — the IA-CEPA, as it's known, because it is a landmark agreement and one which has a very significant upside.
JOURNALIST: And the Opposition still opposes the Investor State Dispute Settlement clause which allows foreign companies to sue our Government or Australian companies to sue foreign governments. And in fact I think they say they can deal with this by a letter, so they no longer believe they have to renegotiate this. I think New Zealand did this; do you think that's possible and if they were elected that that would be an acceptable thing to do?
MINISTER PAYNE: Patricia, I'm not sure of the intricacies of that, but I do know that we have had a similar sort of provision under our bilateral investment treaty with Indonesia since the early 1990s and it has not been an issue of significance.
JOURNALIST: Indonesians go to the polls in about seven weeks; Australians in about 12 weeks — well, we're not sure, are we? But around there. Do you expect both parliaments will have this agreement ratified by then?
MINISTER PAYNE: That's certainly our intention and has been in the period up till today. I look forward to hearing from Trade Minister on his return as to the process for that.
JOURNALIST: And Prabowo Subianto who is running against Joko Widodo is anti-free trade. If he wins the election could he tear up the agreement?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well I think that matter's for Indonesia really. But the strength of this agreement and the opportunities it will bring for both sides, I think are significant messages for our communities either pre- or post-election.
JOURNALIST: Just on some domestic issues — Christopher Pyne and Steve Ciobo have both decided not to contest the election. Will you commit here and now on national radio to running again? Will you be a minister a shadow minister in the next parliament?
MINISTER PAYNE: I fully intend to be a minister in the next parliament, Patricia.
JOURNALIST: So there's no way you're considering retiring as well?
MINISTER PAYNE: This is the opportunity that I have to serve my nation. I am honoured to be the nation's Foreign Minister and I look forward to, with the support of the Australian people, being able to continue in that role, absolutely.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Julie Bishop's recent comments that she could have beaten Bill Shorten?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well Patricia, I'm not in the habit of talking about internal party matters. I never have been and I don't intend to start now.
JOURNALIST: [Talks over] Could she have beaten Bill Shorten?
MINISTER PAYNE: What I do know is that the Liberal parliamentary Party made a decision, due to a particular set of circumstances in August of last year. We have been working very hard with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to deliver for the Australian people, to make sure we've got an economy which enables us to make important decisions, for example, around listing drugs on the PBS, just as one example. That is what we are trying to do for Australians — to deliver for them every single day.
I've been out in Western Sydney this morning in my home community talking about the environment, talking about women's sport, talking about naming of our new Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport, which is a great outcome for recognition of an amazing Australian female pioneer. And they're the issues that I think the Australian community expects the government to deliver on.
JOURNALIST: Do you understand why Julie Bishop is frustrated though?
MINISTER PAYNE: I think these issues are always very difficult for the entire parliamentary party. I don't deny that for a second and in fact, I would be not telling the truth if I didn't acknowledge it was difficult for me as well. But I've learnt over time in politics, the most important thing to do is to get up, to dust yourself off and to get on with the job. That's what Scott Morrison and his team are doing.
JOURNALIST: So you share the views of Christopher Pyne for instance, who was actually quite frank about how he felt about Malcolm Turnbull being removed. Do you share those feelings?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well, I'm not going to go into, as I said, internal party matters. It's not a habit I've broken now in over 20 years…
JOURNALIST: [Talks over] I'm asking you about your feelings, not the matters.
MINISTER PAYNE: …and I'm not going to start doing that now.
JOURNALIST: Well let's talk about some other things because Labor has reportedly drawn up a hit list of former Liberal MPs who've been handed plum diplomatic posts, it says they would review. Can you honestly say all of those appointments were purely on merit?
MINISTER PAYNE: Yes, Patricia, I think these are very important roles for individuals to play in our international community. And the Liberal Party and the Labor Party over the years have taken the opportunity, when it is appropriate, to appoint individuals that we think will make a real contribution.
When I was first appointed as the Minister for Defence, on my first visit to Washington, I met there with then Ambassador Kim Beazley, well known to us all as a long-term Labor politician who's term the Liberal Party extended in office as Ambassador to Washington. Mr Beazley was a consulate professional.
Those others who have filled those roles over time have done the same. I've worked with Labor members overseas, I've worked with Liberal members overseas who are playing key roles in these international positions and it has been the case for some time. I spoke about some of those earlier today.
Most importantly, the individuals need to be distinguished leaders in their communities. They need to be people who have experience and continue to make a contribution and that in my experience, on both sides of the parliament, has been the case.
JOURNALIST: Former NSW Liberal MP Patricia Forsythe will become the top diplomat to New Zealand. Now that's a role that's been typically held by a career diplomat from DFAT, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and it's been reported that she's a personal friend of yours. Did you just appoint a friend?
MINISTER PAYNE: No. We have appointed an exceptionally qualified and experienced person to the role. She has been leading Australia's largest city business chamber, the Sydney Business Chamber for over 12 years in the state of New South Wales. She has a range of board experience in education and sport and other areas, which I think equip her well to take on this new role.
Importantly, we've also acknowledged that New Zealand themselves has seen an opportunity to send a very high achieving, talented person to Australia in Dame Annette King, a former member of the Labour Party in New Zealand. It is a case of horses for courses, if you like, in some cases.
And I think that over the years, as I've said, if you have highly qualified, distinguished leaders who can make a significant contribution then they are potentially important and appropriate roles. It won't always be the case, but from time to time it will.
JOURNALIST: But is she a friend of yours?
MINISTER PAYNE: She's well known to me, Patricia. We have been…
JOURNALIST: Would you call her a friend?
MINISTER PAYNE: I would call most of our diplomatic appointments, in various ways, friends ...
JOURNALIST: Oh, yeah, but we have friends, and then we have friends, right?
MINISTER PAYNE: from Kim Beazley, to Alexander Downer; to Roger Price, who of course, was the former Member for Chifley, who was sent to Chicago by the Labor government some years ago now. So, these are part of the process, in terms of considering appropriateness of appointments, Patricia. And I do think Patricia Forsythe will deliver for us.
JOURNALIST: [Interrupts] But is she a closer friend than others who- I mean, I imagine that Kim Beazley, you're friendly with him. But is she a closer friend than, for instance, Kim Beazley, you would regard her as?
MINISTER PAYNE: I don't think I grade my friends in categories like that. It's not a sort of a BFF competition, I don't think, Patricia.
JOURNALIST: The Abbott Government famously recalled former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks as Consul General in New York when it came into office. When you look back at that, do you think maybe that was the wrong decision?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well, I don't think it's helpful to rake over those coals. But I do know that we have people like Craig Knowles, the former New South Wales state Labor minister appointed as Consul General in Auckland, at the moment. That in the past, others from the other side of politics have been appointed by Labor governments. From our side of politics, we have appointed Labor nominees in the past as well. It is about ensuring that the individual is able to do the job. I'm absolutely confident of that in this case, and in fact, in those that I have seen over the years.
JOURNALIST: Is former Trade Minister Steve Ciobo in line for a diplomatic posting?
MINISTER PAYNE: I think what Steven has acknowledged in his retirement, or his standing f down from the ministry, Patricia, and his intention to leave the Parliament at the next election is that he and his family are looking for new opportunities, and I wish them all the best. As far as I'm aware, it does not include one in that area.
JOURNALIST: Okay, that's pretty clear then, Steve Ciobo not to get an appointment. How about if someone like Julie Bishop?
MINISTER PAYNE: Patricia, this could take some time, if we went over…
JOURNALIST: I know; I've got lots of questions.
MINISTER PAYNE: … the Labor Members of Parliament who are leaving as well. I have no plans, in relations to any specific individuals at this point in time.
JOURNALIST: Just a quick one on something that I find quite interesting. Alex Hawke, who we know is a Liberal MP — obviously, you know who he is, but I'm just letting my listeners know as well — who's also quite close to Scott Morrison says that we should perhaps consider — we, being the Liberal Party; not me, I'm not in the Liberal Party, but as a party and for the country — “intelligent quotas” to allow more women to get elected into Parliament. Is that something worth considering; intelligent quotas?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well, I think on your program and in other interviews, Patricia, I have said that I do think the Liberal Party can do more in this regard. However, I found myself at an interview with the Prime Minister this morning, with my female cabinet colleague Melissa Price, with two candidates for key Western Sydney seats, Lindsay and Macquarie, who are both fabulous young women who are endeavouring to win those seats and to play a role in government. We have some excellent candidates across Australia.
We've just seen my very good friend of many years standing, Linda Reynolds, join us in the Cabinet. So there are good things happening. But can we do more? I have always been consistent in saying that we can do more. Does it include quotas? Does it include a comprehensive discussion at all of our options? I think it must include a comprehensive discussion, yes.
JOURNALIST: Okay. So this idea of having — develop your own version of quotas, perhaps, for the Liberal Party, that you develop in your own way that suits the party, you think should be on the table?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well, I look forward to talking to Alex about that, because I think it is great to see my colleagues making a contribution on these key issues. He has recognised, for some time, it's an issue, which he and I have discussed before. That this is an area where we, as I said, can do better and I'm sure that we will head to the election with a significant number of women on the ballot paper with Liberal beside their name. We will hopefully be successful at that election, and then we can look at next steps.
JOURNALIST: Including, perhaps, this idea?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well, there's a lot of ideas. There's a lot of questions around whether…
JOURNALIST: I just want to get a confirmation that you do think this is worth exploring?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well, I said I think all options should be on the table, Patricia. That's nothing new.
JOURNALIST: Okay. And Senator, thank you so much for your time.
MINISTER PAYNE: Thanks very much.
JOURNALIST: That is the Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne.
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