PATRICIA KARVELAS: Marise Payne is the Minister for Foreign Affairs and joins us now. Marise Payne, welcome to the program.
MARISE PAYNE: Thank you very much, Patricia.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: The ABC has obtained Gladys Liu’s Chisholm nomination form. She lists associations with some 20 organisations dating back as far as 1977, but not the three linked to the Chinese Government. Shouldn’t those have been disclosed?
MARISE PAYNE: Patricia, I’m obviously not privy to the nomination forms of the Victorian division of the Liberal Party. But most importantly, we obviously have a statement yesterday from the Member for Chisholm which outlines her association with a number of those groups and makes clear that she’s no longer associated with them. And I think that’s been a very important statement.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: So do you believe that the concern some MPs hold about Gladys Liu’s involvement in organisations linked to Chinese foreign interference are motivated by race? Do you really think Penny Wong and Anne Aly are motivated by race on this issue?
MARISE PAYNE: I think they’re motivated by grubby politics.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: What’s the grubbiness? Because she was a member of these organisations, she didn’t disclose to Andrew Bolt. So where’s the grubbiness?
MARISE PAYNE: Well it’s not a question, I think, of didn’t disclose to Andrew Bolt. I think she spoke in the interview, which was not the best interview ever – we’ve all been down that path, including most members of the Opposition frontbench and the Cabinet at one stage or another, I presume; except of course for the Prime Minister. But in that context, she has made very clear her associations, which were also shared with, in at least two of the organisations concerned, the Labor candidate for Chisholm, which concern of a similar body that I think the Attorney-General mentioned today, has also supported the Member for McMahon in his travels, the Australian Guandong Chamber of Commerce. So the suggestion is unclear actually, Patricia. The ALP have failed to state what their claim actually is.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: The thing that they’re pursuing is that she was a member of these foreign interference bodies and didn’t disclose them. How did she forget them? And also the other question is: was there interference because of the membership?
MARISE PAYNE: You say they're pursuing that now, I'm not sure they've been clear about that in relation to disclosure issues at all. As she has said in relation to at least two of those associations, her Labor opponent in the election was also connected with two of those organisations.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Does that make it right?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, I think the question is what is the wrong here that the Labor Party is suggesting? And certainly in my Chamber and as far as I'm aware in the House of Representatives, that has not been made clear.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Senator Rex Patrick and Mark Dreyfus have called on the Prime Minister to disclose whether ASIO's investigation into Gladys Liu cleared her as a foreign interference threat. Why don't they unclassified that information or disclose that information to put this issue to bed?
MARISE PAYNE: Well Patricia, as you are well aware and as has been the case for as long as I have been a Member of this Parliament, governments do not comment on intelligence matters of that nature. And in fact, the former Attorney-General…
PATRICIA KARVELAS: [Interrupts] But they can choose to comment if they want.
MARISE PAYNE: The former Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is on the record himself in an ABC article in 2013, actually citing that same longstanding government policy. Now, that has been the case. It enables governments to manage these sensitive issues across a vast range of areas, not simply those before us right now but across a vast range of areas.
Now, by saying that a government should release that sort of material would set a precedent which we think is not appropriate. And their implications that if government does not provide a response on that, that somehow we have something to hide are completely spurious because it is the same position that he and others as members of a Labor Government have taken for years.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay. But given the point that this has reached, isn't it reasonable for Gladys Liu to just make a statement to the Parliament? She says she's auditing all of her allegiances, or organisations she's in rather. Shouldn't she be making a full statement to the Parliament?
MARISE PAYNE: Well she has made a public statement, Patricia…
PATRICIA KARVELAS: [Talks over] Well, it’s a statement, a written statement.
MARISE PAYNE: And the Prime Minister has indicated that he is very happy for that to be tabled in the Parliament.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But we already have the statement. There's nothing that- to table in the Parliament makes no difference to what we know. It's about her providing a fuller explanation to the Parliament of Australia that she's been elected to.
MARISE PAYNE: Well, that is her statement. It is a statement on the record.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: If this was a Labor MP, you'd be responding very differently, wouldn't you?
MARISE PAYNE: What do you mean?
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well, the idea that she doesn't need to answer any other questions seems an unsustainable argument. You know, if she was a Labor MP for Chisholm, you'd be asking these questions and expect a statement to the Parliament, wouldn't you?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, I think she has answered in her statement the associations that have been raised, her membership or roles in the associations. She has indicated what they were and that she is no longer involved with them.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: As the Foreign Minister, were you concerned about the answer she gave to Andrew Bolt on the South China Sea?
MARISE PAYNE: I think that Gladys was well aware and is well aware of the Government's position on the South China Sea and it's one which we have articulated consistently. And in fact, I've spoken to you about it on more than one occasion. It wasn't an interview which I think Gladys would be wanting to revisit. It was a difficult interview and one which had a number of issues that she was asked about, including the South China Sea. But one interview in which an individual, new Member of Parliament, is not completely clear on a range of issues does not necessarily give rise to the sort of hysteria that is being generated by some commentators, and frankly, by the Opposition.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: The two Australian tourists appear to have broken Iranian law that required them to have a licence for the drone they were operating. What kind of penalties do they potentially face?
MARISE PAYNE: Their case, Patricia, is currently underway and I don't think it's appropriate for me to engage in a running commentary on that. These are very sensitive matters in a country where we have, of course, an embassy, a presence, and we have been able to engage within the system on behalf of the detained Australians. We have been able to seek consular access for them, which is yet to be granted, but it is a matter we are pursuing and it is, I think, not appropriate to go into the details, as I said, as a running commentary.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: How sure can you be that the detainment of the three Australians in Iran has no link to international pressure, including from Australia on Tehran and also on our involvement in the Strait of Hormuz?
MARISE PAYNE: I can be absolutely sure about that, by largely, Patricia, because of the timing of the arrests in both cases.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just finally, are you in a position to give us an update on the case of Yang Hengjun, the Australian writer who's been charged with espionage in China?
MARISE PAYNE: His matter continues before the courts and it's at a period of time where he is still detained, obviously, and we are very concerned about that. We have particularly asked that he be provided with access to a lawyer. It's his request, which he has made, and which Australia has made. We believe it's appropriate in terms of the very basic standards of justice and procedural fairness that that occur and that still has not been provided. That is a matter of great concern to me.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just finally, you'll be representing the Prime Minister at this UN Climate Summit, is that right?
MARISE PAYNE: I'll be representing Australia at the UN Climate Summit.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: The Prime Minister being Australia, yes. Okay. I should have worded that a bit differently. What do you intend to argue in that forum?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, it's a very broad agenda. I am going to be accompanied by the Ambassador for the Environment and other officials. We've obviously already outlined our policies to address climate change, including cutting our emissions by 26 to 28 per cent and investing directly into climate resilience projects through our regional partners. We take these issues very seriously, as the Prime Minister has told the Parliament this week. And I look forward to meeting with a very large range of other countries who will be attending the Climate Action Summit and working with the Secretary-General and the UN officials to the ultimate outcomes, which include raising awareness obviously, and include addressing these key issues.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us.
MARISE PAYNE: Thank you.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: That's the Foreign Minister, Marise Payne.
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