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Transcript of interview with Graham Richardson: 10/10/2012 SkyNews Richo: Peter Slipper, bid for the United Nations Security Council Seat, Melinda Taylor, Alexandra Bean



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Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Julie Bishop

10/10/2012

SkyNews Richo with Graham Richardson

Subjects: Peter Slipper, bid for the United Nations Security Council Seat, Melinda Taylor, Alexandra Bean

E&OE……

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

We’re having debates about women and their competence. I think the next guest on this program is one of the more competent women you’ll come across. Julie Bishop’s the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and I pre-recorded this interview with her just a couple of hours ago. Julie Bishop, welcome to the program.

JULIE BISHOP

Good evening Graham.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

I thank you for your time. Obviously yesterday was a tumultuous day. I’ve got plenty to say tonight about the Government and how badly they performed yesterday. I think it was the worst day of this Government in the last two years. But there are some things that disturb me yesterday on your side that I think are worth asking you. We’ve all been talking about misogyny and who hates women. Well you’re a woman. Are you satisfied with Tony Abbott using the phrase ‘you got to make an honest woman of yourself.’

JULIE BISHOP

You’ve got to put all of these things in context, Graham, and in the context of the debate about the carbon tax Julia Gillard’s honesty has been central to it because she said before the last election, she promised before the last election there would be no carbon tax under a Government that she led and then she went back on that promise and introduced a carbon tax. Her honesty is central to our fight over the carbon tax.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

True, but of course, the phrase ‘honest of woman of yourself’ has a different connotation doesn’t it?

JULIE BISHOP

He could have said ‘make an honest person’ of yourself, but the points I’m making is that the Prime Ministers honesty is central to her character as a Prime Minister and it’s not about her gender. It’s about her competence, her honesty, it’s about her performance. We’re judging her on her performance not because she’s a women, but because she is the Prime Minister of this country and we expect certain standards and she’s failed them.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

But, then when you see that picture which was, again, given a run yesterday where you’ve got Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Mirabella and Tony Abbott in front of that ‘Julia Gillard the witch’ thing and the ‘Bob Browns bitch’. Again, as a woman, are you happy with Tony Abbott to be standing in front of those things?

JULIE BISHOP

Tony made an explanation about that at the time. I recall he said he wasn’t aware of it, and had he been, he would not have stood there. I’m not here to apologise for tasteless, insensitive, cruel remarks. They are not acceptable in any public discourse and should not be said, should not be written. What we were doing yesterday is dealing with the question of whether or not Peter Slipper was fit to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives; a privileged position that must command respect for our democracy to function. We believe that he has failed the test of character. Julia Gillard was put to the test of determining whether or not she supported Peter Slipper thereby endorsing his obscene and sexist remarks about women or whether she was going to put principles first. She chose to defend Peter Slipper and let down the women of Australia.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. It seemed to me there was a fair bit of picking and choosing on both sides, which is I think where both sides of politics are letting themselves down in this whole question. Everyone seems to say - yes, when they do it on my side there’s an excuse, there’s a reason that makes it OK, it’s not as bad, but on that side - it’s terrible. Both sides did that yesterday, and that’s what really appalled me.

JULIE BISHOP

Well Graham, what we were facing yesterday was a situation where revelations had come to light. We had proof, we had evidence that Peter Slipper, the Prime Minister’s choice for Speaker, had made these obscene and grossly offensive and derogatory remarks, not only about women in general but about a serving shadow female Minister. So we put it to the test. Would the Prime Minister, who had chosen this person for the job, stand by her grubby deal to put him into the job or would she stand up for principles and show moral leadership? The Prime Minister chose to back Peter Slipper and I believe she failed the test that was put to her on her leadership. It was a very important issue at stake here and the role of the Speaker is important, that’s why we voted against Peter Slipper 12 months ago to be the Speaker. He was not a person that we believed should be in the role, the Prime Minister elevated him to that role in order to get a deal with Peter Slipper so that she could side-step Andrew Wilke, you know the details…

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

That’s all true. But, no one at the time knew anything about this sexist stuff. I have not had anyone come up and tell me that Slipper was the kind of person doing all this. No one had said to me he was up to this sort of thing before. I think that came as a complete surprise. The reason he shouldn’t have been appointed as Speaker 12 months ago was, of course, all of the travel stuff which is not yet over and which I think was damning enough at the time. I’m surprised they put him in without examining it but, as I said, ill talk about that a bit later. My final point for you is I’m just disappointed that both sides seem to overlook sexism or misogyny when it’s on their side and that saddens me. Look, we’ll get down to work, and your shadow portfolio.

JULIE BISHOP

Just before we go, I do want to make a point about the disturbing development and I agree there was not evidence of Peter Slipper’s attitude to women until these revelations in the text messages. I agree with that, there were other reasons why he should not have been made Speaker. But, another disturbing development was that the Prime Minister is now using gender as a shield against any criticism and if she’s criticised she immediately charges her critics with sexism or misogyny. We expect more from a Prime Minister. We want her to be judged on her

performance, on her competence, on her honesty, on her ability to do the job. When people criticise her she must not use, as a sword, sexism or misogyny and she must not try and shield herself from legitimate criticism by saying - oh, it’s all about my gender. It’s not, it’s about her incompetence and untrustworthiness.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

We’ll leave it here. But we are just going to have to disagree on this. I think the list of things that she put to Tony Abbott yesterday in her speech were pretty powerful. She obviously lost her temper and she obviously performs better when she does. But the list of allegations, well they’re not allegations they are all facts, I think it made Tony Abbott look pretty ordinary. That will be lost in history because the only thing people will remember yesterday is that Julia Gillard supported Slipper and Tony Abbott didn’t. That’s the only thing that will be remembered. The sad thing for me is what she pointed out in the meantime. We will leave it at that because we can’t go on forever. Can I just turn now to your shadow portfolio and have a look at this question of a seat on the Security Council, the United Nations. Now, I’ve been scratching my head now for six months wondering why the hell we’re even concerned about it. I can’t see that it makes any difference what so ever. I wouldn’t have spent $40 million on [inaudible] let alone… The allegation, by the way, that we’re spending aid is always going to be a difficult one to prove but the $40 million we spend on this seems to be extraordinary. What’s your view on a seat on the Security Council? Is it worth it? Does Australia need it? Is it good for us?

JULIE BISHOP

There can be good reasons for seeking a temporary seat on the UN Security Council but, before you do so you should have a very clear eyed view of what you want to achieve. It’s only for two years, you don’t have a veto, so you only have a vote that can be over shadowed by the Permanent Five at any time. I would challenge any one to name the ten temporary members now; such is the status they have at the United Nations Security Council, but there can be benefits of being on the council. But as long as you have a very clear of what you want to achieve in two years.

The trouble with this bid is that it normally takes about ten years to build the momentum in order to get support for a slot at some point in the future. Kevin Rudd made a decision in 2008 to go for a slot in 2013/2014 when there were already two contenders in the field who had about six or seven years on Australia. In other words, the bid was too late. So to play catch up, the Government has had to divert all this diplomatic time and effort and resources, and millions and millions of dollars. It’s not just $40 million, we’re talking about direct costs. The indirect costs are enormous. To try and play catch up to win a seat, and for what? The Government is yet to articulate what it is that they want to achieve on their two year stint on the Security Council. But Graham, if we do win it should be because of our values and principles, not because we were prepared to compromise them to buy votes to get a seat.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

Are we buying votes?

JULIE BISHOP

Yes. Without question. The aid budget has been skewed towards countries that would not otherwise be a priority. Indeed, the Government’s own report into aid effectiveness questioned why there was this sudden skewing of aid money to Latin America, and the Caribbean. On the human development index they are not the poorest countries in the world, I can assure you and there are countries in our region, much closer to home, that would require much greater levels of aid then Latin America or Caribbean. This was a deliberate attempt to buy the votes of countries in that region.

Likewise, with Africa and this is where it gets difficult because, of course, there’s enormous demand for foreign aid in Africa, but, there are other nations who have a primary responsibility

and a greater strategic and national interest in providing aid to Africa. Suddenly Australia needed the 54 votes from the African countries to secure its seat on the Security Council and there’s been a redirection of foreign aid to Africa. My concern is that the aid budget should not be used to buy votes but it should be directed to priorities in our region where Australia can make a bigger difference.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

As far as your concerned, are we a chance of winning? The opposition is Finland and Luxembourg, there not exactly the biggest nations in the world. They’re not really a big deal.

JULIE BISHOP

Well with the greatest respect to those two nations, they have a very good chance and we can’t dismiss the chance that they are likely to have. Particularly, because they’ve been in the field for so much longer. But let me make the point about Luxembourg. Luxembourg’s never been on the UN Security Council in a temporary seat. It’s a small country; that might be an attraction to other small nations who say, hey - if Luxembourg can get on there so can we. We shouldn’t write off Luxembourg, neither should we suggest that Finland is not a strong competitor. Australia will win the seat if the efforts of our diplomats, that have been beyond the call of duty, have been able to garner enough votes, and if we’ve managed to buy votes through our aid budget and regrettably having compromised our principles in a number of foreign policy areas. I say regrettably, because Australia should not compromise foreign policy principles in order to win a seat on the Security Council, we should be elected because of our principles.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

One last question, fairly briefly, Bob Carr travelled to Libya to get Melinda Taylor out when she was, in everyone’s view, wrongly, well not imprisoned, I don’t think she ever went to a jail, she was just under a house arrest I think was what really happened. And that contrast pretty dramatically with the woman Alexandra Bean from a couple of weeks ago, who got stuck there over some minor dispute really, no one went to her aid. Bob Carr kept saying we did enough, did we?

JULIE BISHOP

The case of Alexandra Bean is a very interesting one to compare with what’s happened in other consulate cases handled by Senator Carr. Alexandra Bean maintains that she needed consular support, she was desperate for consular support, yet Bob Carr went on national television and said that she didn’t require it. That was exceedingly distressing for Alexandra in Libya, but also for her family at home, who were contacting me to say that they couldn’t get through to the Senators office and couldn’t impress upon him that she needed help. The position should be that, Australians in trouble overseas can expect a level of consulate support from the Australian Government but they should be able to expect the same level of support. Bob Carr’s yet to explain why he provides a high level of support in some cases, and not the same level of support in others. He’s raised people’s expectations after the Melinda Taylor case and now Australians are saying well if I’m in trouble overseas will the foreign minister fly in to my side and negotiate my way out and the Alexandra Bean case showed that they can’t expect that.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

Well he’d be in a lot of trouble if he had to do that for all of them because there’s just so many. We have to leave it there, but Julie Bishop I really do appreciate your time tonight. I know it’s a difficult period for every body down there so thank you very much.

JULIE BISHOP

It’s been my pleasure Graham. Thank you.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON

Well Julie Bishop, I have to say, I said at the start - a very competent woman.