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Transcript of interview with John Laws: 2SM, Sydney: 28 August 2013: [Syria]



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Transcript

The Hon Julie Bishop MP Deputy Leader of the Opposition Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Shadow Minister for Trade

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Julie Bishop interview with John Laws - 2SM Sydney

Subjects:

EO&E.....................................................................................................................................

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JOHN LAWS

Julie are you there?

JULIE BISHOP

Yes I certainly am.

LAWS

Oh I’ve got you now I’m sorry. It was my fault not yours.

BISHOP

Good morning.

JOHN LAWS

Good morning and welcome to the program. If the polls are correct you will become Australia’s next foreign minister. So are you being briefed at the moment about this disaster in Syria?

BISHOP

Yes I have been briefed. Tony Abbott and I received a comprehensive briefing last Sunday. But I’ve also received separate briefings including from the United States Embassy. It is a terrible humanitarian crisis underway already in Syria. Already there’s an estimated 100,000 people or more who’ve been killed and of course these allegations regarding chemical weapons attack represents a major disturbing escalation of the conflict.

LAWS

Tell me - is there proof of the chemical weapons? Or is it simply conjecture?

BISHOP

There is a very deep suspicion. You’ve all seen the horrifying images of the mass deaths in truly awful circumstances but John the first step is to establish the facts - where the chemical weapons have been used and by whom. The United States has very grave suspicions but the United Nations inspectors are already on the ground in Syria. They must be allowed to do their jobs. They are there because there are allegations of previous chemical weapon attacks but nothing on the scale as has been alleged recently.

So Tony Abbott and I have been briefed on the conflict and we’ll continue to monitor the developments including the debates that are underway in the United Kingdom and the United States and elsewhere. This should be a debate that the United States Security Council, the permanent five members of the Security Council have.

LAWS

It seems to me as a novice that the United States, Great Britain and France are gearing up for some kind of military intervention. Do you think that’s likely?

BISHOP

Well I believe it’s important that any response to the suspected chemical weapons attack has a clear strategic purpose and the implications of it must be carefully considered because any attack has consequences. There’s the concern about civilians. Already there have been hundreds of people killed. In fact, they believe 100,000 people or more have been killed.

But we don’t want to add to the humanitarian crisis so there are also risks with more strategic and targeted attacks and that’s why I’m calling for all of the implications to be carefully considered and the matter ideally should be the subject of unanimous position in the UN Security Council but Russia and China so far have not agreed with the stance taken by the United States and Great Britain.

So there hasn’t been a resolution put yet so expect there still to be a debate in the Security Council about this issue.

LAWS

It seems, as I said, the United States, Great Britain, France are gearing up for some kind of intervention. Do you think it’s likely Australia would contribute to any military fight with Syria?

BISHOP

I doubt that Australia would be invited or expected to contribute in that way. If it’s a targeted attack obviously the United States, Great Britain and France are in a better position to do that. I believe that Australia is already making a contribution to the humanitarian effort that is underway in Syria and surrounding areas.

LAWS

Are we concerned about irritating the Russians? I mean they are our allies after all. Are we concerned about upsetting them?

BISHOP

Russia takes a different position in relation to this. Syria is an important ally of Russia. Russia is also concerned about the precedent with Libya. Russia did not agree eventually with the action that was taken in Libya. They did originally but they believed that it went too far and have been quite persistent in saying they don’t want to see a repeat of what happened in Libya in Syria.

However I believe that more must be done to persuade Russia. This is a humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale, use of chemical weapons, as President Obama said, is a red line that should never be crossed. We certainly want to ensure that any action taken in Syria is a deterrent for any further use of chemical weapons in this or any other conflict.

LAWS

Do you think this could break out in to a wider war?

BISHOP

That is the fear John. It is already a bitter civil war. The Alawite minority of the Assad Regime is being backed by Iran, Hezbollah. The Sunni majority is being backed by the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia. Even the thought of it spilling out into a sectarian war beyond the borders of Syria is terrifying quite frankly and that’s why every effort must be made to contain the conflict and to put an end to any further suggestion that chemical weapons are being used.

LAWS

If it did spill over could it turn into a world war?

BISHOP

Oh John, I don’t even like to think about that. I know that there are big, grave concerns that this could be a much broader Suni, Shiite conflict and it could engulf the Middle East. That’s why it’s so important we try and contain what’s happening in Syria, in Syria. It’s bad enough what’s happening on the ground there seeing the images on our TVs at night. It’s really horrifying.

LAWS

Alright. It is, it’s absolutely horrible. Do you think there will ever be peace in the Middle East?

BISHOP

That’s very hard to say isn’t it. The United States have been involved for so long in trying to negotiate a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians and that seems insurmountable from time to time but then you get a glimmer of hope and they return to the negotiating table and there’s a belief in the betterment of humankind and we’re going to see peace.

But it’s a deeply troubled region. The Arab Spring gave us so much hope that we might see greater freedom and democracies in the Middle East and North Africa but some of them turned into more dire circumstances than existed before the Arab Spring. The problems in Egypt, for example. So this is a deeply troubled area and the other power in the world. The United States as well as the other countries involved in the Security Council who have that responsibility to try and resolve it if they can.

LAWS

Kevin Rudd has said that Tony Abbott doesn’t have the temperament or the experience to handle international situations like this worsening crisis we’re talking about now in Syria, do you accept that?

BISHOP

Absolutely not. Laughable that Kevin Rudd should criticise Tony Abbott about temperament, when his own colleagues who work with him, who know him better than most, say he’s unfit to be Prime Minister. Colleagues of his, just days before the election was called under Kevin Rudd, said that he lacked the courage and the strength to be Prime Minister and they’ve questioned his judgment, his discipline, his character.

So when your own colleagues say you haven’t got the temperament I think the Australian people should listen. He’s renowned for not only abusing his own colleagues but you remember when he was criticising Chinese officials to the media at the Copenhagen conference.

JOHN LAWS

I remember.

BISHOP

I mean there’s no end of circumstances, there is no end of evidence where Kevin Rudd has verbally abused people, or lost his temper. And as for his judgment, I think one of the greatest policy failings in recent memory is the failing in border protection and the actions by Kevin Rudd in dismantling John Howard’s border protection laws that opened the floodgates for the people smugglers. And to this day 50,000 people later, 1,000 deaths at sea, $11 billion blowout in the detention network budget to this day Kevin Rudd still cannot accept he got it wrong. His judgment is fundamentally flawed.

I could go on - the pink batts scheme, the overpriced school halls. In terms of the international stage, for someone who’s meant to have been trained as a diplomat, he's been very clumsy in a number of quite high profile incidents.

LAWS

So in other words he’s hardly the man to be talking about Tony Abbott’s temperament.

BISHOP

Indeed, well I’ve worked closely with Tony Abbott for 15 years. I was his junior minister when he was a Cabinet Minister, the Minister for Health and Ageing. I’ve been his deputy leader for over three years and he’s always respectful towards his colleagues, our staff, anyone he meets. I don’t think you could meet a nicer bloke than Tony Abbott and I have great confidence that he can show the necessary character, discipline, temperament to be a fine Prime Minister of this country. We can be proud of him at home and abroad.

LAWS

Have you ever seen him lose his temper?

BISHOP

No! I’ve seen him be frustrated, when people do something really dumb, but he never, never..

LAWS

He doesn’t bang the desk or anything?

BISHOP

No not at all. In fact I see him very much as the ideal team leader. He is like a captain/coach of a sporting team. He’s always encouraging us. He’s bringing out the best in us. He’s out on the field. I mean he’s playing the game as hard as anyone but behind the scenes he’s always inspiring us, encouraging us and making us focussed.

I’m on the board of a football team over there in Western Australia and the coach is so pivotal to the team’s success and whatever success the Coalition is able to achieve on the 7th of September the vast majority of that will go down to Tony Abbott’s ability to be an inspiring and uniting figure.

LAWS

Well said. The candidate for the Sydney seat of Greenway is Jaymes with a ‘y’ Diaz. He refused to turn up to a community meeting last night. Is he in the political equivalent of being in witness protection at the moment?

BISHOP

No John, look I’ve been out with Jaymes Diaz, I’ve been campaigning with him. I’ve met local business people with him. I don’t believe it’s fair to criticise Jaymes for not going to a debate. We all get invitations to participate in debates. Some you can do, some you can’t. Sometimes the Labor candidates withdraw and I understand that James didn’t withdraw because he hadn’t ever said he could do it. So that’s fair enough.

For example, I’ve had one debate with Bob Carr early in the campaign and we’ve been trying to arrange another debate but for a variety of reasons another debate can’t be organised but I don’t believe it’s fair to criticise Jaymes. I know he’s been doorknocking. I know he’s been meeting people face to face and answering questions and I’m sure he’ll be a very good Member for Greenway.

LAWS

When you talk about Bob Carr you talk about a fairly formidable opponent when it comes to debating there aren’t you?

BISHOP

Well we had a very good debate at the Lowy Institute early on in the campaign. I have a different approach to foreign policy and Bob Carr, as a former journalist and a former Premier, obviously has experience in debates but I believe I more than held my own.

LAWS

I’m sure you would of Julie. I’m sure you would of. Are you in favour of the Coalition’s Paid Paternal Leave? You know, with the price tag of something like $5.5 billion a year it would be a bit expensive isn’t it?

BISHOP

Well no, I believe it’s affordable John and I also believe it is going to be a significant change in our attitude towards women in the workplace but Tony Abbott is calling this a workplace entitlement rather than a welfare entitlement.

LAWS

But that’s merely semantics isn’t it?

BISHOP

No, it’s not because we are saying that women on maternity leave ought be paid the equivalent of their normal wage, replacement wage, up to a cap and that means that parental leave will be the same as annual leave, long service leave, or any other sort of leave and it puts it on the same status as workplace entitlements.

I also believe it addresses the three P’s of a strong economy, Peter Costello also used to talk about the three Ps - production, productivity, prosperity (laugh) and I’ve just done it - participation. So to have a prosperous economy you need to focus on population, you need to focus on productivity and you need to focus on participation and this paid parental leave scheme supports all those three pillars.

I think it’s fair. It’s received a lot of support from people that it would support particularly women who earn between $35,000 and say $60,000. They will get a fair go for the first time. It’s targeted to women who earn under $80,000 which is the vast majority of women in Australia.

LAWS

Yes there wouldn’t be too many making $100,000 would there?

BISHOP

I think there’s less than one per cent. I think about 80 per cent of women in Australia earn under $60,000.

LAWS

Yeah so it’s a good thing really. 25 per cent of young people have failed to enrol to vote. What would you say to them?

BISHOP

It saddens me when I think that people who have the right to vote don’t take up the opportunity to vote.

LAWS

Me too.

BISHOP

Since I’ve been in Parliament and before. I’ve travelled quite a deal around the world and I’ve been an electoral observer in countries where there’s been a conflict underway and just watching people literally die for the right to vote humbles me. I was in Zimbabwe in 2000 and again in 2002 when there were parliamentary and presidential elections and there was a brutal regime in place still President Mugabe. On election day when you saw people line up to vote knowing that they would be targeted by the regime, that they could lose their life, it was so humbling to see people standing there - proud, strong, determined to have their right to vote as to who would represent them.

LAWS

Not that it did them a lot of good hey?

BISHOP

Well eventually we did see change in Zimbabwe and Morgan Tsvangirai did eventually get elected as the Prime Minister but Mugabe stayed on as President. But my point is that we should never take for granted the freedom we have in this country and the right to vote to have a representative government, a democracy, an open Liberal democracy, is one of the greatest gifts you can have as a citizen of Australia.

LAWS

Have you given Tony Abbott any advice for tonight’s debate?

BISHOP

Tony doesn’t need advice from me.

LAWS

I knew you’d say that!

BISHOP

I just wish him well. I know he’s in a very good space. He’s run a very good campaign. He has got some great policies. He’s got a strong team around him. We’re very supportive.

We talk every morning and the contrast between the team behind Tony Abbott and the one man band in Labor because we know a third of the Labor Cabinet refused to even serve with Kevin Rudd. They wouldn’t spend one day. They gave up their salaries and their jobs and their status and their privilege rather than have to work one day with Kevin Rudd. I think that says it all.

LAWS

That’s pretty damning isn’t it? When you think that those people refuse to work with Kevin Rudd. I mean, what’s the matter with the man? I’ve always found him pretty reasonable, I’ve got to say.

BISHOP

Well you have to see Kevin under pressure he’s a different person. I likened him to the Incredible Hulk. He tries to be this mild mannered every man but in fact there’s a monster inside that can be unleashed suddenly on the most unsuspecting public servant or departmental head or flight steward or a make-up artist even.

There’s stories of Kevin losing his temper. Remember that video that was shown of Kevin being so angry with his staff because he couldn’t get the Mandarin translation to his liking? He was swearing and cussing and thumping the table. Well that kind of bad tempered foul-mouthed, aggressive leader, doesn’t sit well with people.

It really doesn’t and I think that’s why so many of Kevin Rudd’s colleagues are so reluctant to support him, it took them so long for them to desert Julia Gillard and come back to Kevin Rudd because they know what a nightmare he is to work with and that’s not good for the country when you’ve got somebody that alienates people so readily.

That’s why they dumped him in the first place. That’s why they took the extraordinary step of removing Kevin Rudd from the Prime Ministership in his first term of office, that’s how bad he was to work with.

LAWS

Tell me this, if Kevin Rudd loses. What do you think he’ll do?

BISHOP

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I assume he’ll look for some sort of job on the international stage. I can’t imagine that too many people in Australia would want to employ him.

The damage he has done to the Australian economy through the debt and the deficit and the incompetence in implementing programs. I mean you wouldn’t give him a job as a managing director of a company would you? They’d sack him. Turning up saying, ‘oh, I’ve blown the budget, I’ve borrowed to the limit, we haven’t got any profits left. But give me another three years so I can do more of the same’. No, he wouldn’t’ get a job in corporate Australia.

LAWS

Julie, you’re a pretty feisty woman!

BISHOP

Lucky I’m not in the studio with you John!

LAWS

You wouldn’t be giving me a hard time would you?

BISHOP

No not at all. Do you know where I am? I’m sitting in my car outside the University of Western Australia because this morning I’ve had a group of Young Liberals standing on one of the busiest intersections in my electorate waving placards, vote Liberal, vote Julie Bishop. So I’ve had a wonderful morning.

LAWS

Well no wonder you’re a little bit chuffed. Anyway good on you. You’re all fighting a very good campaign. Let’s hope whoever comes out on top is going to be the best person for the country. That’s all that matters, personal taste shouldn’t matter at all. It’s got to be what’s better for the country and I know where your loyalties lie and I hope everything

goes well for you Julie. I appreciate your time, you’re always very generous and I thank you for that.

BISHOP

Well thank you John and you’re absolutely right, it’s not about the individual, this is about the Australian people and trying to improve the lot for all Australians so that it’s got a strong and prosperous economy and a secure and safe Australia, that’s what we want.

LAWS

That’s exactly what we want. Julie, thank you very much.

BISHOP

My pleasure. Bye.

[ENDS]