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Transcript of interview with Marius Benson: News Radio: 18 October 2010: canonisation of Mary MacKillop; Afghanistan; Parliamentary procedures

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The Hon Julie Bishop, MP  Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs  Deputy Leader of the Opposition  Member for Curtin 

NewsRadio with Marius Benson

Monday, 18 October 2010

Subjects: Canonisation of Mary MacKillop; Afghanistan; Parliamentary procedures

PRESENTER Among the official Australian delegation at the canonisation was the Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop and she is speaking from Rome to Marius Benson.

MARIUS BENSON Julie Bishop it’s been a remarkable day, and indeed night, in Rome. Does any single moment stand out for you through the canonisation procedure?

JULIE BISHOP Well it was a magnificent ceremony in Latin although when the Pope spoke of Mary MacKillop he did it in English to the delight of the thousands of Australians present in St Peter’s Square and so I think the reaction of the Sisters of St Joseph, who were present, and also the thousands of Australians to the Pope’s words about Mary MacKillop was quite memorable.

MARIUS BENSON And you also had a chance yourself to speak with the Pope?

JULIE BISHOP Yes I did. Kevin Rudd and Ursula Stephens and I met with the Pope. He spoke warmly of Australia and how proud we must be of Mary MacKillop as the first Australian saint. He spoke about World Youth Day in Sydney two years ago and his fond memories of Australia.

MARIUS BENSON And the day itself has been a remarkable one for many people. Do you think it will have a lasting impact?

JULIE BISHOP It is an event of national significance because the life and work of Mary MacKillop has been recognised in this way and regardless of your views on religion, hers is an inspiring story that Australians should be aware of.

As one of the Sisters of St Joseph said to me, let’s hope this canonisation will enable many more people to learn of the life and work and selfless dedication of Mary MacKillop and that she can inspire other people to a greater good, to help the disadvantaged, to make the world a better place.

MARIUS BENSON Now there has been a spirit of bipartisanship and unity, you have been wandering around Rome with Kevin Rudd for part of the time. That will probably end when Parliament resumes today and you return later in the week for the debate on Afghanistan, that begins tomorrow.

This debate is the first time Parliament has debated the war which has run for nearly a decade. Should a debate have been brought on earlier than this?

JULIE BISHOP Well I have spoken about Afghanistan in the Parliament on previous occasions as have Government Ministers. I am looking forward to the debate and to hear the contributions of Members. It is important that this mission be debated in the Parliament, but it has been discussed on occasions in the past.

MARIUS BENSON The Parliamentary view is clear, that near unanimous support is there for the war in Afghanistan in Parliament. But polls indicate that something like 6 in 10 Australians believe that troops should not be there. Does it concern you this division between the people and the Parliament?

JULIE BISHOP I think it is important that we remember that terrorists, trained or inspired by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, killed many Australians in Bali. The mission in Afghanistan now is to ensure that the Afghan National Security Services can take control of the defence and security of Afghanistan so that the Taliban not be in a position to harbour or nurture terrorists again.

MARIUS BENSON Both the current Government and the former Coalition Government put those arguments arguing for the necessity of the war in Afghanistan but Australians remain unconvinced, does that concern you?

JULIE BISHOP Of course it is a matter of concern and that is why this debate will be important and I hope that it generates considerable interest and that people do listen to the contributions of all Members of Parliament on this vital issue of national security.

MARIUS BENSON Do you think it is likely that any Coalition Members will break ranks and speak out against the war in Afghanistan?

JULIE BISHOP That is possible. We are able to put forward our own views. I am sure that everybody will give a thoughtful contribution. I don’t expect that all views will align, I am sure people will have different perspectives on the war in Afghanistan.

As I said, I have visited Afghanistan, I’ve spoken with our troops, I have seen the work we do there and I believe they should complete their mission.

Now other people may well have a different view but on our side of politics our Members are entitled to state their position, state their view.

MARIUS BENSON This sitting of Parliament will see the Parliament settled into a new order of proceedings and new standing orders. Do you think it will be a very different Parliament?

JULIE BISHOP I think procedurally there are some significant changes and there are a number of changes including the provision for Private Members Bills which I think will bring an added dimension to debate in Parliament.

MARIUS BENSON Those new rules were in initially for the first sitting post election and there were some differences seen. Do you think there will genuinely be a difference in debate with this new emphasis on Private Members rather than decisions being taken by parties outside the House determining what happens in the House?

JULIE BISHOP Yes I think there will be more opportunity for Members to put forward issues that they wish to have debated. Most certainly the Opposition proposes to take advantage of these new rules to put forward matters of national importance. So we are pleased that this change has come about and we hope to make full use of it.

MARIUS BENSON Julie Bishop, thank you very much.