Doorstop Interview












Subject/s: Julie Bishop’s china comments; Climate change; Indonesia.


TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone and thanks for joining me here this morning. I was a bit dismayed this morning to wake up to a front-page newspaper story in the Sydney Morning Herald from the Foreign Minister suggesting that we needed to move away from one of our friends in the region to be closer to the other. This has been a continuing theme in the Government's foreign policy recently - this zero-sum game approach to our friendships in the region. I think it's very important to understand that when talking about Australia's foreign policy interests, it's very clear that our best interests are served by having a close relationship with China and a close relationship with Japan. Our best interests are reflected in close relations with both of our good friends, China and Japan, and also by efforts on our part to ensure that China and Japan better understand one another and that the relationship between those two very significant partners is a good one. I think it's very important to understand that Australia's foreign policy has to put Australian interests first and Australian interests are best served by having a good relationship with China and a good relationship with Japan, not by choosing one friend over another. I think the comments today reflect loose language that is quite counterproductive. It's important to understand that there's a big difference between being a foreign policy commentator and being the Foreign Minister of Australia. The role of the Foreign Minister of Australia is to shepherd our relations with all of our neighbours, to ensure that Australia's best interests are served and, as I've said, Australia's best interests are served by having good and close relations with both these neighbours. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Any thoughts on Clive Palmer's comments today, his push to amend the bill in the Senate before he will allow it to go through?

PLIBERSEK: It's pretty hard to keep up with what's going on in the Senate. It seems to be changing daily. What I would say is that it's good news that Clive Palmer understands that climate change is real and that as a nation we need to do something about it and that an Emissions Trading Scheme is the best design at the least cost for tackling climate change. It's important that Clive Palmer has supported Labor's climate change architecture, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and so on. What is really quite perplexing is why Tony Abbott won't make clear that the claimed savings from abolishing carbon pricing, the $550 a year he claims families will save, Tony Abbott won't say where this money is coming from and he's unclear about whether he'll end up supporting Clive Palmer in demanding that companies pass on savings. So far today we've heard already that Woolworths, Qantas, Virgin won't pass on any price reductions so where are these savings that Tony Abbott keeps talking about, and is he prepared to actually confirm to Australians that they will save the $550 that he's claiming? So far, Tony Abbott's made lot of big claims about his policies but he's failed to deliver on any of them.

JOURNALIST: What are the biggest challenges that Australia faces when working with China?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that the relationship between Australia and China is one full of opportunity. China is a major trading partner for us, a major export destination and also a major source of imports. The relationship with China has improved over many decades and is one of our closest and most important relationships now.

JOURNALIST: So, obviously we need to establish some good relationships, there’s going to be some challenges. What would you say the challenges would be?

PLIBERSEK: Well you know, Australia, no matter how close we are to our friends and neighbours, will not always agree on 100% of the issues that we have in common. There have been times when Australian leaders have, for example, raised human rights issues with China; Julia Gillard did that, Kevin Rudd did that. And within a respectful friendship there’s nothing wrong with doing that. But I think it’s very important, first of all, to focus on what a good and healthy relationship with China we have, what the relationship can deliver for Australia in the future and certainly not to play these zero-sum game politics where we have to move further from China to become closer to Japan.

JOURNALIST: One last question, so are you concerned that the election stalemate in Indonesia could lead to any civil unrest?

PLIBERSEK: I’m full of admiration for the Indonesian system of democracy. This is a country that has really only– a very young democracy, and yet close to 200 million people will vote at almost half a million polling booths around the country. I think it’s been a very interesting and closely contested presidential election. Of course Australia takes no view on which candidate we hope will be successful. That’s a matter completely for the Indonesians. And I’m very confident that the incredible advances we’ve seen in Indonesian democracy in recent years will deliver a sound result for the Indonesian people. Thank you.


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