TRANSCRIPT - Capital Hill, ABC News 24, Tuesday 19 August

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SUBJECT/S: Relationship with Indonesia, Clive Palmer, Asylum seekers.


LYNDAL CURTIS: Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman and deputy leader is Tanya Plibersek. I spoke to her a little earlier.

Tanya Plibersek, welcome to Capital Hill. If we can go first to Indonesia, an agreement has been reached on what's called the joint understanding of a code and conduct. It’s aimed at resolving a diplomatic row when the news broke of that Australia once tried to spy on the Indonesian President, his family and Government officials. Is this a big step towards healing that rift?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Look of course we are very pleased if there’s any resolution of the ongoing misunderstanding between Australia and Indonesia. Indonesia’s one of our most important economic and strategic partners and we as a Labor Party have been calling for a resolution of this difficulty for some time. It has been 257 days since Julie Bishop said that Australia would work with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Government on resolving this difficulty. I'm sorry that it's taken 257 days, I think it's a shame that the Indonesian Ambassador wasn't here for 6 months of that time because there was such a degree of difficulty between our two nations. If indeed this is a resolution then we'll be very happy to welcome it.

CURTIS: We haven't yet seen the details of the code of conduct. Would you like to see them as soon as possible?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. Of course we would. It is very important that we resolve this difficulty but we would ask for a briefing as quickly as possible on the detailed contents of any agreement that is to be signed.

CURTIS: If we could move on to another of Australia's important relationships and that's the one with China. We heard Clive Palmer on 'Q&A' last night called the Chinese Government bastards and accused Beijing of wanting to destroy the wages system and take over ports. One of his Senators, Jacqui Lambie, has talked about not ignoring the possibility of a Chinese Communist invasion. Do you think the Chinese will see these for what they are not comments of the Government but comments of minor party figures?

PLIBERSEK: Well my experience of dealing with Chinese interlocutors is they have a good understanding of our political system. They understand that we have a Government, we have an Opposition, that the major parties move between Government and Opposition and that we have minor parties and Independents who speak for themselves rather than for the Government of Australia or indeed for the Opposition. I think these comments would be seen in China for what they are.

CURTIS: This is, Clive Palmer's raised these comments, he's got an ongoing legal dispute with a Chinese-owned company. Jacqui Lambie's comments back those up. Do you think they are well advised to make them?

PLIBERSEK: Well Lyndal, I think that you and I both know the answer to that one. China’s our most important two way trading partner, economically the growth of China is very good for us here in Australia and for the world. It is important that we seek to always better understand each other, our two nations. For 40 years we've had good diplomatic relations with China. I was talking to Bob Hawke recently and who told he's about to make his 100th visit to China so those people to people links are very strong as well. Government to Government, people to people, business to business. We’ve got more students studying in China, they have more students studying in Australia, and in the rest of the world also. We see more Chinese tourists all the time. I think that the best way forward for our two nations is to build on the very close relationship we already have by understanding each other better and I'm sure that people in the Chinese Government, representatives of the Government here, would understand that Clive Palmer and Jacqui Lambie aren't speaking for all Australians.

CURTIS: If we could turn now to domestic politics, Scott Morrison, the Immigration Minister, has announced moves to get children not only in what he's called held detention but out of community detention as well. He says it's taken some time because there were problems particularly in the support they would have been provided on bridging visas. He says that's now changed. Do you welcome this move to get children out of detention by the end of the year?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think of course, anyone would say that detention centres are not places for children and that children should be living in the community with their families. I'm a bit perplexed about how this is new policy or a new announcement. I think when Labor spoke about children moving into the community in 2010, Scott Morrison at that time said, "Well this has been happening since 2005,” so I'm not really sure what's new here but of course I welcome anything that takes children out of detention centres.

CURTIS: But what is clear from that long period of time is that not all children have been got out of those detention centres. He's taken, on your interpretation, years and years to do it.

PLIBERSEK: No, that's absolutely true and the difficulty of course with, at times, when there's been a larger number of people coming, it's taken a longer time to check the identity, health and security of people and move them through detention, and that’s not a good situation. Of course it's better not to have children in detention at all. I'm just a bit perplexed at what's actually changing, what will the difference be?

CURTIS: On that note we’ll have to leave it. Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Lyndal.


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