I am here this morning to say thank you.
The chain of events that unfolded last week was at such a rapid pace that I had to make a number of, what some might say were life changing decisions, without giving them my usual due regard for the consequences. While I am very comfortable with the decisions that I have made there were a number of people that I didn’t speak to directly who are those most affected by them.
First, I want to say to my Liberal colleagues, thank you for supporting me as the Deputy of the Party for the past 11 years. Indeed, just a week ago at about this very time, I was again re-elected unopposed as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and as the record will show, I resigned that position after the leadership ballot on Friday.
As the Deputy of the Party I have served under three leaders and each has brought their particular style to the role and its challenges. First: Brendan Nelson, who picked up the pieces after the 2007 election. Then, Tony Abbott who brought us back into government in 2013 and then Malcolm Turnbull who gave us our successive election win in 2016.
Malcolm Turnbull is a remarkable person. He is one of the most substantial public figures of our times. Malcolm and I have been dear friends for almost 30 years. We have left the leadership team together, and as closer friends than ever before. I wish Malcolm and Lucy and their family every happiness.
Given the circumstances, I believed it was appropriate for me to resign my Cabinet role as Foreign Minister. This is one of the most significant positions in the Government for our economic prosperity and our national security, depends upon our international engagement, our relationships, our reputation, our standing in the eyes of the world.
Australia is highly regarded as a robust democracy, as an economic powerhouse whatever the challenges, and as a trusted partner that can be relied upon to stand up for our values and our interests.
In my nine years in this field, five as the Foreign Minister and four as the shadow Foreign Minister, I’ve developed a number of personal connections with leaders, with ministers, particularly foreign ministers. I regard many of them as my friends. Those more informal connections have enabled me to more effectively engage on critical issues in Australia’s interests. I want to thank each one of them for their touching messages that I’ve received this past week.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and our network of diplomats is amongst the finest in the world, and while much of their work goes on behind the scenes, I know that their dedicated service to the nation is of the highest order. I thank the two secretaries with whom I worked, Peter Vargase and Frances Adamson, and as Australia’s first female Foreign Minister, I’m very proud of the fact that Frances Adamson is our first female Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I was responsible for the Foreign Policy White Paper that was released last year, and this should set out a policy framework for the next decade and beyond. And in it, I set out the priorities that I believe we will face in that time. First – a strong, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Secondly – we must continue to push for trade liberalisation and fight against protectionism. Third – strengthening and promoting the international rules-based order under which Australia has benefited. Next – we must use every lever available to us to keep Australians safe, both home and abroad. And fifth – we must ensure that the Pacific is safe and prosperous and devote a significant amount of our aid budget to the Pacific to drive economic prosperity and security, because that will guarantee economic prosperity and security at home.
The New Colombo Plan will, I believe, be our most important soft power initiative in decades. From 2014 until 2020, already over 40,000 Australian undergraduates will have lived and studied and undertaken internships in one of 39 locations in our region.
I wish my dear colleague, Marise Payne, every success in this role. I know that she will continue to fight for justice for the families of those killed aboard MH17 as we enter shortly with negotiations with Russia.
I want to take the opportunity to thank so many people who have supported me my roles as Deputy and Foreign Minister. I’ll do them in groups. My ferociously loyal family, David and his family, my loving friends, and my ministerial staff. They know I love them all dearly, but they won’t mind that if I single out one, my Chief of Staff, for the past 13 years, Murray Hansen and his previous five years with the Coalition before that. There is no more accomplished political advisor in this Parliament than Murray Hansen.
Finally, I want to thank the press gallery for your fair reporting of my pontifications on global affairs – well, mostly fair reporting. I couldn’t ask any more of you.
I wish Scomo and Joshy and the Cabinet and the Ministry, every success in providing good government for Australia, and by upholding the values of the Liberal Party to ensure that we continue to be the most successful political organisation in Australia’s history.
I will remain as the Member for Curtin, as I had the overwhelming support of my constituents. I’m optimistic about my future, whatever it may hold. So, thank you to everybody who has sent me good wishes over the last week.
Now, if there are any questions…
ANDREW PROBYN: Ms Bishop, can I ask one..
JULIE BISHOP: Mr Probyn.
ANDREW PROBYN: Can I ask two questions?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, I was only going to take a few, so we should share it around.
ANDREW PROBYN: Okay, well, just on reflections on last week, the Prime Minister said that what happened last week was “madness”, I’d like to hear your perspective on that, but also I want to take you back on “soft power” and the, in retrospect, do you think that the $7 billion cut foreign aid, especially where it affected the region, was short-sighted given the rise of China?
JULIE BISHOP: I want to move on from the events of last week. I don’t think it is going to assist the new Government if I pontificate on those issues. As for the foreign aid budget, it currently makes up 0.8% of our national budget. I believe that every dollar of foreign aid invested wisely and effectively and efficiently is of benefit to our nation, so my view on the foreign aid budget is that it must be targeted, it must be focused, but we must be able to afford it.
PHIL COOREY: Ms Bishop, could I ask, you were part of the decision to sign up to the Paris climate change accords, just borrowing from the Foreign Ministry expertise, what would be the impact of pulling away from that, as some of your colleagues are still urging the Government still to do?
JULIE BISHOP: Mr Coorey, you’re quite right. I was part of the party room of August 2015 that unanimously endorsed the targets for the Paris Agreement. I believe that Australia has a very high standing as a nation that keeps its commitments and is part of the overall global effort for better outcomes for the world. When we sign a Treaty, partners should be able to rely upon us. If we have doubts about it, we should have reservations, and that’s the way smart politicians would operate.
MARK RILEY: Without raking over the coals of last week, and looking to the future of the Liberal Party, can you see a point where the Liberal Party will bring itself to elect a popular female leader?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, when we find one, I’m sure they will.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that the Coalition will struggle to attract a war chest without you in a senior role, considering how much responsibility you have taken for attracting donations to the Party over the better part of the last decade?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, obviously, as a back bencher, I am somewhat constrained. As a Deputy, I had much more ability to travel the country at the request of my colleagues. But I’m sure that the Party will put forward a set of policies that will be in the interests of business and individuals that take risks, build businesses, are looking for opportunities, and the Liberal Party has always been a pro-business Government. I’m sure that Government will want to see the Liberal-National Coalition continue, rather than risk their future with the Labor Government.
CHRIS UHLMANN: The Liberal Party has also been described as a broad church, and without looking back then on the events of last week, do you fear that that broad church is fracturing? And do you have any advice for the Party in the future?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m sure that the party members understand very well what has gone on in the past week, or indeed, probably ever since we lost Government in 2007. I’m sure that they will reflect, and if they want my advice, they know where my office will be.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that MH17 was, for you, a defining moment as your time as Foreign Minister and are you disappointed not to see that process through? And finally, what would you say to the families who you’ve gotten to know so very closely over the last few years?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t know that it was a defining moment, but it was the most emotional moment of my life. So, I want to ensure that the people for whom we fought do get justice. As I said, we are shortly to enter negotiations with Russia. I have no doubt that Marise Payne and the highly professional team at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue the fight for justice. And I do spend some time with the families of the victims of MH17. In fact, I received a text from the Maslin family last Friday from Otis, Mo and Evie, which was pretty emotional.
MICHELLE GRATTAN: Ms Bishop –
JULIE BISHOP: Ms Grattan.
MICHELLE GRATTAN: Do you see yourself returning to a senior position in the Liberal Party post-election? On the front bench? Or even, ultimately, leadership?
JULIE BISHOP: It’s far too early for me to even contemplate what I might do. But I will certainly have plenty of time to consider my options and reflect on what has been an extraordinary time.
It’s been an honour to serve as Deputy of the Liberal Party and as the Foreign Minister of Australia.
– Ends –