PETER KENNEDY: Thanks very much Mark and Julie, good morning.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning.
PETER KENNEDY: Eight weeks ago you were Foreign Minister, walking the world stage and also Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. Now you’re a backbencher, how much do you miss it?
JULIE BISHOP: Of course I miss it, it was an extraordinary privilege to represent Australia on the world stage and I have to admit, I loved every minute of being Foreign Minister. In fact when I first went into Parliament I had a secret ambition to one day be Australia’s Foreign Minister, but it was a tumultuous time and politics is a very uncertain career path at any point, so here I am as Member for Curtin. I am busy, but in a different way.
PETER KENNEDY: Well I would think that many people here are as surprised you’re not still Foreign Minister. So why did you step down?
JULIE BISHOP: Well that week of the 23rd of August was a very difficult one for the Liberal Party. The then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull anticipated that the weeks of destabilisation would culminate in a spill at the party room on the Tuesday morning and he was convinced that there was at least one backbencher who was going to call for a spill of the leadership positions. So Malcolm took it upon himself to declare all positions vacant and I agreed that mine, as Deputy Leader, should be declared vacant as well. Malcolm won that challenge by 13 votes and I was elected unopposed as the Deputy. I assumed that was the end of the matter, but it was not and as the destabilisation continued it became apparent that there would possibly be another spill on the Thursday or Friday. I had been Deputy of the party for 11 years and I had always maintained, publically and privately, that I would never take part in a hostile challenge against the leader I was serving. I think the role of the Deputy in the Liberal Party is a particularly challenging one. You are elected separately. The Prime Minister does not appoint you or the leader doesn’t appoint you and so I had vowed that I would never engage in a hostile challenge against the leader but when Malcolm Turnbull decided if the spill motion got up, he would not contest it, then he encouraged me to run. By that stage Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton were already in the field. So I felt that I had a responsibility to throw my hat in the ring. I was the longest serving Cabinet Minister, I was the only contender that had served in the Howard Government Cabinet, and I served in the Abbott Cabinet and the Turnbull Cabinet, I had been deputy for 11 years and you know, it’s over 70 years since we had a Prime Minister from Western Australia. So I thought that I owed it to the party to at least have a go. I didn’t succeed, so I decided to resign as Deputy. I thought if they wanted a new team then that should include the deputy. Then I had a short period of time to think about what I wanted to do and I was asked if I wanted to remain in the Cabinet and I decided that it would be in the best interests of that Cabinet, the Government and me personally, for me to step back and consider my options.
PETER KENNEDY: Has there been a credible reason given yet for the removal of Malcolm Turnbull?
JULIE BISHOP: Well you will have to ask the audience.
PETER KENNEDY: What about from within the party?
JULIE BISHOP: I think people are still struggling to justify why it was necessary to remove Malcolm Turnbull as leader. I heard some commentary only this morning as to why he had to go over energy policy and climate change policy, but I am concerned about how low the bar is now in Australian politics to remove a leader and this started with Kevin Rudd. The removal of Kevin Rudd in 2010 I think, set a very low benchmark for the reasons that one removes a leader.
PETER KENNEDY: Well the Liberal Party was going to correct that wasn’t it? The adults were back in charge once the change of government occurred. There wouldn’t be this rotation of leaders, but that’s what’s happened.
JULIE BISHOP: We have had three Prime Ministers in three years. Fact.
PETER KENNEDY: True, true, true. Well with regard to the current government, how do you think its travelling?
JULIE BISHOP: I think Scott Morrison has done a very good job. He came to the Prime Ministership in unusual circumstances, perhaps not so unusual circumstances these days, but in difficult circumstances and he certainly has shown the energy and the commitment to fighting very hard, to keep Labor from winning the next election
PETER KENNEDY: Just coming back though with your own position. Eleven votes, you were encouraged by Malcolm Turnbull to contest the leadership, you scored 1 votes, but none from your West Australian colleagues. How disappointing was that?
JULIE BISHOP: Well actually Malcolm voted for me and I voted for me. So it was only nine votes!
PETER KENNEDY: But the lack of support from your WA colleagues, you said it’s 70 years since there had been a Prime Minister from Western Australia, but obviously that didn’t sway your colleagues.
JULIE BISHOP: Well everybody has their own reasons for voting the way they do. It’s a secret ballot – apparently – but it seems everybody knows how everyone voted and I just told you how Malcolm voted. That was a secret just five minutes ago, but people have different reasons for voting for a leader. The point I was making about Western Australia was that over the last 10 years we have had six Prime Ministers, three, no if you count John Howard, four from New South Wales, one from Queensland, one from Victoria. Given that Western Australia is the economic driver of the Australian economy, it would be nice to have Western Australia in the leadership team.
PETER KENNEDY: Well what are the chances of that being restored in the near future?
JULIE BISHOP: We have a number of Ministers from Western Australia who would make very fine Prime Ministers.
PETER KENNEDY: Would Julie Bishop consider putting her hand up again for leadership and or the frontbench if the opportunity arose?
JULIE BISHOP: As I keep saying to the media when they ask me this – too soon, too soon.
PETER KENNEDY: Julie, staying with the leadership issue. Leadership challenges…
JULIE BISHOP: I gather you are going to.
PETER KENNEDY: …leadership challenges as you know are very brutal. You have been in the midst of them, as you say, for a number of changes and obviously a number of your women colleagues found it a bit painful, didn’t like it and the issue of bullying came up. How serious an issue is it in the party with regard to bullying in these robust contests?
JULIE BISHOP: It is how the Federal Parliament operates. It is a very adversarial environment. We inherited it. We inherited from the Westminster system a political system where you have an executive government and an opposition. The Opposition spends its life tearing down the Government, to get into government. So the whole environment is very competitive, very adversarial. It is unlike any other workplace in my experience. I mean, I was in law and that was, you know, pretty challenging and very competitive, but nothing like Federal Parliament. Everything you do is a competition, to get preselected, to win a campaign, to be promoted. It is always jostling against your colleagues, you are not actually working with them, you are working to be promoted above them. That gives rise to an adversarial environment and some people find it very difficult to work in that environment.
PETER KENNEDY: But in that environment, is it the argument that holds sway or combined with arguments are there threats? If you do this, this will be the consequence.
JULIE BISHOP: Well they would want to be very careful because inducements to a politician are against the law. So you have to be very careful don’t you?
PETER KENNEDY: Let me put it another way. If you don’t support this particular person, for this particular position, the role of chairing a prestigious government committee may not come your way.
JULIE BISHOP: I have heard that goes on.
PETER KENNEDY: Why were some of your women colleagues so offended by what happened in the leadership row that some of them decided to step out of politics at the next election?
JULIE BISHOP: I think that they have all set out their reasons. Julia Banks for example put out a very detailed statement about her concerns and her disappointment. Ann Sudmalis likewise said she did not want to stand again and they have set out their reasons. A political career is not for everyone, I have been there for 20 years now and both Ann and Julia have been there for far less time and I guess they have their own reasons, but they did make it quite clear that they found the culture challenging
PETER KENNEDY: Well it did become apparent and the issue came up, that the Liberal Party seemed to have a woman problem, as opposed to the Labor Party which had far more women in its ranks and it didn’t seem to be such of a probably there. So how does the Liberal Party deal with it?
JULIE BISHOP: Well it is both sides of politics to be fair. There was a Labor backbencher who was accused of all sorts of horrendous behaviour, Emma Husar, so it is not confined to the Liberal Party but in terms of sheer numbers, you are right, the Labor Party now have about 45-percent of their federal Members and Senators are female. We are less than 24-percent. I think in 2018 that is unacceptable and the Liberal Party is working very hard, I know, to attract more women to politics. My dear friend and former State President, Danielle Blain –the first female President of the WA branch of the Liberal Party, I know has a lot of plans and initiatives in place to increase the number of women and I think we all have a responsibility to ensure that parliament is a more inviting place. It is hard enough coming from Western Australia to be in the federal parliament because you spend half your life on a plane or in Canberra and so it does narrow down the talent pool of people who would be prepared to enter federal politics. We have to make it more attractive, more inviting, particularly for women because we are nowhere near 50-percent and I happen to believe that no nation reaches it’s potential unless it fully engages with the ideas and skills and abilities and energies of the 50-percent of its population that is female. In Australia’s case it is 51-percent.
PETER KENNEDY: Point well made, point well made. If we can go to your portfolio over the past five years, foreign affairs and your own experience, what were the high points of those five years for you?
JULIE BISHOP: There have been a number. In the early years, 2014, the work we did in relation to Malaysian Airlines MH17 stands out. That was an extraordinary effort by a whole of government team to first, recognise and call out that Russia was responsible for the downing of this plane that killed 298 passengers and crew, including 38 Australians. We obtained a unanimous UN Security Council resolution in record time, in under three days, which took an enormous effort on the part of our diplomats. I was in New York at the UN working around the clock to convince all 15 members of the Security Council to back a unanimous resolution that enabled armed police to go into Ukraine, essentially into a war zone and that was against the Ukrainian constitution. Having got the UN Security Council resolution, I then had to go to Ukraine to convince their Parliament to pass a resolution recognising that Australian and other law enforcement officers and investigators and police could come in to Ukraine and recover the bodies.
PETER KENNEDY: Did you have the full backing of your department to do that?
JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade? Yes.
PETER KENNEDY: You were chancing your arm a bit weren’t you?
JULIE BISHOP: Well we were chancing our arm in a number of ways. It was incredibly dangerous because the Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainians were at war in Eastern Ukraine, where the plane came down and we had to convince the Ukrainian parliament to pass this resolution which was essentially a change to their constitution which does not allow foreign troops, armed foreign troops, into the country. We had it all organised, ready to go and then suddenly the President told me, oh no the Parliament is rising for the summer break. I just couldn’t believe it. So we then had to go to each party leader and beg them to bring their members of parliament back. Could you imagine doing that in Australia? Getting them all back from holidays? Come back and vote; and they did, and about 400 Ukrainian members of parliament came back from their break voted, virtually unanimously, to enable us to enter Ukraine with armed police. So that was an extraordinary time, I will never forget it and of course we are still fighting for justice for the families of those killed on MH17.
PETER KENNEDY: And this led to your confrontation with President Putin. What was the background to that?
JULIE BISHOP: That was when then Prime Minister Abbott said that he was going to shirtfront the Russian President. So the next person who meets with the Russian President from Australia is me and we were at a meeting in Milan of world leaders and Tony Abbott was not able to go so I was sent along. It was a big horseshoe conference table and I was sitting opposite Putin and they were not cooperating in relation to the investigation or the retrieval of the bodies of MH17. So there was a lull in proceedings when I saw all his bodyguards leave, and all his advisors, and for a split second he was sitting there alone. So I raced around the other side, tap tap tap, and I said “President Putin, I am Julie Bishop the Foreign Minister from Australia”. We started talking, he took me away from the table, he spoke English, perfect English, I delivered Australia’s message as forcefully as I could and he stared at me, his steely blue eyes never left my face, and when I finished this message he said “So this is what you call a shirtfront?” I said, “Well it is more of a diplomatic buttonholing”. His guards and advisors came back, he moved straight back into Russian and did not say another word in English to me, but I thought that was a fascinating encounter.
There are so many, I just talked about MH17 because so many people in Australia remember that event so well. There have been so many highlights.
PETER KENNEDY: And a strong West Australian link in MH17.
JULIE BISHOP: With the Maslin family, of course, whom I still maintain contact with.
PETER KENNEDY: How did President Putin strike you? What sort of a man is he?
JULIE BISHOP: A strong man. That genre of very nationalistic, Mother Russia. He has said the greatest catastrophe of the Twentieth Century was the demise of the USSR, really? So he is a very strong Russian nationalist.
PETER KENNEDY: Low points, or low point?
JULIE BISHOP: Oh there were no low points from my point of view. Even the most challenging circumstances, and there were some very difficult encounters, were great experiences in retrospect. There was a moment when the Chinese Foreign Minister decided to take me to task over comments I had made about China and its Air Defence Identification Zone that it had declared over the East China Sea. This is not the South China Sea, it is over the East China Sea and Wang Yi was determined to show his displeasure at what I had said. So I met him in Beijing and he was very cool and I thought this is not going too well. When all the media came in for the meeting to begin, he started speaking. All the Chinese media were packed in there, I had never seen so much media, and he started speaking in Mandarin to me and I had no idea what he was saying so I am still smiling and my Ambassador, Frances Adamson, who is now the first female Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances starts writing furiously because she speaks fluent Mandarin, and I am reading, he is bagging you out, he is calling you every name, and I am there “oh really?” So he was attacking me in front of the media. So when he had finished and the interpreter started to relay to me what he had said, he demanded that all the media leave, pushed them out, so that I did not get a chance to respond. Well I am whistling to the Australian media to say you have got to stay to hear this, so there was a very ugly altercation at the door as they were trying to throw the Australian media out, but I managed to get out enough to say that I would not be lectured by him in these circumstances and it was incredibly rude of him to say this.
Anyway, we did not speak for the rest of the meeting, but because I had stood up to him he obviously showed me a level of respect because we became firm friends thereafter and we met on regular occasions and he would say things like “tough woman”.
PETER KENNEDY: So there is a fair bit of gamesmanship in international relations and one-upmanship?
JULIE BISHOP: Well the Foreign Ministers are there to advocate for their nation’s national interest and those interests do not always align and I have seen some extraordinary brawls – verbal – at Foreign Minister’s meetings. I remember one on the Coalition against ISIS and we are all likeminded in our efforts to fight terrorism, but even in that united cause, when the United States, and Russia, and Iran, and Britain are all around the same table, and China and others, there were 25 Foreign Ministers, the verbal jousts can be extraordinary. When you get Boris Johnson, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, attacking Sergey Lavrov, who is the Russian Foreign Minister, who is out of central casting, he is unbelievable, when Boris Johnson and Sergey Lavrov start fighting over the Russian-Japan military history of 1805, you know going back centuries, you know everybody has lost the argument, so it was a pretty tense time.
PETER KENNEDY: You mentioned Boris Johnson, can I just ask you about some of the world leaders that you have met and the ones that perhaps you have bean most impressed by, let’s start with American President’s Obama and Trump. How do they compare?
JULIE BISHOP: They are very different Presidents. I have to say, in relation to President Trump, during 2016 when the presidential campaign was leading to the November election there was view around the world, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, that candidate Hillary Clinton would win, lay down misere. I was not so sure, I had been in the United States and I detected a level of support for Donald Trump from quite unexpected quarters. So I came back to Australia and told DFAT to prepare two briefs – an incoming brief for a President Clinton and an incoming brief for a President Trump and DFAT thought it was a waste of time and did not want to do the Trump brief. We also instructed our embassy in Washington to engage with the Trump campaign equally as they engaged with the Clinton campaign. We did not run a commentary on the Trump campaign even though it seemed to be engulfed in controversies, we did not pass judgment and we maintained the line that it is up to the American people to choose their President. Not every nation did that and I think that put us in a very good position. When the new Trump administration came in we were able to establish very early and very close connections with the Trump administration. Mind you, most have them have moved on now but anyway. It also helped us when there was that rather tense phone call between Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump; we were able to recover very quickly from that. But it is because there is such a deep well of friendship between Australia and the United States that whomever is in the White House, whomever is in the Lodge, the Australian-US relationship endures, deepens and strengthens.
PETER KENNEDY: Is it fair to say he is an unorthodox President, which means that countries like Australia have to be on our toes. We haven’t had a United States ambassador in Canberra for two years. What does that say about relations between Australia and the United States, does the United States take us for granted?
JULIE BISHOP: Well first, President Trump is unorthodox. He campaigned on a platform of disruption, disrupting the establishment in Washington, draining the swamp and he is delivering on that, in domestic politics, in foreign policy. You are never quite sure where the US President is going to come down on a particular issue.
Whereas in the past we always knew, we knew where the US stood on a particular issue and countries would line up behind the US, in fact the US was the standard-bearer. If you went to a multilateral meeting, the US position was there and you lined up either that side of that side. The US isn’t there now and so other countries are filling that vacuum and not all of those countries have a likeminded world view for Australia. But in terms of dealing with President Trump, I think we have done exceptionally well. We were able to avoid the steel and aluminium tariffs that he has imposed on others. Yes we do not have a US Ambassador, but I have to say the Chargé James Carouso, Jim Carouso, is doing a fabulous job. He is great, he is virtually the acting ambassador and there have been periods in the past when it has taken us almost two years to get an ambassador. I think it took President George Bush at least eighteen months to get an ambassador to Australia. We did have one, Harry Harris, but then he was called to more difficult duties in South Korea and we understood that. I think it was preferable for South Korea to have a US Ambassador than Australia at that moment
PETER KENNEDY: The trade wars between the United States and China. Is there a danger for Australia because they are both major trading partners? We could get caught up one way or the other.
JULIE BISHOP: Yes it is a concern, a very deep concern. China is our number one trading partner, the US is our number two trading partner and the US is the largest source of foreign direct investment into Australia. They are both exceedingly important to us, in fact vital to our economic prosperity and security. A trade war between two great powers does not assist anyone. It would, I suggest, have a huge impact on global economic growth and Australia being so reliant on China for trade, and the US for investment, we would not be well served by a trade war at all. Neither would any country that is connected, as we all are, to those two great economies. So our urging of the Trump administration has been to settle its disputes, and it does have legitimate concerns about its trade with China, to settle it through the WTO. They are both members of the World Trade Organisation; there is a dispute mechanism available. There is one small problem that I have not seen much media focus on and that is that the appeals mechanism of the World Trade Organisation is down a couple of judges and the US is refusing to endorse more judges for the appeal court. So the appeal process under the WTO is moribund at present. So some things are going to have to change.
PETER KENNEDY: Julie, what about relations with China, our relations, they are considered to be rather tense. There haven’t been ministerial visits from Australia to Beijing for some time. There are issues about foreign investment and the State Government here is just moving on issues, extra taxes for foreign investors in real estate. So how are our relations with China?
JULIE BISHOP: Our relations are fine, of course they could be better but it is unrealistic to assume that we can have a relationship with China, such as we have with the United States. They are very different countries, very different relationships, very different history. So we should manage and nurture the China relationship for what it is. They disagree with us on a number of fundamental issues. They have a different political system, they have a different approach to the rule of law, they have a very different idea of democracy, so there are differences between us but it is how we manage them. I believe that we had managed it quite well. When I was Foreign Minister we elevated the relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. In diplomatic terms that is one of the highest levels of engagement that two nations can have. But there are areas where we speak out and China does not like it. We are concerned about tensions in the South China Sea and we raise that because we have an interest in assuring freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight through the South China Sea. About 80-percent of our trade passes through the South China Sea and our major trading partners, China, Japan, and South Korea are north of the South China Sea. So we have an interest in raising concerns. Now that does not suit China’s agenda, but it is how you manage those differences. So from time to time, other countries will find themselves on the negative side of China’s approval, South Korea from time to time, Japan, the United States and sometimes Australia. But at the end of the day both nations act in the best interests of their country and I believe Australia does it quite well.
PETER KENNEDY: What about controls though, or restrictions, on Chinese investment in Australia, it is considered to be in some areas very sensitive, particularly in communications and the Chinese investment in some areas has been blocked. How does that go down in China?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, China blocks foreign investment into China in areas where it does not believe it meets their national interest. If you look at Google and some of the tech firms, the difficulties they have operating in China. So each country looks after their own interests and we have a non-discriminatory Foreign Investment Review Board process. If we have a concern about critical national infrastructure, it will be considered by the Foreign Investment Review Board, whoever the country is. But of course if it were sensitive telecommunications equipment for example, or infrastructure should I say, and the potential investor was from Britain or the United States, well they are our five eyes partners. We have the closest intelligence and security relationship with four other nations, the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada. Now we are already deeply imbedded with their security and intelligence networks, so it is a different set of considerations from a non-five eyes country.
PETER KENNEDY: If I could just change directions a little bit and look to the future. I understand your department, your old department, developed a unit looking at jobs for the future.
JULIE BISHOP: Yes.
PETER KENNEDY: Obviously this is an issue that concerns all of us, our children and our grandchildren etcetera. Jobs for the future, how far is your Department, your old department, been able to go?
JULIE BISHOP: Well this is an issue that is confronting the globe and here in Australia we have to face the reality that technological advances are disrupting the way we live, the way we work, the way we travel and engage. In fact on a scale and at a pace that is unprecedented in human history. Recently the World Economic Forum released a review of 300 companies around the world and got their views on the workforce of the future, the workplaces of the future. It is very sobering reading. They estimate by 2022, a million jobs will have been lost because of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, but 1.75 million jobs will be created in areas that we haven’t even thought of and they will require different skills and different qualifications. So we are going to have to adjust and transition to this new world that the 4th industrial revolution is bringing upon us and that means that we have to start thinking very carefully about where technological advances will take us. So I set up within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade an ideas hub, we call it the innovationXchange and I brought together some of the brightest thinkers from within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, from across the public service, from outside, we have had people from the World Bank, from Google, from Facebook, other companies coming in and in this ideas hub we think up different ways of tackling intractable problems. Because it is foreign affairs, we were looking at the workplaces of the future in developing countries but the work we are doing is equally applicable to Australia. I think it is pretty well developed but we will be, well I do not know because I am not there, but I believe they will be releasing some work on that pretty soon, but it is an issue for every company to think, what is my workplace going to look like and will I have employees with the skills that will be needed? Now I happen to believe that we will not be overtaken by robots and AI, but we need to be able to augment it. So you are still going to need human skills of intuition, judgement, emotion, empathy and logic but you will be aided by extraordinary technological advances.
PETER KENNEDY: Well I suspect just about everyone in this room has had to deal with the technological advances of the last 20, 30, whatever years, but are you saying this will continue and perhaps even gather pace?
JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely, it will accelerate. I have no doubt that the pace of change will accelerate. It is only 11 years since the SmartPhone came onto the scene and in that time, the new industries that have grown up because the SmartPhone is essentially an outpost of a smart computer and millions of apps are being created. There is a whole app industry that we did not know existed a few years ago, so I think that it is going to increase and of course if we do get the space agency here in Western Australia, (she says hoping somebody from the Federal Government is listening,) if we get the Australian Space Agency located here in Western Australia, then that will drive enormous gains in big data, in robotics, a whole range of things that we will be able to use across industry in this state.
PETER KENNEDY: So what is the message for us here this morning?
JULIE BISHOP: Be flexible, be adaptable, and be alert. Things are changing very rapidly and it is not going backwards. It is only going to continue.
PETER KENNEDY: And encouraging our children and grandchildren, a message for them?
JULIE BISHOP: To keep their minds open for opportunities, to back their judgement, back their intuition. Be confident about the future because I believe that Australia is going to be one of the most significant nations, it is now, but it is going to be one of the most significant nations when it comes to creativity and innovation. We have an entrepreneurial spirit, we are risk takers as a nation, if government just got out of the way we would be an even more enterprising country.
PETER KENNEDY: You sound like Sir Charles Court.
JULIE BISHOP: That is a compliment, thank you.
PETER KENNEDY: If only Canberra would get out of our way then we could get on with the job. So with regard to, just the last question on that issue, we are seen as a quarry. The bulk of our exports are resources, but it is not going to last forever, so how do you deal with the economy after the resources start to run down?
JULIE BISHOP: We will always be a mining and agricultural economy because they are two of Western Australia’s strengths. We have high quality goods that are in demand on the world stage, whether it is our mining and energy or whether it is our agricultural goods. But what we need to do, and everybody here will give a nod, we need to value-add in our mining sector, the new lithium sector for example. We should be doing more than just digging it up and shipping it off to China. We should be doing more here to value-add down the lithium supply chain – whether it is making batteries or whatever it is. Likewise I mentioned the space industry earlier; I spoke at the In the Zone conference here, where there was a huge amount of enthusiasm and expertise in the room about how we could develop a space industry here in Western Australia. We have the assets, we have the wide open spaces, the radio silence that is required for the SKA for example, the Square Kilometre Array, that will lead to a super computing base here in Western Australia and I think that provides us with infinite opportunities. So the message to our universities is to keep churning out bright young people who are keen to embrace an exciting future.
PETER KENNEDY: Julie, talking about the future. You are recontesting Curtin?
JULIE BISHOP: That is my plan.
PETER KENNEDY: Will you?
JULIE BISHOP: That is my current plan.
PETER KENNEDY: Win or lose would you put your hand up for a leadership position?
JULIE BISHOP: Let’s take it a step at a time. I am the preselected candidate for the Liberal Party for the seat of Curtin and my current plan is to pursue that course. If my plan changes, I will let you all know.
PETER KENNEDY: What drove you into politics in the first place?
JULIE BISHOP: My family had been involved in public service for a very long time, in fact my grandfather in South Australia was the Chair of the local Liberal branch and he was best mates with Sir Thomas Playford, who was the great South Australian Premier. He was Premier for 27 years, just think about that, a leader for 27 years, just saying. We always had politicians around the family, my grandfather was in local government, and he was the mayor of the local council for the same 27 years that Tom Playford, his best mate was the Premier. My mother became the local mayor; my father was heavily involved in horticultural politics. So I was brought up to believe that entering public office was one of the highest callings and that if you had an opportunity to dedicate your efforts and your energy to the betterment of your community, your state, your country then that was a contribution worth making.
I didn’t plan to go into politics, but I became the managing partner of Clayton Utz, I think there is a Clayton Utz table here isn’t there? Shout out. No? Well you should be here. Oh there they are.
PETER KENNEDY: There, far right.
JULIE BISHOP: Interesting. That’s not the Clayton Utz I knew.
PETER KENNEDY: That is another issue.
JULIE BISHOP: Anyway, I became managing partner of the firm, that was the first election I stood for, to be an elected managing partner of Clayton Utz and I knew a lot about being a lawyer but I didn’t know so much about running a business. So I took a sabbatical to Harvard Business School. I was away from family, friends and sensible people who would tell me to focus on a corporate career and it was there that I had the revelation that I wanted to go into public office, I wanted to become a Federal Member of Parliament. I came back in 1997, and it is funny about that, you set your mind to something and it actually occurs. By 1998 I was the Federal Member for Curtin.
PETER KENNEDY: If you had your time over again, would you do it all again, same thing?
JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely. The highs, the lows, the good times and the bad times. If I knew then what I know now, I might have done things a little differently, but I do not have any regrets and I am still as excited about being a member of parliament as I was on the first day I was elected.
PETER KENNEDY: What might have you done differently?
JULIE BISHOP: How much time have we got?
PETER KENNEDY: Alright, I will ask you about one thing that you might have done differently though. If you had taken up Richard Court’s offer…
JULIE BISHOP: I knew you would get to this.
PETER KENNEDY: …in 2001 to enter State politics, you can be Premier of Western Australia right now. How would that take you?
JULIE BISHOP: How about that, that would have been different, but that did not happen and that is now a minor footnote in political history.
PETER KENNEDY: What is your advice for aspiring MPs to graduate through student politics and go straight into the political sphere or to build a career, a separate career, before politics?
JULIE BISHOP: Clearly we want our representatives to have life experience and it is my view, it is just a personal view, I think that if you have more life experience in a different career than politics then you can bring that to Parliament, to your deliberations, to your consideration of events. You have different perspectives, different insights than if you have just done a politics degree, worked for a politician and gone into politics. I suggest that is a narrower view and I am trying to be very careful not to criticise those who have gone down that path. From my perspective I think it is the richness and the diversity of those who are attracted to the Liberal Party that has led us to be the most successful political movement in Australia’s history. We have been in government at a federal level more often than Labor and I think much of that has to do with the background and the life experience of the people who become members, and are not all out of a cookie cutter. They have a very diverse history and they bring that to the parliament which I think makes for better debates, it makes for better policy making. It is not perfect but I would encourage people with very different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives to consider politics as a career.
PETER KENNEDY: Is there an ideal age to enter politics, to seek public office?
JULIE BISHOP: Again it’s a matter for the individual, some people have a great contribution to make in their thirties, others in their forties and you look in the US, there are people in their seventies who are making runs for the first time. In fact there is a lot of speculation that Michael Bloomberg, who is a dear friend of mine, is going to run for the Democrats, he was a Republican, but he is going to run for the Democrats in the 2020 Presidential election. I mean he is 76 now. That is quite a different mindset than here in Australia where we talk much about generational change.
PETER KENNEDY: Tomorrow week a very important by-election in the seat of Wentworth in Sydney. Did Malcolm Turnbull do the right thing and quit politics as soon as he stood down as Prime Minister.
JULIE BISHOP: Malcolm had made it clear that if he were not re-elected as Prime Minister that he would be leaving, he did not taken anybody by surprise.
PETER KENNEDY: Was it the right thing to do?
JULIE BISHOP: Well otherwise we would have yet another Prime Minister sitting in the backbench.
PETER KENNEDY: What is wrong with that?
JULIE BISHOP: Nothing. But Malcolm said that he would leave and true to his word he did. It does give the Party an opportunity to get a new member for Wentworth. I know Dave Sharma, the preselected candidate. He was a diplomat, he was our Ambassador to Israel, he is a very bright, well qualified, young man, he has got a young family and he does have a challenge on his hands because he is up against a very high profile independent. You might recall Peter, back in 1998 when I ran for Curtin as the preselected Liberal, there was a sitting independent in Alan Rocher. So it all comes down to the preference flows. Where does Labor end up and where does Labor preference? So if Dave does not get over fifty percent and Kerryn Phelps comes second and Labor and everybody else preference her, she gets over the line. So Dave Sharma has to get more than 50-percent of the primary vote, or close enough to it in order to win. So it is not easy and governments generally lose by-elections, they do not win them. Oppositions generally win by-elections.
PETER KENNEDY: Well there are 16 candidates in Wentworth and I noticed in one of the newspapers this morning that Malcolm Turnbull’s son Alex is urging a vote in the Wentworth by-election for an independent rather than the Liberal candidate, Dave Sharma, you mentioned, how big a problem is that? It doesn’t help the cause.
JULIE BISHOP: Well I am sure Scott Morrison would rather that Alex Turnbull not be on Facebook, but Alex like every other citizen has an opinion and he is entitled to voice it, but I think people might see it in the context of his father losing the leadership. It is understandable in that sense, but likewise there are many Liberals urging Liberals to support the Liberal candidate. I have been asked to do a fundraiser for Dave Sharma and I will be there on Sunday to do that and support him.
PETER KENNEDY: And you are also a friend of Kerryn Phelps, the prominent independent candidate.
JULIE BISHOP: Yes I am. I have known Kerryn for a long time and she is an outstanding person, she is the local GP, she is very well known through her work with the Australian Medical Association, so she is a very high profile candidate. What it does tell us is that federal politics still attracts people of high calibre and I think we as the public should be reassured that there are sixteen people who have put their hand up to go through the pretty gruelling public scrutiny of preselection and a campaign for a very high profile seat.
PETER KENNEDY: What would it mean for the government if it failed to hold on to Wentworth, tomorrow week?
JULIE BISHOP: It would mean we were a minority government; we would have to negotiate with the independents in order to pass any legislation in the lower house. Currently we have a majority of one.
PETER KENNEDY: It wouldn’t be a bright note though would it?
JULIE BISHOP: It is not an outcome we would wish for, no.
PETER KENNEDY: You are heading for Wentworth on Sunday to campaign for David Sharma.
JULIE BISHOP: Yes I am. I have been asked to do it and as a committed, loyal Liberal, I rise to the party’s call when they make it.
PETER KENNEDY: Alright, well we will leave it there and see what happens in Wentworth.
– Ends –