TONY JOHNSON: Well that was a warm welcome, Julie.
JULIE BISHOP: I feel very welcome here. Hello EY.
TONY JOHNSON: Welcome to Future Realised, Julie, and we greatly appreciate you giving up your time at a busy, busy schedule. And it would seem that politics never stops because – in Australian politics at least – we’ve heard news this morning that Julia Banks resigned from the Party. Let’s jump straight into it. What can the Liberals do to encourage women to join and stay in the Party?
JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Tony.
TONY JOHNSON: I thought we’d have a little light warm up.
JULIE BISHOP: The warm up question. I’m saddened that Julia Banks had reached a point where she felt that she could no longer continue in the Liberal Party. She will be missed. She was a strong sensible-centre female politician in our Party, but I feel sure that, knowing her as I do, she thought long and hard about how she could best serve the interests of her electorate.
This does highlight the fact that the Liberal Party needs and should have more female representatives. Indeed, I’ve often said that no nation will reach its potential unless it fully harnesses and engages with the talents and ideas and skills and energy of the 50 per cent of our population that is female. Well, in Australia’s case, the 51 per cent and that applies to the Liberal Party as well as every other political party. We need more female representation because of the diversity it brings, as well as the representation that it brings. Back home in my home state of Western Australia, our state division of the Liberal Party has just launched an initiative called Empowering Women, because it’s all very well to talk about quotas and targets, but you need a pool of talented women from whom you can build a pipeline of female candidates who are prepared to stand for office, whether it be local, state or federal. And this Empowering Women initiative has brought together, I think about 60 young female professional, business women, working in NGOs, community generally – not to ask them to join the Liberal Party but just to talk about public affairs; to talk about public office; domestic policy; foreign policy; just have a discussion with members of the Liberal Party. And some of them may well then want to go on to be elected representatives. And so these initiatives are taking place across the country, and not before time.
TONY JOHNSON: I just noticed the new Daniel Andrews Cabinet is 50 per cent men and 50 per cent women.
JULIE BISHOP: How ‘bout that.
TONY JOHNSON: You know we could talk about this for hours.
JULIE BISHOP: I just had a vision. Has anyone seen the latest series of House of Cards Episode 5? … Say no more.
TONY JOHNSON: Now, the prime ministerial churn that Julia referred to in resigning – and we’ve had Bob Geldof with us here the last two days – it’s got international notoriety to the point where Bob suggested that he could be our next prime minister. I’m not sure how dual citizenship would …
JULIE BISHOP: I think Section 44 rules him out.
TONY JOHNSON: Yes, I agree. What happened in late August and where the Australian people front of mind as that unfolded?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia is not alone in terms of political instability from time to time, but usually it’s associated with economic turmoil. And this churn, as you put it, of prime ministers really began with Kevin Rudd back in 2010. Because he’d been very popular, had stratospheric approval ratings, and yet his colleagues removed him, presumably, because they didn’t like him, they didn’t get along with him, and that set a very low bar for the removal of a leader.
I think the current instability probably has few parallels, apart from perhaps the period after Menzies and then the Holt disappearance in 1967, and then the end of the Whitlam era in 1975. Thereafter, we had four prime ministers in Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard – four Prime Ministers in 32 years. We have now had six in 10. I believe that – given our economy is strong – it’s the envy of many around the world, we’re in our 27th consecutive year of uninterrupted economic growth, we’re about to, hopefully, deliver a budget surplus and the deficit is as low as it has been in 10 years, and unemployment is about just over five per cent –5.1 per cent – this period of economic stability will bring political stability and that is most certainly what I hope will occur. Because business, the Australian economy, needs stability, certainty for business confidence for investment and the like.
TONY JOHNSON: You made some remarks around the NEG yesterday, and that was really around that stability and certainty?
JULIE BISHOP: My point was actually about energy policy generally. There are various versions of the National Energy Guarantee. I wasn’t championing one or the other; what I was suggesting was that given we have had so much uncertainty surrounding energy policy for so long, and given that Bill Shorten’s Labor have said now that they will embrace a National Energy Guarantee – not necessarily the policy that we’ve had or we have – then the ground must be fertile for there to be a negotiation over energy policy, because, business is demanding certainty. That’s part of our base – business – and I would like to see us come up with a bipartisan position so that we can ensure that generators can have the confidence to make the long-term investments that they need to make and drive that generating capacity. I’m agnostic about the type of generating capacity but they need the framework, the stability, of an energy policy.
TONY JOHNSON: We focused over the last two days a lot around trust and power, and we know that there is a global and local trust deficit, whether it be to business, governments, academic institutions or NGOs. I feel like Julie has that trust but why is it so?
JULIE BISHOP: You know, interestingly, the Washington-based Pew Research Centre did a very wide, broad, deep survey about trust in democracy. And I think about 38 nations were involved – about 38,000 people. So it’s a significant survey. And Australians surveyed spoke about their trust in the democratic institutions, which is not as high as one would have hoped, but nevertheless it was at least a majority. But one question I thought was quite telling, and that was: how much trust do you have in your national government to do the right thing by the country, or words to that effect. And what do you think the percentage of Australians surveyed was who said they had a high level of trust? Too hard? Seven per cent. Now 40 per cent said they had some level of trust, but seven per cent said they had a high level. If this survey is indicative of a broader malaise when it comes to our institutions, then we should be deeply concerned of why is to so? Politicians have to honour their commitments. People have to speak honestly with the Australian people. The public can pick a fake, they can pick inauthenticity. They want to hear the truth; they want to hear the facts. I think they are over populous policies and promises that can’t or won’t be kept.
TONY JOHNSON: You’ve seen governments, you’ve seen leaders right around the world in your foreign minister role; are we different?
JULIE BISHOP: Well we are similar in many ways to a number of comparable economic and political models around the world but there are vastly different models. I mean, we have autocracies and dictatorships and we have elected democracies. So it depends which model you’re talking about, but in terms of political turbulence and instability, Australia is a model of calm compared to some.
TONY JOHNSON: And not to others?
JULIE BISHOP: And not to others.
TONY JOHNSON: You mentioned populism. We had a pretty significant election in this country over the weekend in Victoria. What can we learn from that election result?
JULIE BISHOP: I said yesterday that I’m a backbencher from Western Australia and I’ll leave it to my Victorian Federal colleagues to delve into an analysis of what went on, on the ground in the Victorian State Election, but about populism more generally perhaps. Obviously, in the context of today’s discussion, we can talk about populism being a political leader who embraces short term fixes to win votes, knowing that that policy will have detrimental long term effects. I mean, we all need votes, we all want to have popular policies, we need to get elected to be able to implement them. But if you know that what you’re saying is actually going to have a negative impact long term, then you really have to ask yourself about the value of that populist policy. Thomas Sowell, the Stanford based professor devised a three point test – the prism for looking at policies. First, this policy compared to what? Is this actually the best policy to solve this particular problem? Secondly, at what cost? Populists don’t worry about the cost too often and you have to ask – okay, what is this going to cost in real terms? Third, what’s the evidence that this will or won’t work? Evidence-based policy. I added a fourth and that is what could possibly go wrong? And I think if you see policies through that four-way test then you can get a fair idea as to whether it is a populist short term fix or whether it really does have a long term benefit for the communities.
TONY JOHNSON: Partisan and bi-partisan approaches and the ability perhaps preceding that to have a civil national conversation; where do we sit there?
JULIE BISHOP: I am disturbed that for a number of reasons a civil national conversation on controversial issues is proving difficult here. I’m not blaming the media cycle, but there’s no question that 24/7 media requires constant updates, constant content – if you announce something at 9am it’s history by lunchtime, there’s got to be another story. And so it tends to be very short term without deep analysis. You know, I was thinking the day about when Robert Menzies was in Opposition during the dark days of World War 2 and he rebuilt his popularity by having weekly radio broadcasts, which went for I don’t know, half an hour, an hour, where he could articulate the policies that he saw for Australia as it emerged from the Second World War. Can you imagine today a politician being able to have an hour each week to just talk about the vision for the country and people listening, absorbing and thinking, yes, I believe in this person? We have the five second news grab, we have social media; everything’s condensed to a few characters – or in my case – an Emoji, and you can’t have a detailed conversation very often.
I used the example recently about energy policy and if climate change is having an impact on the scale that has been predicted or anywhere near it; wouldn’t you think we would have a conversation about nuclear power? It’s an option. It’s low emissions, baseload power. We cannot even raise it in an inquiry; it’s automatically off the table. As a former science minister, I find that utterly frustrating. Have a debate, have a discussion. Is it economically feasible? Is it not? Is it safe? Is it not? Have a debate. If I were to raise it, I guarantee the first question would be will you rule out building a nuclear power station on Cottesloe Beach? I mean that’s the level of the debate it descends to. That’s a shame.
TONY JOHNSON: You’ve mentioned some of the great leaders who, it seemed to me, were able to bring people to the table for a discussion, a conversation and build some- collaborate to build some consensus, either side of politics. What’s preventing us from being there at the moment?
JULIE BISHOP: Well let’s take an example. The United States – the beacon of hope and democracy and democratic institutions and freedom – the country is polarised, deeply polarised if the Midterm Elections are any indication. You’ve got little strips of blue and then a big swathe of red and they might as well be two different countries. I hope we don’t come anywhere near that stage in Australia. We need to put the interests of the people first, have sensible debates about issues of concern to people and I think the Australian people would respect it enormously. The politician that says I’m actually going to tell you the truth as opposed to what I think you want to hear.
TONY JOHNSON: Changing tact slightly. You delivered a tremendous address at the Lowy Institute dinner that Frank Lowy spoke at this year. You may recall Frank Lowy spoke of the three I’s: immigration, infrastructure and innovation.
JULIE BISHOP: Yes, he did.
TONY JOHNSON: His speech was fantastic, yours was also fantastic. I just wanted to pick up on innovation. You see the rest of the world; where are we in Australia in terms of being an innovative country?
JULIE BISHOP: We are extraordinarily innovative and creative people, there’s absolutely no question. We would be on a par with the best in the world. Whether we capture and harness that is another question and I’m always concerned to see so many bright young Australians in Silicon Valley, for example, because they think that that’s where they can get the opportunity to succeed. And we’ve tried to address it in government by putting landing pads in countries around the world so that young Australians who do go offshore to develop their ideas or make contact with venture capitalists and the like and come up with their innovative solutions to age old problems get support, and we have these landing pads in Shanghai, San Francisco, in Singapore, Tel Aviv, Berlin.
So, we can put support in place but I think there’s a lot more that we can do to embed innovation in business, in industry, in government, and we have to do that. I was in Dubai recently at a World Economic Forum meeting and they’d just released their Future of Jobs report and that makes for fascinating reading because it focuses on the technological advances that are disrupting the way we live and work and engage and puts it in the context of what are going to be the jobs of the future? What are the great technological advances that will continue to transform the way we live and work? And what are businesses is going to do about it? And this is where we really need to be innovative, to create the kind of environment and frameworks and jobs that augment the fourth industrial revolution.
TONY JOHNSON: It seems that government’s been a bit cranky at business and business has been a bit cranky with government. When we’re looking at innovation, surely we need to bring those- remove that friction, because we’re all in it together?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, there are numerous examples where the private sector and public sector should work more closely together. I hoped that I achieved that in my former portfolio – I set up an innovation exchange within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Now, DFAT is one of the more conservative departments in the Australian government – quite right. But we came to government and I was deeply concerned to find that even though we were investing literally billions of dollars in overseas aid in our region and had been doing for many years, some of the recipients of our aid were going backwards in terms of every relevant socio economic indicator. I thought – how can this be so?
We set up an innovation exchange, an ideas hub. We brought in the best thinkers, most creative innovative thinkers from DFAT, from other parts of the public service and the private sector – from accounting firms, from Google, from MIT, from the World Bank, and we would provide them with a problem and say okay, start with a blank canvas. What would you do to solve this problem? And we started partnering businesses with other hubs, we’ve been involved in hackathons and ideas challenges with universities and companies and partners all around the world and we have got about 80 projects underway at present.
Now, public servants are risk averse – they are dealing with taxpayers’ money. So, we come up with ideas, we pilot them. If we think they work, we’ll scale them up. If they don’t, we stop it. And that is what governments never do. They never admit well, that didn’t work, we’ll stop it and we’ll do something else. This, of course, all goes through the Auditor-General and gets the tick, but it’s that kind of innovative thinking that we need and it can’t be government alone. It’s got to be private sector led.
TONY JOHNSON: And the role of leadership and innovation. But I’m interested in perhaps the greatest tips, advice you’ve received for leadership. And here’s a third part, just to complicate it: are the leadership traits required now different to they were five, 10, 15 years ago? Don’t ask me to repeat the three because I’m making them up as I go along.
JULIE BISHOP: Well, leadership has been important at every stage of human development, let’s face it. And political leadership – whilst it might seem in short supply at present, people are calling out for political leadership around the world – has always been important. Obviously the challenges are different. The scale of the challenges, the pace of them can be different. And we are in a 24/7 world where everybody’s interconnected, what can happen on one side of the world has an immediate impact on the other. So, of course things are different, but those fundamental qualities of inspiring people to follow your ideals, to articulating your vision and delivering on it and implementing it and having the emotional intelligence and the compassion and the empathy that’s required to bring people along with you has remained.
TONY JOHNSON: And in diplomacy that would seem to be even more acute – often being played out maybe in front of the media or in front of the world, maybe it’s in the back room discussions, but the skills that you would draw on to balance that strength with respect, but yet have tough but respectful conversations.
JULIE BISHOP: Well, my advice there is never ever lose your composure and know your brief inside out. You have got to know your facts better than the other guy.
That reminds me of a funny story of diplomacy and leadership. You might recall the tragedy surrounding the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH 17 in July 2014. Australia has publicly held Russia to account for this – and given the events of the last 24 hours, the Ukraine-Russia issue has a long way to go. Nevertheless, in about 2015, Russia were not cooperating with a number of initiatives that we were seeking to undertake to fully investigate the downing of the plane with a view to holding those responsible to account. And the then-prime minister Tony Abbott said that he intended to “shirtfront” President Putin.
TONY JOHNSON: That was not your advice to Tony?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, my advice was after the event. Anyway, I turn up at the Asia-Europe meeting representing Prime Minister Abbott, and President Putin was there. So, I thought, well, I better take this opportunity to diplomatically remind him of his responsibility as a leader and as a member of the Security Council to uphold global security. So, I hot-footed around his side of the table and said “excuse me, President Putin. I’m Julie Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Minister”. So, he left the table, walked back with me, stood opposite me, stared at me with his unflinching steel-blue gaze while I said, as forcibly as I could, what Australia’s concerns were and what we expected of Russia. And then he said, in perfect English, “You call this a shirt-front”?
TONY JOHNSON: Touché.
JULIE BISHOP: I did have a retort. I said, “It’s more of a diplomatic buttonholing”.
TONY JOHNSON: You did mention the importance of emotional intelligence as one of the leadership attributes; how fundamental has that been in the diplomacy roles?
JULIE BISHOP: Oh, absolutely essential. You have to have a sense of your surroundings, being able to read the people, being self-aware but also very aware of the circumstances, the nuances – layers and layers of it – for a successful diplomat and for building successful diplomatic relations. And that is the job of the Foreign Minister and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – building the relationships upon which we depend. And Australia, of course, as an open export oriented market economy, depends absolutely on our ability to sell our good and services around the world. That means developing relationships with other countries. We want to influence events in our region and that is often done by obviously implementing our own policies in the region, but also by seeking to influence the decisions of other nations, including the great powers. And a lot of that is done through developing personal relationships, and that comes back to the emotional intelligence required to do so.
TONY JOHNSON: You mentioned Putin – a leadership lesson that you’ve learned from around the world, from any of the leaders that you’ve dealt with, in a specific instance, circumstance – is there something that comes to mind? I’m not surprised if you retort back to Putin.
JULIE BISHOP: No. There are so many circumstances that I can think of – positive and negative. What are you looking for?
TONY JOHNSON: Would we prefer positive or negative? Oh both, yes.
JULIE BISHOP: Okay. Well here’s an unexpected one. About 12 months ago, we were staring down the barrel of military intervention in North Korea. I and others were increasingly of the view that we were going to see the US make some kind of military intervention in North Korea. And North Korea had been in utter defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutions declaring its nuclear program illegal and banning it from continuing its ballistic missile testing. And North Korea was posing a threat through its testing and its bellicose rhetoric to not only the region, but to the United States and beyond. And we were really gearing up for how this was going to play out.
And then suddenly, President Trump announces he’s going to have a meeting with Kim Jong-un and they’re going to sit down in Singapore and Kim Jong-un’s going out to have dim sum the night before and then they’ll get together and they’ll talk about how to resolve tensions on the Korean Peninsula! And nobody expected that. I think that kind of unorthodox approach – the jury’s still out because we haven’t advanced any further with North Korea, except that they’re not carrying out nuclear tests, to our knowledge – that unorthodox approach really broke the circuit where I thought we were heading.
TONY JOHNSON: Which sits very well with what we’ve been doing here in this environment, because it’s a different environment to cause us to think differently. We’re almost out of time. You are a mad-keen runner and you know that I’m an elite athlete. So therefore I couldn’t help but ask: your favourite running track around the world?
JULIE BISHOP: I have made it a habit – I’ve been running for a long time first thing in the morning – but I have made it a habit when I was foreign minister and still to this day that I will run wherever I am at whatever time it is first thing in the morning. So, if I’ve travelled a long distance it kind of trick your body into thinking it is morning and it keeps me healthy in mind and body, I hope. Some wonderful runs? Very memorable like running down the Mall in Washington towards the Lincoln Memorial in the snow or running from the East River to Central Park down the streets of New York, dodging traffic and the New York Police. Running around the cliff tops in Lima or running away from the dogs chasing me on Pacific Islands. But one that does make me laugh is when I suggested to Boris Johnson that we should go for a run when he was foreign secretary. Now, Boris is an athlete not unlike yourself.
TONY JOHNSON: I assume you mean our surnames are the same.
JULIE BISHOP: You’re obviously related. And so he got a big media pack out there as well, Boris thought this was a grand idea. And we went out for a run around Buckingham Palace and St James Park, and I put out a little Instagram post, you know, joking that it was a warm up for the foreign minister’s relay at the Commonwealth Games. Well, you’re not allowed to joke on social media because people take it seriously. So, suddenly there are all these questions about the foreign ministers’ baton relay at the Commonwealth Games? How many Foreign Ministers are in this? I’m getting texts from all my Foreign Minister buddies from Commonwealth countries saying, “What is this? I’m not going to be in a baton relay, what’s going on? I mean, it’s a joke”, but I will never forget that run with Boris.
TONY JOHNSON: Ladies and gentlemen, a great insight to I think one of Australia’s historically most accomplished politicians – certainly in my mind, our most accomplished foreign minister. Julie has got things done displaying good judgement, dignity and poise at all times. And I know as an Australian citizen, I always felt very confident and assured whenever Julie was representing us around the world. So we thank you for your service to date in that regard and of course more to come in the political arena. But thank you for being here; we greatly appreciate it. And would everyone please join with me in thanking Julie.
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