PETER STEFANOVIC: We are joined by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who is up in my hood in Cairns. Good morning to you this morning Minister. So, half a billion dollars – seems like a pretty big pledge – what does it involve?
JULIE BISHOP: Well Peter, this is the single largest ever funding boost for coral reef restoration and the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. It builds on our Reef 2050 plan which we announced in 2015, and it will be used, this half a billion dollars, will be used to improve water quality here at the Great Barrier Reef, to tackle the coral-eating crown of thorns starfish, and to make the Reef more resilient to heat stress. The Great Barrier Reef is not only a great national asset for Australia – and, as you say, 64,000 jobs, $6.4 billion into the Australian economy, and two million tourists visit every year – it is also a global living treasure and it is listed on the World Heritage list. So we are determined to restore, to protect, to maintain the Reef for generations to come.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Minister, how does the Government balance environmental concerns especially in Queensland with a pro-mining jobs focus through the Adani coalmine?
JULIE BISHOP: That’s precisely what we do – we balance environmental and economic considerations. That’s why we’re invested in the Great Barrier Reef restoration. That’s why we’re also ensuring any mining proposal must go through our very stringent environmental approval process. In the case of the Carmichael Mine, they have met all the environmental approvals, and that’s why we are consistent on this issue – we can balance environmental needs and economic needs.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Speaking of budget sweeteners, Labor has this morning announced it will save $30 million by scrapping the tampon tax. Will the Government do the same?
JULIE BISHOP: Peter, we have already made that proposal. Labor is just announcing what we already proposed, but the point is this – any change to the GST must be agreed by each state and territory government, and there is no agreement from the states and territories on this issue.
PETER STEFANOVIC: The Government isn’t being pushed by Labor into this the same way it was pushed into a banking Royal Commission?
JULIE BISHOP: Not at all. Completely different, apples and oranges. In relation to this matter, the GST must have the approval of each state and territory before there can be any change, and the states and territories do not approve this change.
PETER STEFANOVIC: One of the other big issues that is being talked about this morning, Minister, new powers are being proposed for Australia’s cyber spy agency – which means our emails, and bank records, and text messages, all can be secretly accessed. News Corp is reporting that the Departments of Home Affairs and Defence are in the early stage of planning it. Is this something you support?
JULIE BISHOP: I want to assure you there is no plan for the Australian Government to increase the powers of Australian Signals Directorate, so that it can collect intelligence against Australians, or access covertly the private data of Australians. There is no plan.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So this report is wrong?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t know where the report came from, but I certainly know that there is no plan for the Government to increase the powers of the Australian Signals Directorate in that regard. We already have laws in place that can cover these issues, plus safeguard Australia’s privacy.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Do you believe in any way, is there a national security gap, at all?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t believe there is. I certainly have not been made aware of one. We have in place very robust national security laws. We have provided record funding to our security and intelligence agencies, but there is no plan for the Government to increase the powers of the Australian Signals Directorate to collect intelligence against Australians, or to covertly collect private data, or access private data of Australians.
JULIE BISHOP: Minister, earlier this week the Prime Minister announced a $3.2 billion funding package for Western Australia’s roads and public transport. Yesterday a $50 million redevelopment of Port Botany in Sydney. Are we gearing up for an election this year?
JULIE BISHOP: We’re gearing up for a budget – that’s what is coming. On the 8th of May there will be a Budget.
PETER STEFANOVIC: What about beyond the budget?
JULIE BISHOP: There will be an election in 2019, but this is an announcement. Today for example, plus the announcements in Western Australia, all to protect Australia, to boost our economy, to keep us safe, to ensure that we are a prosperous nation. That is what our Budget is aimed to do. These are announcements in the lead up to the 2018 Budget, ahead of a 2019 election.
JULIE BISHOP: Okay, just finally, the executives at AMP are meeting today. It’s an emergency meeting. Any suggestions on what should happen there?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m not aware of the details of why they are meeting. Most certainly the Royal Commission has exposed a series of very disturbing allegations, and I’m assuming that AMP is seeking to respond in some way publicly. It will need to do so to restore confidence in one of our most important institutions.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Do you believe any more heads should roll?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, I will wait to see the outcomes of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission is under way. It hasn’t made any findings. It hasn’t handed down its recommendations. I think it would be wise to wait until those recommendations have been provided.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joining us this morning from Cairns where $500 million has been pledged as part of this Budget to save the Great Barrier Reef. Minister, thank you for your time.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.