Julie Bishop defends record on China after former ambassador’s call for her to be sacked | Australia news


Julie Bishop has defended her record on engagement with China and committed to donating to a fighting fund to increase representation of women in the Liberal party.

In an interview on ABC’s 7.30 on Tuesday, the foreign affairs minister labelled comments by Geoff Raby, a former Australian ambassador to China, “one of the most ill-informed” pieces on the China-Australia relationship she has read.

In an opinion piece, Raby suggested sacking Bishop would improve relations with China, attacking her for not having visited in more than two years while angering Beijing with “strident public comments on the South China Sea”.

Bishop said the article was “clearly not” impartial and criticised Raby for being “profoundly ignorant” about the level of engagement between China and Australia.

She cited the fact that she is due to meet her Chinese counterpart very shortly to discuss North Korea, in addition to having conducted personal phone calls with the Japanese and South Korean foreign affairs ministers and the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

Asked about failing to visit China in more than two years, Bishop said it was “not correct” because she had visited in 2016 and is due to go back this year. She also cited visits to Australia by the Chinese foreign affairs minister, Wang Yi, and businessman Li Ka-shing, and side meetings at the UN general assembly, the east Asia summit and Asean forum.

On Monday night the former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton warned against Chinese interference in Australian politics, telling the same program that she believed “Australians need to be for Australians, Americans need to be for Americans”.

“Whether it’s Russia in a secret way interfering with our election and producing more than 3,500 ads to try to confuse our electorate, to try to damage me, or the Chinese looking to try to influence policy, we should say no,” Clinton said.

Bishop said that all countries seek to influence others but “improper interference of course would not be allowed in any country”.

“And that’s why Australia has now introduced some foreign interference laws to ensure that our sovereignty is maintained,” she said.

Asked about representation of women in the Liberal party after assistant minister Jane Prentice lost her preselection, Bishop argued it was an “issue across parliament”. She cited the fact that 13 of the 24 female cabinet ministers since federation had been on the Coalition side compared with 11 from Labor.

On Tuesday Guardian Australia revealed that Kelly O’Dwyer had decided to donate $50,000 to a fighting fund for female candidates. Bishop said she would make a donation and would urge others to do the same.

She said she would have to look at her campaign funds before deciding how much to donate, adding “I don’t think anybody would question my commitment to fundraising for the Liberal party”.



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