Doorstop Interview

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Negotiations with China, Australian citizen facing death sentence in China, Chinese government concerns about student and visitor safety in Australia.
14 June 2020

Journalist: You've said you're seeking a sit down in Beijing when it's appropriate to do so. What's that about?

Simon Birmingham: Obviously there are a number of issues of concern in relation to our trading relationship with China at present. Australia disputes a number of decisions China has taken and I want to make sure that we have appropriate, thoughtful dialogue to try to work through those disputes and differences.

Journalist: Have you managed to have a conversation with your Chinese counterpart? Or any of your Cabinet colleagues managed to have one with theirs since the issues have arisen.

Simon Birmingham: Disappointingly my request for conversation with China's Trade Minister has not been agreed to at this stage. We continue to make it clear that Australia is open to sit down and discuss points of difference, and will do so in a thoughtful way that we would with any partner country.

Journalist: And Australian's been sentenced to death in China. Do you think this is, in any way, linked to those recent tensions?

Simon Birmingham: We condemn the death penalty in all countries in all circumstances. This is a reminder to Australians, yet again, that Australian laws don't apply overseas and that there are a number of risks to Australians when they travel overseas, and if you are going to engage in drug smuggling activities sometimes those risks involve the potential of a death sentence. And we are continuing to provide consular assistance to the gentleman concerned and we're going to continue to provide the advocacy we do right across the globe against the use of the death penalty.

We should note too that China has, over the last decade, sentenced nationals from Japan, the Philippines and other nations to death and we don't condone any of those circumstances, but nor should we read too much into this case at this time.

Journalist: No plans to bring international students back as part of a pilot, pilot program starting next month hopefully? The Chinese government has warned its students not to come here. Do you think it's going to have an impact?

Simon Birmingham: Australia is clearly one of the safest countries in the world for visitors and students to come to. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than nearly any other country and I am completely confident that the safety of visitors and students who come to Australia.

New South Wales Police, just today, have reported that they've seen no noticeable change in relation to racial incidents reported to them over the last few months, and that again reinforces the fact that, as a country, we don't tolerate racism - We certainly don't tolerate violence, we encourage it to be reported and we're very transparent in terms of how it is we report on incidents of violence so that we can tackle it, and can tackle racism wherever it occurs.

Now, in terms of the terms of China's travel warning, we've seen China make similar statements before over recent years. Whether this one makes any discernible difference to the students or others coming to Australia, only time will tell. But we will continue to reinforce the quality and safety of the Australian education experience.

Journalist: Okay. Thank you so much.

Simon Birmingham:    No worries. All good. Thank you.

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