Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. In 2016, an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that many of China's claims to the South China Sea had no legal basis under international law. In 2016, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Bishop, called on the Philippines and China to abide by the ruling. Does this remain the government's position?
Yes, the government has been clear in stating our position in relation to the South China Sea, which is a waterway of significant priority for Australia, as all senators would be aware. The senator has outlined a number of aspects in relation to that, with which we have concurred in the past, and that continues to be the case.
As Senator Wong, one assumes, with the benefit of media monitoring, would be well aware, the member for Chisholm has issued a statement on this matter today. She has been clear in relation to the issues that were raised. She began her statement by saying:
Last night, in a TV interview, I was not clear and I should have chosen my words better. As a new member of Parliament, I will be learning from this experience.
Australia's long-standing position on the South China Sea is consistent and clear. We do not take sides on competing territorial claims but we call on all claimants to resolve …
I'm glad you brought up that precedent, Senator Abetz.
An opposition senator: Exactly.
An opposition senator: And you know what happened to him.
Honourable senators interjecting—
The question is: why? It's not a question of: what statement did she subsequently issue? My question is: why did she fail on three occasions to restate the government's position?
Mr President, on the point of order, the member for Chisholm's statement is perfectly clear. She indicates that in the interview she was not clear and that she should have chosen her words better.
On the point of order, Senator Wong, you have reminded the minister of the question. I believe in this instance, with the statement the minister is making, that the minister is being directly relevant. There's an opportunity to debate questions and answers after question time, and I think that's the appropriate place if people are not satisfied with answers. Senator Payne, continue.
I think I was at the point of the member for Chisholm's statement that says:
We do not take sides on competing territorial claims but we call on all claimants to resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.