Bishop tells of busy first months

Julie Bishop holds a picture of herself and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Julie Bishop holds a picture of herself and Aung San Suu Kyi.

‘She said ‘Please don’t think of me as a democracy icon. I am a politician’. And that was a change. She’s obviously more pragmatic now,’ Ms Bishop said at her constituency Christmas function in Subiaco a day later.

Ms Bishop was not in politics when she first met Ms Suu Kyi in 1995 between periods of house arrest by a military junta in the South East Asian nation previously known as Burma.

Democracy supporters hope Ms Suu Kyi may make a bid for her nation’s presidency.

‘She knows that she has to work within the system in order to promote freedom and democracy, whereas previously she was very much a global advocate, but now she is focussing on trying to ensure that the new system in Burma is able to operate,’ Ms Bishop said.

The Indonesian phone tapping scandal, the Syrian crisis and China’s muscle flexing in the South China Sea have all punctuated Ms Bishop’s busy first three months as Foreign Minister.

She said she felt ‘quite comfortable’ using the gabble when chairing the UN Security Council meeting on Syria, just three weeks into her ministry, and continued to take calls from former foreign ministers Kevin Rudd and Andrew Downer, and former ambassadors about Indonesia, which will have a new president after elections next year.

‘President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been a extraordinary friend to Australia, and we appreciate his engagement with this county,’ Ms Bishop said.

‘But the relationship now has matured and I believe that whomever is president in Indonesia, and whomever leads Australia will recognise that the bilateral relationship is important to both countries.’