2GB Breakfast - interview with Alan Jones

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST The Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is on the line from New York. But before I speak to her and she is listening. So I want to tell you this so that she can also hear it because she has conducted these very very difficult negotiations in New York with a wonderful dignity and she's prosecuted Australia's case brilliantly. Now, the Netherlands Foreign Minister - and of course as you know they lost 193 victims in this disgraceful issue of murder, the Netherlands Foreign Minister has left no doubt to the world that Australia's leadership - that's Julie Bishop, in the UN Security Council - was crucial to the success of that resolution getting passed that allows access to the site of the MH17 atrocity and the repatriation of victim's bodies.

But Mr Timmermans, the Netherlands Foreign Minister told a New York media conference after the vote and I quote him: 'I want to start by whole heartedly thanking Australia for taking the initiative with this resolution and especially the personal commitment from Julie Bishop that has made this possible.' He said; 'without her perseverance we would not be standing here today with this resolution adopted by the Security Council.'

Now just by way of background, when Julie Bishop arrived in the US last week she was told by the Australian team at the UN that the Russians had been unpleasant to deal with, they tried to bully them over the handling of statements drafted by Britain. The Russians rejected Australia's draft resolution out of hand. And the Russian ambassador of the UN attempted to lecture Julie Bishop on the geopolitics of Russia and Ukraine.

Julie Bishop swung the conversation back to those who died and she's quoted as saying:' I relayed the story of one of the families in my electorate and I have to say it brought tears to his eyes. He then blinked and went back to blaming Ukraine.' Of the 24 UN Security Council member nations, only 22 initially agreed to support the resolution. Julie Bishop said we didn't get Russia. We didn't get China. But she got them in the end. She's on the line. Minister good morning.

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Alan.

JOURNALIST We're very proud of you. You've done a fantastic job. Fantastic job. The trouble is I guess it's four days on isn't it and intelligence exists now to prove that Russia and sponsored separatists have done what needed to be done to the site and if need be to the bodies.

JULIE BISHOP Alan, it was a magnificent team effort, not only from the Prime Minister and our National Security Committee of Cabinet, but our representatives in Kiev and our team here in New York at the UN Security Council. I couldn't have done it without that team effort and I wanted to thank them all via your program for the incredible effort they put in to securing this unanimous resolution.

Alan I spoke to Angus Houston this morning, our Special Envoy on the ground in Kiev, and he told me that there was enormous focus in Ukraine in the lead up to the resolution being adopted in the UN Security Council and the anticipation was palpable. When the Security Council voted and adopted Australia's resolution, he said the atmosphere changed. Suddenly we were able to get access to the site. Suddenly the bodies could be sent by train. Suddenly the site was available for access. Now, that could have happened five days ago had Russia used its influence that it had over the separatists…

JOURNALIST Absolutely.

JULIE BISHOP So I'm just grateful that we were able to secure the unanimous support of all 15 Security Council members. We had 26 co-sponsors that could have supported it, only Russia and China did not co-sponsor the resolution. But at the end of the day when it came to the vote, all 15 Security Council members voted for Australia's resolution thus enabling us to open the way to identify and repatriate the bodies and commence this investigation and we'll gather the evidence to show who was responsible for this atrocity.

JOURNALIST Can I just say this to you that when listeners here heard that quote; Julie Bishop is in New York negotiating for the passage of this resolution, people just responded, people in struggle street and said what kind of gutlessness - and that's the word they've used, must exist in the world where you have to lobby to gain support for a resolution predicated on common decency. It's hard to believe that you would have had to work with your team as you did to get such a resolution up. What's wrong with us? Aren't we prepared to stand up, to put our fists up to Putin, aren't we prepared to stand up? I mean the bully in the playground's been identified. Who's going to deal with him?

JULIE BISHOP Indeed. What happened is Australia put out its draft resolution on Saturday, New York time. We spent Friday drafting it, Saturday circulating it, Sunday negotiating it, and Monday voting and adopting it. On the Saturday we put out our draft text and a number of countries came back with suggestions, and that's fine. About 40 or 50 suggested amendments to this resolution, but we needed to know where Russia stood, because, as you know, they had the veto. And just before the deadline of midday on Sunday, Russia came back with some suggested amendments which were not too bad and we thought it was a positive sign, because at least they had responded and appeared to be engaged.

Later in the afternoon, they then hardened their resolve and objected to our statement that Ukraine should lead the investigation and establish the investigation. They objected on political grounds that they didn't want Ukraine to be seen to have any sovereignty over this area that had been taken by the rebels, even though it was for the purpose of this carrying out an airline crash investigation and criminal investigation. And they rejected our draft on that ground and called a meeting of all the Security Council members at about 11pm on Sunday night to focus on their draft, which was to have an international body, it's called the International Civil Aviation Organization, lead the investigation, but that is technically and legally impossible. Under international law, the country where the crash occurs is legally responsible for initiating the investigation.

So we tried to appeal to their common sense. What they were asking for could not happen at law. And I was reporting all this back at about midnight to Prime Minister Abbott and our National Security Committee meeting and about halfway through that meeting, our ambassador to the United Nations came in and said I think we've made the Russians understand, I think we might get them over the line, but they're going back to Moscow. So we were still negotiating all through the night, Sunday 'til Monday morning, and it wasn't until I met their ambassador to the UN…

JOURNALIST But that may well - Julie, that - sorry to interrupt you - that may well have been deliberate, it might've been a tactic by Russia, because the dialogue had already been recorded by Ukraine intelligence saying that separatists had been told the Russian hierarchy to remove incriminating evidence. They were playing for time.

JULIE BISHOP That was always our concern. That's why we had to push so hard to get this resolution as soon as possible. It wasn't until Monday morning when I asked the Russian ambassador to the United Nations to come to our offices here in New York to meet me, and I wanted to find out directly from him what their position would be at the Security Council. I had to know then whether they were going to support it or whether they would use their veto, because, of course, our responses would have differed. And that's where I had the conversation to which you've referred where he tried to take it to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, blaming Ukraine, coming up with a whole raft of theories on how this happened, and I just took him straight back to the fact that we were dealing with human beings, we were dealing with families who were grieving.

I actually pointed to Australian newspapers that our ambassador had on his coffee table, and I pointed to the front pages of the papers and I said, this is how the Australian people feel right now; they are outraged. And then I told him the story of the family that I'd spoken to, and I get choked up when I think about it, but to his credit as a human being, his eyes filled with tears and he said, I have children too.

JOURNALIST Well, just finally, though, to you, because you're a powerful player in this simply for many reasons, but one because we lost 37 Australians, we're entitled to have a powerful role in all of this - as I said to you earlier, what people are saying to me here - just a final question to you and I thank you for your time - but we found the bully in the playground. Who's going to confront him, who's going to punish him, and what's the punishment?

JULIE BISHOP First, the criminal investigation will get underway as soon as we can secure the sites so that they are safe, the investigators are safe from the rebels and the conflict that's going on. There's still been fighting in recent days around the crash site. So the investigators will do their work. I believe that they will come to a conclusion that this was shot down by the Russia backed rebels, and the details of how that occurred will come to light. Once we have that response, we can then consider how the perpetrators are brought to justice. In the meantime, the European Union ministers have met in Brussels today and are looking at further sanctions on Moscow.

So the international community is becoming galvanised and Russia has misread this from the moment that plane crashed. From the moment that plane was shot down, Russia has tried to blame everybody else, but I believe that the international community, as evidenced by our unanimous resolution of the Security Council backed by China and the United States and Britain and all of the other countries that were on the Security Council, chaired by Rwanda, as well as all the countries that lost people in this tragedy, they all spoke at the Security Council. The international resolve is there, we must not lose the momentum.

JOURNALIST Good on you. Good to talk to you. Thank you for all your effort, thank you for your energy, and thank you for your time.

JULIE BISHOP Thank you, Alan.

JOURNALIST Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop.

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