3AW Mornings - interview with Neil Mitchell

  • Transcript, E&OE

NEIL MITCHELL Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, good morning.

JULIE BISHOP Good morning.

NEIL MITCHELL Is all hope gone?

JULIE BISHOP I'm not giving up hope. We are continuing to make representations at the highest levels. We have senior officials in Bali, in Indonesia including senior officials from the Attorney-General's Department in Canberra, our Ambassador designate is in Jakarta, our Consul-General Majel Hind is in Bali and the lines of communication between the various Indonesian Government departments and Australian Government officials remain open. So we will continue to press the case that these two men should have their death penalty stayed, the execution should be stayed and that we want a review of their clemency applications. The lawyers have lodged an appeal to the Administrative Court in Indonesia so we'll leave no stone unturned in continuing to make representations to the Indonesian Government that executing these two young men will not solve the drug scourge in Indonesia.

NEIL MITCHELL Do you fight this right to the last moment?

JULIE BISHOP Right until the last moment.

What is so heartbreaking is that their remarkable rehabilitation should be something that Indonesia can promote around the world, that Indonesia's prison system actually enables two young men who were seriously off the rails, who'd become involved in the drug trade can be rehabilitated. The story of the work that they're doing in prison is truly extraordinary. This is something Indonesia can say to the world. Our prison system achieves what prison systems around the world aspire to do.

NEIL MITCHELL Instead they are saying congratulations you are rehabilitated - now we're going to shoot you.

JULIE BISHOP It's heartbreaking and dealing with the family as I have been makes it very real for me. It's a shocking situation. Yes, their crimes were shocking and they are paying their debt to society. They have a quality of life, not a quality of life that you or I or anybody else would choose, but they are making a contribution to prison life and they should not have to pay for their crimes with their lives.

NEIL MITCHELL Could this damage our relationship with Indonesia?

JULIE BISHOP It's a very tense situation. The Indonesian Government has made it quite clear that they will continue to execute those on death row. This is quite recent. We must understand that for the last five years at least there have been no executions in Indonesia. And I had continued to make representations on behalf of the Bali 9, on behalf of Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan, and throughout the period that I've been Foreign Minister, even though there had not been any executions.

But under the new administration they've made it quite clear that they are determined to deal firmly with drug offenders, that they are determined to execute those that they believe have committed such heinous crimes, and we've seen that already. A few weeks ago, they executed the nationals of other countries, the Netherlands, Brazil and the like so I'm afraid that they appear resolute in their determination to deal with it.

We are working very hard to partner with them to address drug-related crime at all levels. I don't think any country has done as much as Australia to support Indonesia in this area.

NEIL MITCHELL Isn't there an underlying hypocrisy here though. I mean they've got 230 Indonesian citizens around the world on various death rows, they're trying to save them but kill these people. It's hypocritical.

JULIE BISHOP Well I have made that point in numerous representations. There have been a significant number of written representations since the 7th of January when Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan's clemency pleas were rejected - the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, our Attorney-General, the Minister for Justice. I've sent representations as Foreign Minister, both the Prime Minister and I have written joint letters with our colleagues from the Opposition and the Greens, and we have pointed out that we are doing precisely what Indonesia does for its citizens.

In fact, this week the Jakarta Post, the newspaper up there, reported on a Cabinet meeting in which it said the President instructed his Ministers to seek clemency for Indonesian migrant workers abroad who are on death row. So we are asking the Indonesian Government to do for our citizens that which it is doing for theirs.

NEIL MITCHELL Will you withdraw any officials if they are killed?

JULIE BISHOP This is a matter still to be considered. My concern is that we want the lines of communication between our Ambassador and the Indonesian Government to remain open. The Ambassador has contact at Ministerial level so we want to maintain that ability to access the Indonesian Government at the highest levels to continue to advocate, to continue to make representations. I think it would actually be counterproductive if we did that but of course I'm not pre-judging the situation.

NEIL MITCHELL Just finally, I'm getting messages, people are talking about boycotting Bali if this goes ahead - your view of that?

JULIE BISHOP I understand that many people in the Australian public feel very deeply about this. I've been overwhelmed with emails and text messages. I know that people have been staging vigils and rallies. I hope that the Indonesian Government doesn't underestimate the Australian public's opinion on this and that we are asking for clemency, we're asking for mercy for two Australian citizens who have been rehabilitated. I think the Australian people will demonstrate their deep disapproval of this action including by making decisions about where they wish to holiday.

NEIL MITCHELL Thank you very much for your time, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, I appreciate it.

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