ABC 7.30 Report, Canberra - interview with Leigh Sales

  • Transcript, E&OE

LEIGH SALES For Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, it would seem that they have come to the end of their road. And with me live from Canberra is the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. Foreign Minister, is that right? Are we at the end of the road?

JULIE BISHOP Leigh, good evening. Good to be with you. I fear that the families and friends and lawyers of Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran have made their last visit to them. Short of a last-minute intervention by President Widodo I fear the very worst for our citizens.

We've not yet been officially informed by the Indonesian Government as to the timing of the proposed executions but given all that we've seen today via the Indonesian media, I have to assume that the Indonesian Government is determined to proceed with executing these two Australian citizens - notwithstanding the fact that there is still a legal proceeding underway in the Constitutional Court and that there are still Judicial Commission Hearings into the bribery allegations relating to the original trial. So short of an intervention from the President, I fear that this execution will proceed.

LEIGH SALES What contact have you or the Prime Minister had today with your Indonesian counterparts, if any?

JULIE BISHOP Today the Embassy in Indonesia has been making representations. I've been in contact with our Ambassador. The Ambassador has been seeing whomever he can at the highest levels. Our Prime Minister is travelling but I know the Prime Minister has been in contact with the President in recent times. He has met with him, he has written to him. I spoke to the Foreign Minister on Sunday and I asked that we be formally notified of when the executions would take place and I've not yet received that formal notification. But we are continuing to make representations via our Ambassador, our Embassy officials, our consular officials who are on the ground, who are present there.

LEIGH SALES How would you describe the Indonesian Government's behaviour towards the Australian Government over this matter?

JULIE BISHOP They have not responded to any of our requests and there are a number of outstanding requests to which we have still not yet received a response. I'm obviously very dismayed by what has gone on in recent weeks. I'm obviously deeply disturbed at some of the aspects of how this has been handled and I think the ghastly process that the family have been put through today just underscores how chaotic this has been. I'm very concerned for the family. They do deserve respect and they do deserve to have dignity shown to them at this time of unspeakable grief but that doesn't seem to have been extended to them at this time.

LEIGH SALES Chan and Sukumaran's lawyers have, of course, tried everything they can under Indonesian domestic law. I'm wondering if there is any last-minute recourse in international law? Does Australia, for example, have any advice that Indonesia's in breach of the international convention on torture?

JULIE BISHOP They would be questions for the International Court of Justice to consider and Indonesia does not recognise the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. Australia has asked Indonesia to submit to that jurisdiction - of the International Court of Justice so that these questionsaround the death penalty and the proposed executions could be considered by the International Court of Justice. Indonesia has not responded to our request.

LEIGH SALES Would that, if Indonesia did submit to that, would that delay things or would this be a matter for reflection afterwards?

JULIE BISHOP Well Leigh, they've not responded to our requests so it's a moot point as to how that would proceed because Indonesia doesn't recognise the International Court of Justice's compulsory jurisdiction. The only way a question could get before the International Court is if they were to agree to submit to it and we've not had a response to our request.

LEIGH SALES What sanctions will Australia take against Indonesia if these executions occur as expected later tonight?

JULIE BISHOP Leigh, as I've said for some time now, I don't intend to focus on the consequences but of course should these executions proceed in the manner that I anticipate, of course there will be have to be consequences but I don't want to go into the details.

I'm still focused on ensuring that our Ambassador, our Consul-General can be with the family, support the family and still make contact with the authorities at the highest levels we can within the Indonesian Government.

LEIGH SALES If these executions take place, and even if they miraculously don't, will the Australian Government now make the abolition of the death penalty in the region a top order foreign policy concern because we've been down this path before and the issue does just fade away until the next time there's an Australian on death row, even though there are countless other people executed regularly?

JULIE BISHOP Leigh, this is an issue that Australia has been concerned about for some time and you will have noted that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement on the weekend calling on Indonesia to not proceed with these executions. We are in a region where a number of countries have the death penalty, it is not just Indonesia. A number of countries do, but a number of them don't use the death penalty now in circumstances particularly involving drug offences, rather looking for other ways to deter and disrupt the trafficking and try and find regional solutions to this scourge.

But we will continue to advocate for the death penalty not to be part of the laws of countries in our region and I think given the exceedingly high profile that these cases have, because it's not just Australian citizens, there are a number of citizens from other countries who Indonesia proposes to have executed by firing squad, I think the issue will become much more high profile, much more significant than it has been.

In my recent visit to Europe I spoke with two foreign ministers who have had either their citizen executed or their citizen is on death row in Indonesia and we jointly agree that this issue of the death penalty as a way of trying to resolve the drug trafficking through our region must be a priority.

LEIGH SALES If we can turn now to Nepal and the catastrophe there - what is the latest on how many Australians are still missing?

JULIE BISHOP Well at this current time I can confirm that over 1250 Australians have now been accounted for and I do pay tribute to our Embassy and our Consulate, our staff in Kathmandu, in Nepal, because we had 549 registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade but we've been able to account for 1250 now. And that's through working with local organisations, with hospitals, with the local authorities to determine who is there.

We think that we have most accounted for but there could well be some more and we are asking people if they haven't heard from their family, friends or loved ones to contact the departmental emergency number so that we can make sure that we have accounted for everyone. And we have sent a Crisis Response Team, a 10-person crisis response team to Nepal and they are also seeking to ensure that every Australian in the country has been accounted for and is safe.

LEIGH SALES In terms of the broader crisis response, we are hearing that the hospitals in particular are really overstretched. Is there anything in particular that Australia can offer in terms of medical aid?

JULIE BISHOP We have offered to stand by, we are standing by, we've offered to send medical teams, we are sending a small number of medical personnel because that's what's been requested of us. But it seems that the coordination and the logistics is quite a challenge. So we have actually been asked by the Nepalese Government not to send a search and rescue team at this time because they have 10 search and rescue teams, it requires a lot of coordination, a lot of logistics.

So we stand ready to provide whatever support we can, whatever support we are asked to provide but at this point we have sent disaster experts to work with the UN , we've sent medical personnel, we've sent a Crisis Response Team, we are sending a C-17 military plane with humanitarian supplies and personnel. And we have also offered to bring Australians who can't get out of Nepal to Bangkok so they can get commercial flights home.

So we stand ready to help but we are waiting to hear what more we can do and we are working with the UN, we are working with partner countries, the US, Japan and others. But it is at the end of the day in the hands of the Nepalese Government as to what they think they require and what their priorities are.

LEIGH SALES Foreign Minister, thank you very much for making time to speak to our audience tonight.


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