ABC AM - interview with Michael Brissenden

  • Transcript, E&OE

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN Indonesia's Foreign Minister is insisting the planned execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will go ahead. Yesterday, authorities announced the execution had been delayed, partly because the island prison they were to be sent to had run out of death row isolation cells. The government said it also wanted to give the two men more time with their families. It's unclear at this stage how long the delay will be but it is clear the planned execution is testing the often fractious diplomatic relationship with Indonesia yet again. I spoke to the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, a short time ago.

Julie Bishop, has the decision yesterday to delay the execution given you any glimmer of hope?

JULIE BISHOP Any delay in plans by the Indonesian authorities to execute Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran will be a relief to the men and their families and I certainly welcome the decision to delay it. It gives us an opportunity to continue to engage on the best way forward with the Indonesian authorities, so we will continue our representations at the highest level and across the Indonesian Government.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN So that suggests the Government hasn't exhausted all avenues that you might have?

JULIE BISHOP We will continue to press the case for a stay of execution for Mr Sukumaran and Chan for as long as we have to. There is also a legal challenge underway. On the 24th of February the lawyers for Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan have an appeal to the decision to reject the clemency bid and I urge the Indonesian government not to take any steps towards the execution while legal avenues remain open.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN And are those legal avenues the same as the ones that I understand the two men from France and the Philippines who are also on death row will be allowed to have?

JULIE BISHOP I'm not sure whether they are precisely the same procedures, but it is a challenge to the decision to reject the clemency bid. The grounds would be a matter for the lawyers to determine so I don't know whether they are precisely the same grounds as other nationals are using, but most certainly there is a legal avenue still open to them and on that basis we believe that no steps should be taken towards the execution while those legal avenues are there.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN Ok. Have you spoken to the Indonesian Foreign Minister since the delay was announced?

JULIE BISHOP No, I haven't - she gave a press conference overnight and I've not had the opportunity to speak to her this morning. They are, as you'll appreciate, a number of hours behind us, but we will continue to make representations and I have been in constant communication with her and I expect to continue to talk to her while we seek a stay of execution and seek to have the clemency bids reconsidered.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN How much stress is this putting on the relationship with Indonesia?

JULIE BISHOP It is difficult. Clearly we have a very different view of the death penalty. Australia is pressing its case that we do not believe in the death penalty, either at home or abroad. And we are seeking to do for Australian nationals precisely what the Indonesian Government does for its nationals who are facing death row in other parts of the world.So we are asking Indonesia to show the same mercy to Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan as they seek to be shown to their nationals who are on death row in other countries.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN The Prime Minister has indicated that Australia will find ways to make its displeasure felt. What exactly would that mean?

JULIE BISHOP There are a number of options available to us, particularly in diplomatic circles, and we'll consider all those options. But our sole focus at present is on ensuring that we can get a stay of execution. We believe that their rehabilitation has been remarkable. It is something of which the Indonesian Government can be proud, that within its prison system two men who had been convicted of very serious crimes have now been rehabilitated in a most extraordinary way. And we think that this speaks volumes for the Indonesian prison system and no good purpose would be served by executing these men now.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN The Indonesian Foreign Minister said overnight that this was a domestic legal issue and not a foreign affairs issue. Do you agree? I mean, clearly it seems like it could easily become a foreign diplomatic issue.

JULIE BISHOP Well, Indonesia's foreign policy runs the risk of being seen through this prism. And Indonesia itself makes representations to other governments to stay executions of their nationals who find themselves on death row in countries overseas, and I know that the Foreign Minister is part of making those representations. So when Indonesia does it, it is indeed a foreign policy matter because it involves the Foreign Minister.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN So there's a certain level of hypocrisy there, do you agree?

JULIE BISHOP Well we point out that we believe Indonesia is perfectly entitled to make representations on clemency for their nationals and therefore Australia is perfectly entitled to make representations. Indonesia has had some success in staying executions and we are aiming to do the same. We will not give up hope. While we can continue to engage across the Indonesian government, we will continue to press our case.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN And have you been given any indication of how long the delay might be?

JULIE BISHOP No, we haven't. Diplomatic representatives did attend a meeting with other representatives from nations whose citizens are also on death row, but no indication as to a timeframe was provided.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN Have you spoken at all to the families since the delay was announced?

JULIE BISHOP No, I haven't - the family have been in constant contact with our Ambassador-designate Paul Grigson in Indonesian and he has been relaying our views and the fact that we're continuing to press the case with them. I think the family want to spend as much time as they can with their sons, grandsons, brothers.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN Julie Bishop, thanks very much for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.

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