ABC Radio National, Parliament House - interview with Fran Kelly

  • Transcript, E&OE

FRAN KELLY Minister welcome.

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Fran.

FRAN KELLY Perhaps not so good really. Is it your understanding that the Government has been formally advised by Indonesia that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will be transferred today?

JULIE BISHOP Our consular officials in Bali have learned that the transfer is proposed to take place this morning. We had been informed that it would take place around midday Indonesian time but it would seem that has been brought forward. In my conversation with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marsudi last evening I did ask if the Australian Government, that is if I could be kept informed of the proposed details and she undertook to pass on my request to the Indonesian Attorney-General.

FRAN KELLY That hasn't happened? Is that what you're saying?

JULIE BISHOP I haven't heard back from her this morning, nor would I expect to - they are four hours behind.

FRAN KELLY Are you trying this morning to contact your Indonesian counterpart the Indonesia Foreign Minister to try to get a clear idea of what is happening now?

JULIE BISHOP Last night I had a very long conversation with Foreign Minister Marsudi. During the course of the morning our consular officials in Bali have been in contact with the Indonesian authorities and our diplomatic staff in Jakarta continue to make representations and remain in contact at the very highest levels that they can within the Indonesian Government.

We will continue to make representations that there should be a stay of execution based on - first - their remarkable rehabilitation within the Indonesian prison systems. These two men have made quite an extraordinary rehabilitation and that is a factor that must be taken into account. Secondly, that their lawyers say there are still legal avenues open to them, indeed there is also another case involving alleged bribery charges arising from their original trial that is underway. I, as a former lawyer, think that it would be totally unacceptable, indeed unthinkable, for executions to take place while there are still legal avenues open to them.

FRAN KELLY It seems that they will. There is still legal action underway but if these executions go ahead, if this transfer proceeds and these men are executed, in your view does that mean Indonesia is not respecting the rule of law?

JULIE BISHOP I don't want to do anything or say anything that would be counterproductive. Indeed my whole focus is on seeking a stay of execution for these two young men. As I pointed out to Foreign Minister Marsudi, as I have on a number of occasions, mercy and forgiveness is as big a part of Indonesian legal concepts as it is in Australia. We are not asking the Indonesian Government to do any more than they do for their citizens who face death row overseas. Indonesia clearly opposes the death penalty when it applies to their citizens overseas. We oppose it at home and abroad. I will continue to make representations that the President will show great strength if he is able to forgive these two young men.

They are paying for their crimes, I just don't believe that they should pay with their lives. And I can't see any positive outcome from the execution of these two young men. I can't see that it will deter drug trafficking. It can't bring back anybody who has died through the use of heroin. I just can't see any positive outcome there can possibly be from executing two young men who have made a remarkable rehabilitation and are making a positive contribution to the quality of life of other prisoners in Indonesia's jail system.

FRAN KELLY Minister, it seems that time has run out really. Is there any more you can do personally? You say you will continue to make representations, but will you get on the phone again, will the Prime Minister? What more can really be done by the Government?

JULIE BISHOP Fran, I will continue to speak to whomever I can within the Indonesian Government if I think it will make a difference, a positive difference I will certainly do it.

FRAN KELLY I know you've been in frequent contact with the families, have you spoken to them in the last 24 hours?

JULIE BISHOP I am planning to speak to them today, arrangements are being made. Some of the families are back in Australia, others are still in Indonesia and so I'm making plans to speak with both families today.

FRAN KELLY Looking back is there anything more that the Government could have or should have done that would have seen these two spared from the firing squad?

JULIE BISHOP Representations have been made by successive governments over the past 10 years. Indeed when I became Foreign Minister this was an issue that I raised with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on a number of occasions. But there had not been any executions of – perhaps one – executions of this type for at least five years under President Yudhoyono. So it was a change of government, a change of President, and then the decision to reject their clemency pleas in early January that seemed to change Indonesia's position. Since that time we have had a very high level, concerted campaign to make representations to whomever we can, where we think we can make a positive difference.

FRAN KELLY It has been a rollercoaster ride. As the Prime Minister reminded us it did seem that there was a moment of hope there for a while, that seems to have disappeared. You have been so involved in this. It must be taking a personal toll, as it looks like the awful thing is about to happen now. Will this take a toll on you?

JULIE BISHOP It's devastating news for the men and their families. I'm dismayed by the reports that the executions are being planned, but my concern is for the men, for their families, and indeed for the whole cause of opposing the death penalty, in Australia, but also internationally.

I guess the most dismaying aspect of it is that Indonesia continues to press for clemency for its own citizens on death row in other countries. We are seeking to do the same for two Australian citizens, but they are not the only citizens who are facing execution. There are a number of countries that are making similar pleas, and of course there are a significant number of prisoners on death row in Indonesia. So this won't be the end this issue for Indonesia or for other countries.

FRAN KELLY What about for us? As the Prime Minister said last month, if these two men are executed, "we will be finding ways to make our displeasure felt".

JULIE BISHOP I don't believe Indonesia is in any doubt about the way the Australian Government feels on this matter. I think we have made the position perfectly plain on numerous occasions. There are a number of options available to us. We have to weigh what we can do in the circumstances and I don't want to pre-empt anything, but obviously there are diplomatic options. There have been two tragic examples in the recent past with Singapore and Malaysia where Australian citizens were executed for drug-related offences, and certain steps were taken at that time. We are looking very closely at what has been done previously, what other countries have done, and what would be an appropriate and proportionate response.

FRAN KELLY Minister, the Prime Minister has announced that another 300 Australian troops will be deployed in Iraq from May. How will Australia's national security be improved by helping to remove IS from Iraq. Even if the mission is successful, IS will remain entrenched in Syria, spouting propaganda, and some potential terrorists will see it as yet another Western military intervention in the Muslim world.

JULIE BISHOP We are there at the invitation and request of the Iraqi Government and we are supporting the US-led coalition of a number of nations - indeed about 60 nations are involved in this – because they all have citizens who are travelling to or are seeking to become involved in the conflict in Iraq and Syria. There are about 90 Australian citizens who are becoming hardened terrorists by working with this terrorist organisation in Iraq and Syria. Our fear is that they will come back to Australia, or indeed come back to our region and carry out terrorist activities here. It is directly in our national interest to seek to defeat ISIL, this barbaric terrorist organisation that has taken hold in Iraq. Now the air-strikes have had an impact, the Shia militia backed by the Iranians have had some impact in taking back territory.

Now the Iraqi Defence Forces need to have their capacity and capability enhanced so that they can reclaim the territory and protect their citizens. Likewise in Syria there are airstrikes in place, but we must do what we can to defeat ISIL in Iraq, its tentacles cannot be allowed to spread into Lebanon or Jordan and beyond. Indeed I was in Afghanistan on Australia Day and we have 400 Australian personnel in Afghanistan

FRAN KELLY Minister, apologies, we have ten seconds.

JULIE BISHOP …it is in our interest to defeat ISIL wherever we can.

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