ABC, Vientiane - Interview with Adam Harvey

  • Transcript, E&OE
26 July 2016

JOURNALIST Ms Bishop, are you disappointed that ASEAN didn't issue a stronger statement rebuking China over the South China Sea dispute?

JULIE BISHOP The ASEAN countries did issue a joint communique that referred to a number of principles that are applicable to territorial claims in the South China Sea. Today, other countries have had an opportunity to make statements about the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal relating to the South China Sea, but the ASEAN countries have set out some basic principles that we support.

JOURNALIST It was a very mild statement, I suppose. The fact that you and John Kerry and Japan issued a much stronger one, does that indicate that you were dissatisfied with the original ASEAN statement?

JULIE BISHOP The ASEAN statement is consistent with previous ASEAN statements, particularly a Foreign Ministers' statement from earlier this year. Likewise, Australia's position has been consistent and clear throughout. And we are not a claimant state. We don't take sides in the various claims, but we do uphold the rule of law, and we do believe that the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal from The Hague is final and binding.

JOURNALIST Even mentioning the Tribunal decision is contentious for China. You sat next to the Chinese Foreign Minister at dinner. What was his response to your quite strong comments, and even the fact that you mentioned it?

JULIE BISHOP Australia's position has been consistent and has been clear, and would not come as a surprise to China that we restated our position here at the ASEAN meetings. But we had a very constructive discussion about the way forward, how China and the Philippines will seek to negotiate their differences, and Australia certainly supports claimant countries negotiating their respective claims, and indeed ensuring that their differences can be articulated in a peaceful and calm and measured way.

JOURNALIST It looks like Indonesia will resume executions of drug criminals in the next few days. You must be very disappointed at this, given Australia's lobbying over this issue.

JULIE BISHOP Australia does not support the death penalty, either at home or abroad, and I did take the opportunity to restate our position with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi this week during the bilateral meeting that we had.

JOURNALIST And how did she take it?

JULIE BISHOP She noted our position. It will not come as a surprise to Indonesia given that we made our position very plain during the period leading up to the execution of Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran.

JOURNALIST You've also spoken with the Philippines' delegation here, the Philippines' Foreign Minister. In terms of executions, Indonesia has at least had trials of its drug criminals. In the Philippines, since the election of the President, about 300 people have been killed on the streets with the President's support. What is Australia's view on these extrajudicial killings?

JULIE BISHOP We are aware of the reports. We are yet to establish the veracity of them and this is a matter about which I will be seeking more information from the Philippines' delegation here.

JOURNALIST But President Duterte hasn't made any secret of the fact that he is encouraging them.

JULIE BISHOP Australia would encourage all countries to abide by international norms. Most certainly we don't support extrajudicial killings.

JOURNALIST Foreign Minister, thank you.

JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.

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