Channel 9 Today, Canberra - interview with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE

KARL STEFANOVIC Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins us now live from Canberra. Julie, good morning to you.

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC It doesn't bode well.

JULIE BISHOP We are very disappointed that the appeal was lost at this point but I understand that the lawyers are considering a further legal avenue and that they have about 14 days within which to do so. In the meantime, we continue to appeal to President Widodo's sense of generosity and his sense of forgiveness and hope that he will consider these clemency pleas and that there will be a stay of execution.

KARL STEFANOVIC Is Indonesia really in the frame of mind to change its mind though? Its Prime Minister is resolute.

JULIE BISHOP We can only hope that they will see the value in these men's lives, that both men have been rehabilitated in the most remarkable way, that they are adding value to prison life in that they are working with other prisoners - they are rehabilitating other prisoners and helping Indonesia with this whole process of rehabilitating people, such as drug offenders.

I don't understate for a moment the gravity of their crimes but it was 10 years ago and they have made the most extraordinary rehabilitation and progress. Mr Chan is now a priest, he is providing spiritual advice and nourishment to other prisoners. Mr Sukumaran is an accomplished artist, taking art classes for other prisoners. So they have a quality of life and a contribution to make to prison life in Indonesia.

KARL STEFANOVIC What you are saying is very measured, understandably, but here is a reminder of what the Prime Minister said over the weekend.

Australians lost their lives in that campaign to help Indonesia and I would say to the Indonesian people and the Indonesian government we in Australia are always there to help you and we hope that you might reciprocate in this way at this time.

Were those comments helpful?

JULIE BISHOP The Prime Minister is trying to underscore the close ties between Australia and Indonesia and that we are there for each other in times of difficulty. We are close friends, neighbours, and we do support each other. But at this time I'm talking about the lives of two young Australian citizens and I appeal to President Widodo, indeed the people of Indonesia, their mercy, compassion, their forgiveness to spare the lives of these two Australians.

KARL STEFANOVIC The Indonesian Foreign Ministry responded to Tony Abbott's comments with the following, "what I know is this, threats are not part of the diplomatic language and from what I know, no one responds well to threats". The question I want to ask you this morning, isn't it the very active execution the thing that will damage relations between our nations?

JULIE BISHOP Well, Karl, that's what we are seeking to do - avoid the execution of these two young men. We are seeking a stay of execution. We have left no stone unturned in our representations. It has been a very high-level campaign across all areas of the Indonesian Government because more than one department is involved in this, and we are doing what we can every day.

Our consular staff in Bali are working with the families, our staff in Jakarta are working closely with the Indonesian Government and making representations. It was as a result of those words from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and similar words that I contacted the Vice President and spoke to him about the reason why these two men's lives should be spared.

KARL STEFANOVIC You have been involved and you have also counselled loved ones after many tragic stories, sadly too many, and that's the reality of what you do in your job. Why has this one taken such a toll on you personally?

JULIE BISHOP Well it is not about me Karl. It is about the two young men and it is about the others on death row but also their families. I have met with the families of Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan. I have in fact spoken to the two men. They were in prison and our Consul General in Bali visited them and she put me on loud speaker and I spoke to both.

But it was meeting the mothers and grandparents and my last meeting with Mrs Sukumaran she hugged me so tightly I could hardly breathe. She begged me to do all I could to save the life of her son whose own life had been rehabilitated in such an extraordinary way. No person could fail to be touched by the anguish of the families.

KARL STEFANOVIC It goes from hopeful to hopeless for those poor people, doesn't it?

JULIE BISHOP Well, we won't give up hope. While they are still alive there is hope. We know the lawyers are going to continue down every legal avenue available to them.


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