Channel 9 Today Show, New York - interview with Lisa Wilkinson

  • Transcript, E&OE

LISA WILKINSON Well, it is one of the biggest diplomatic challenges of her career. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has arrived at the United Nations in New York. Her mission: to convince Russia and the world to support an independent tribunal to prosecute those responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. 39 Australians were among those who died in the tragedy. And Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins us now.

Good morning to you Foreign Minister. Can you tell us what you are hoping to achieve with this Tribunal?

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Lisa. I am in New York to shore up support amongst the nations that make up the Security Council, 15 members at present - the permanent five and 10 temporary members - to pass a resolution tomorrow, New York time, to establish an ad hoc independent criminal Tribunal to hold to account those responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17.

There have been investigations underway for 12 months now and Australia has been part of a five nation taskforce that has been carrying out the criminal investigations. That team will conclude their work shortly and we believe that a prosecuting authority needs to be established to receive the findings of that investigation and to pursue those responsible for the downing of MH17. We think the Security Council should establish the Tribunal so that it is seen to have international backing and is the most impartial and independent Tribunal that we believe can be established.

I have had about a dozen meetings today and I will continue to meet with representatives of the member nations. There is a lot of support, a majority of support, but still any one of the permanent five has the power of veto. So it doesn't matter whether I get all but one, if that one nation vetoes then we can't set up the Tribunal.

LISA WILKINSON Foreign Minister you have been incredibly strong on this ever since it happened. The trouble is Russia has already indicated it will veto this move. What can you do to change their mind?

JULIE BISHOP I met with the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations today. I spent about an hour with him. We had a very frank discussion. I put forward our arguments as to why the families of those on board MH17 deserve justice. We owed them nothing less than a tribunal to consider criminal investigations into the downing of MH17. I countered every argument that he put forward as to why a tribunal should not be set up and should not be backed by the Security Council. I asked him to seek instructions from Moscow to not use the veto because we have, I believe, a majority of support. 17 nations, including a number on the Security Council, have agreed to co-sponsor this resolution. So there is significant support for it and there is significant support amongst the Security Council members and I don't believe the veto should be used to deny justice to the families of those on board MH17.

LISA WILKINSON What sort of reaction did you get? Because really the sticking point is Vladimir Putin isn't it?

JULIE BISHOP At this point, that's right. No other country has indicated that it would use the veto of the five who have the power to veto. No other country has indicated that it would use the veto. Russia has said it would but I have not given up advocating our position. Malaysia is going to table the resolution tomorrow. Australia will speak to the resolution but we won't be able to do that because we are not on the Security Council until after the vote is taken. So it is very important for me to be meeting with all of the representative countries today and tomorrow to shore up support for our resolution.

LISA WILKINSON Well we wish you all strength on that. Let's go to domestic matters now - yet more revelations this morning of Bronwyn Bishop being caught up charging taxpayers to attend weddings. Minister, as Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop is meant to be the keeper of parliamentary standards but her sense of entitlement calls into question her ability to do that and is really offending a lot of taxpayers. With Parliament back in just over a week, is it time for her to resign?

JULIE BISHOP Lisa, I understand that the Department of Finance has been asked to investigate a number of these claims for travel allowance and it is doing that. I believe it is appropriate that the Department of Finance be allowed to conduct that investigation and that Speaker Bishop respond to any inquiries or queries that the Department of Finance has and then we can determine whether the claims were within entitlements or not. Every Member has a responsibility to abide by the guidelines. Every Member has to account for the travel claims that they make and in this instance I understand the Department of Finance is investigating it. Indeed Speaker Bishop has referred a couple of instances to the Department of Finance herself. So I would like to see the outcome of that investigation.

LISA WILKINSON But if that investigation is still going on when Parliament resumes is it appropriate that she sits there as Speaker of the house? It is already a rabble in Parliament. It is only going to get worse.

JULIE BISHOP I understand that the Labor Party will seek to use this to destabilise Question Time for example. I'm sure Speaker Bishop will take that it into account as she considers her position, but I believe it is important that the Department of Finance be able to carry out an investigation. That's what happened in the past and that should happen in this case.

LISA WILKINSON I think a lot of people would agree with you about that investigation. Finally, Christopher Pyne said this week that there aren't enough women in Parliament but your colleague Liberal MP Sharman Stone says the current system in the Liberal Party makes it too difficult for women. Does the LNP need to introduce quotas because it certainly seems to have worked in the Labor Party if their male/female ration is any indication.

JULIE BISHOP Well I would actually disagree that it has worked in the Labor Party. The Labor Party introduced an affirmative action initiative but in instances where a woman should have got the seat I can think of a number of examples where a male former union boss came in and took the seat. So a quota is no protection against former union male bosses claiming a seat and we have plenty of evidence of that.

I think it is important for all political parties to seek to attract to attract a diverse range of people to enter public office. The Liberal Party has attracted a number of women to what we would call "strong Liberal seats in the past" and women have successfully won those seats and held those seats. We have pre-selected women for marginal seats, in a number of notable examples they have retained those seats successfully. I think all parties can do more to attract a more diverse range, including more women.
I don't believe a quota of 30 per cent or something like that reflects what we should be aiming for. We should be looking to represent the community. Why not 50 per cent?

I'm very mindful of the fact that we need to attract greater diversity and I, in my own role as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, encourage women to stand for public office. I seek to mentor women who are already in the Parliament. I talk to women about local councils, about state government representation, about federal representation. So I think men and women parliamentarians need to do more to mentor women and more diverse actors into public life.

LISA WILKINSON Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, we know you have a busy time there in New York and we do thank you very much for your time this morning.

JULIE BISHOP Thank you Lisa.

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