Doorstop interview

10 March 2014

London Stock Exchange

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

Subjects: Missing Malaysian Airways plane, Ukraine, Russia, Sochi Paralympics, Troy Buswell

10 March 2014

JULIE BISHOP: The plane that has gone missing - we can assume that it has gone down, we don't know where or why. The Australian government has joined the international efforts to provide support for search activities that are underway. Two BC Orion aircraft have left Australia to take part in the search effort, joining the assets from other countries. We have no further information at this stage and we will obviously keep in touch with the authorities in other countries, particularly with Malaysian Airlines, and our Consular officials are maintaining contact with the families of those passengers who we know were on board.

JOURNALIST: The international search rescue going on between countries that perhaps weren't best of friends - what does that say about what's happened?

JULIE BISHOP: This is an example of how nations come together in a joint humanitarian effort, in that a plane has gone missing with passengers from many different countries on board and we've seen an outpouring of emotion from families, understandably, and we are very conscious that this is a very distressing and anxious time for the families of the passengers and the crew. But it does show that countries in our region pull together when there is a crisis such as this, that the United States, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Australia have all offered assistance and I'm sure that other countries will offer assistance should that be required.

I spoke to the Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah yesterday and offered him our support. I asked if there was anything further that Australia could do they just have to let us know

JOURNALIST: Are you learning anything from scrutiny of passports about what's going on in this situation?

JULIE BISHOP: There are many theories around at present including passenger identification but there's an investigation underway and I wouldn't want to speculate on that. Australia has a very robust passport system, but this is a global issue and it's not an isolated incident, if in fact false passports have been used. There may or may not be a connection with the fate of the aircraft.

JOURNALIST: Does Australia regularly scan against the Interpol database of stolen passports?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe so.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it's possible, could it have happened in Australia - that people could have boarded a plane with stolen passports out of Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: We would like to think that our passport system is exceedingly robust and our Immigration Minister has made some remarks on that today. This is an incident that is not isolated and the response of Interpol, for example, indicates that much tighter scrutiny may well be required.

JOURNALIST: The Ukraine clearly will be high on the UK Foreign Secretary's mind this week. Can Australia make any contribution to the discussions of how that situation could be deescalated?

JULIE BISHOP: Well we are making a contribution. We have taken part in the United Nations Security Council debates on Ukraine and Russia's intervention in Ukraine and Crimea. I expect to discuss this with Foreign Secretary William Hague this afternoon when I meet with him in the bilateral meeting ahead of the annual Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting tomorrow.

Yes, I expect that Ukraine will be a topic of deep consideration. Economic and other sanctions are being considered. You can't rule that out, but I don't believe that there's consensus across the United States and the European Union. Australia for its part has cancelled two rather important meetings. Our Trade and Investment Minister was to be in Russia this past weekend, we cancelled that visit. Likewise the Russian National Security Adviser was leading a delegation to Australia at the end of the month and that visit has also been cancelled. We're watching for proceedings very closely. I note that UK Prime Minister David Cameron spoke yesterday of a contact group, we urge that there be continuing dialogue and diplomacy. We certainly note that Ukraine has been restrained in the face of provocation and we urge the Russian government to deescalate the tensions, withdraw troops and not breach Ukraine's sovereignty.

JOURNALIST: In the words of the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin should "back off". Is that how you would phrase it?

JULIE BISHOP: That's another way of putting what I've just said.

JOURNALIST: Minister, do you think the UK should be selling arms to Russia given the current situation?

JULIE BISHOP: That's a matter for the United Kingdom to consider in the context of the scenario that's unfolding between Russia, the UK and Crimea. I am concerned that Russia's claim that it has a right to intervene in other states to protect Russian speaking communities is not only unjustifiable but it also sets a disturbing precedent for other former Soviet Republics.

JOURNALIST: Just on a domestic matter, the WA Treasurer Troy Buswell has now resigned. Do you think in retrospect that the WA Liberal Party gave him too many chances?

JULIE BISHOP: Troy Buswell is a brilliant mind, he has great ability but like so many other very clever people he obviously has some flaws and I hope that he is able to deal with them and that he recovers from whatever situation he is going through or the circumstances that he's in at present. I'm sure that he would appreciate some privacy at this time.

JOURNALIST: Is there any question about Sochi and our participation of the Paralympians in Russia at the moment?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't have any expectation that the participation of our athletes in the Sochi Games will be affected by the current situation. No Australian Ministers were intending to be there in any event and so it's a matter for the Paralympic Committee and the individual athletes.

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