Doorstop Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE

KIERAN GILBERT: Are we seeing now two separate coalitions in Syria who are fighting both against a common enemy the Islamic State?

JULIE BISHOP:: Well the United States has proven that it can work with Russia as it did in the P5+1 negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Both Russia and the United States worked very closely to create that negotiation and then resolve it in an agreement – that is still to be verified; the actions of Iran are still to be verified – but nevertheless that was a case of the United States and Russia working very closely together. There have been instances in the past where the US and Russia have been on the same page and matters that have come to the UN Security Council have passed unanimously – obviously the United States and Russia have worked together.

In the case of Syria, the US President maintained his hard line against the Assad regime, quite rightly, because this regime has used chemical weapons and barrel bombs on its own citizens - atrocious acts - but the Geneva process that began in 2011 to find a political solution has not been able to achieve that. The Assad regime has continued to exist. So the reality is that we must find a compromise, and this is the position I put forward over the weekend – that Australia maintains you can't take any option off the table, but of course, as President Obama said, it would be a managed compromise.

KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of the compromise though you've copped flak from the Jewish community in Australia led by Michael Danby.

JULIE BISHOP: No, I haven't copped flak from the Jewish community.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well he says that you have.

JULIE BISHOP: Michael Danby has gone out on his own self-interested political campaign to recapture the Jewish vote after Labor has failed to stem support for the anti-Semitic BDS campaign, and that prominent Labor figures like Bob Carr have taken up the Palestinian cause to the exclusion of Israel. So he's trying to...

KIERAN GILBERT: [Interrupts] but what about the crux of the argument though that he says that you're backing a Russian-led paradigm, essentially, in Syria, and you're essentially by doing that, you're hurting those moderate rebels who have got nothing to do with IS?
JULIE BISHOP: Michael Danby claims that I have a deal with Iran. The only deal I am seeking to negotiate with Iran is over the Iranian asylum seekers who came to Australia - 8000 of them are in detention under a Labor Government, of which Michael Danby was a member. So I'm negotiating with Iran for the return of failed asylum seekers back to Iran caused by the failure of Michael Danby's Labor Government to maintain border protection controls.

KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of the... well first of all MH17, this is one where we're taking Russia on head on, as I understand it the UN Secretary-General said to you yesterday that... he urged you to keep pushing in that regard.

JULIE BISHOP: That's right, that's right.

KIERAN GILBERT: What are you going to... what other options are there really if the UN Security Council has the Russian veto always ready there to block it?

JULIE BISHOP: We are meeting as a group – the leaders of Malaysia, Netherlands, Ukraine, Belgium, and Australia as the joint investigation team tomorrow. We'll be looking at the options available to us to hold to account those responsible for the downing of MH17. There are a number of examples, like the Lockerbie bombing model. There could be separate national prosecutions, and so we will discuss what potential options we could embrace. I don't rule out returning to the UN Security Council once all of the reports into this crash are completed, because I believe that we do need UN Security Council backing if we're able to achieve it.

KIERAN GILBERT: How likely though is it?

JULIE BISHOP: Well one of the concerns that Russia expressed when we went to the Security Council in July was that we were proceeding to set up a tribunal before the reports were completed. Now I didn't accept that criticism at the time, and I don't, because I believe it takes some time to set up an international tribunal. And the reports, once completed, have to go to a prosecuting authority – one doesn't currently exist. If Russia maintains the timing was wrong, well when the timing is right we could return to the UN Security Council.

KIERAN GILBERT: They don't mind in... they're not bad at revision... revision of history are they? You wouldn't be surprised if they attack again another way and don't ever agree. It's hard to see Russia agreeing at the UN Security Council.

JULIE BISHOP: I don't intend to give up. On behalf of the families of those who were killed aboard MH17, I don't intend to give up and I will try to find every opportunity to get a solution through the setting up of an international tribunal at some point.

KIERAN GILBERT: A couple of issues just to finish – in terms of the refugee crisis in Europe, Australia is, as you say, doing its bit well and truly.


KIERAN GILBERT: Will you be urging the Arab states to do more during your talks here?

JULIE BISHOP: All countries have been urged to take part in the global response to this humanitarian crisis. Obviously, the countries in the Middle East most affected have a deep interest in resolving the crisis and I would think that there could be more support provided to the displaced persons by countries in the region.

Australia is thousands of kilometres away from this crisis, yet we have confirmed we'll take 12,000 of those most at risk and permanently resettle them in Australia. There aren't too many other countries that have made such a generous pledge, and we're certainly urging others to consider …

KIERAN GILBERT: [Interrupts] On another pledge, the 26 to 28 per cent target for emission reductions, has that been seen as a credible target here? Have people seen that as a credible proposition, you know, two months out from Paris?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe so. I spoke to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week and informed him again of our target and what we were proposing to do at the Paris Conference. He invited me to the leader's lunch; there were 30 world leaders and only three foreign ministers – Secretary Kerry, Sergey Lavrov from Russia and me, so presumably they thought I had a contribution to make to the discussion over lunch.

I reiterated Australia's position, that whilst we might only be responsible for one per cent of global emissions, on a per capita basis we are a significant contributor. Under our targets that we've announced - the 26 to 28 per cent reduction - that would halve our per capita emissions, and that's impressive. And also the contribution that we're making to the Green Climate Fund.

KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, any reaction or comments to you about the volatility at the top of our Government in Australia in the last couple of weeks? Of course you had a bit of a role to play in it, any response to the fact that we have a new prime minister, the fifth in five years?

JULIE BISHOP: A number of people have commented on the fact that they look forward to meeting Prime Minister Turnbull again. Many world leaders and many foreign ministers have met Malcolm Turnbull over the years in one form or another when he was the chairman of Goldman Sachs, or when he was studying at Oxford. I've had a number of leaders tell me of their connection with Malcolm Turnbull, and that …

KIERAN GILBERT: [Interrupts] what was their reaction?

JULIE BISHOP: Very positive. A very positive reaction. He's very well known on the international stage, he has a high public profile in Australia, he also has a very high international profile. So I've had some very positive responses.

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister, thanks so much.

JULIE BISHOP: It's been my pleasure.

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