Interview with Basil Zempilas and Monique Wright - Weekend Sunrise

  • Transcript, E&OE

MONIQUE WRIGHT: We are joined by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who is in Melbourne. Thanks so much for your time Minister. Now, the findings are unambiguous, aren't they? It was a Russian anti-aircraft missile that was fired from inside Russia that brought down MH17. You have been very strong on this yesterday, perhaps the strongest of all international political leaders saying that Russia must now be brought to justice and pay compensation. What do you think that the chances of that happening are?

JULIE BISHOP: The findings have been convincing. The investigation took place over a long period of time. It has been thorough and it has been very detailed, and we can now state that Russia was directly involved in the bringing down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17. As you say, it was a BUK missile belonging to the Russian army that was brought into eastern Ukraine, into an area that was controlled by Russian-backed separatists. The BUK missile was deployed to bring down the plane and then it was taken back into Russia that same day. We have now informed Russia in Moscow, in The Hague and in Canberra that we expect Russia to acknowledge its role in the downing of the plane and that we want to open negotiations to discuss its conduct and also we demand that they pay compensation. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and Russia backed the resolution that called on all parties to fully cooperate with efforts to establish accountability, so we're calling on Russia to do what it agreed.

BASIL ZEMPILAS: Sure, all of that is true but Vladimir Putin, the question was put to him just overnight - did he accept responsibility - and his answer was a very simple no. What is your reaction to that?

JULIE BISHOP: My reaction is it is time Russia stopped its campaign of misinformation, it is time Russia accepted responsibility - there is overwhelming evidence - and it should open dialogue with the grieving nations, including Australia, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and others. The international community should also join together to let Russia know that its conduct is unacceptable, that this was a complete and utter disregard for international norms and standards, and to deploy a sophisticated, advanced military weapon to bring down to a passenger plane is a security threat. It is not acceptable.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: Yes, reprehensible. Thank you so much for your comments on that, Minister. Just to talk to you about a different subject. The summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, it has been on again and off again. This morning, there seems to be some hope that it might actually happen. There has been criticism by the way that America has handled itself in this, saying that they are very publicly playing out their diplomacy that hasn't happened before when other administrations had been in talks with North Korea, but we just haven't heard about every single part of the machinations, I suppose. What do you make about how America has conducted itself?

JULIE BISHOP: It is certainly a different approach, but this approach has almost brought Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table. We hope that the summit goes ahead. President Trump obviously concluded that North Korea was not genuine in its discussions about denuclearisation and a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, but he did leave the door open for North Korea to come back to the negotiating table. We hope that this occurs and, at last, we have some glimmer of hope that there might be progress in denuclearising the Korean peninsula, but we have been down this path before. North Korea has made promises and signed agreements in the past, but has never honoured them.

BASIL ZEMPILAS: Sure, no we won't celebrate too early. Minister, just before you go, a Sydney grandmother, Maria Pinto Exposto, has been sentenced to death for smuggling drugs into Malaysia. What diplomatic effects, if any, will the Australian Government make to have to have that sentence reviewed?

JULIE BISHOP: We have provided consular support and we will continue to provide that support. She does have a team of lawyers acting for her, and I understand that she will be appealing this decision. So while the legal proceedings are on foot, we won't be able to intervene. However, we will continue to provide her with consular support. Of course, Australia's position on the death penalty is well known. We oppose it in any circumstances, but we hope that this won't get to that. She is currently exercising her right of appeal.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. We really appreciate your time. Thank you.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

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