Interview with Fauziah Ibrahim and Dan Bourchier - ABC Weekend Breakfast

  • Transcript, E&OE

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM: The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced that Australia holds Russia responsible for the downing of Flight MH17 which killed 38 Australians.

DAN BOURCHIER: Investigators say the Russian Federation's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based in the Ukraine fired the missiles into the plane in 2014. A total of 298 people died. For more we're joined by the Foreign Minister now. Good morning, Julie Bishop. You believe Russia should pay compensation to the families of Australians killed?

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning. Yes, these findings of the Joint Investigation Team, including Australia, are very important in that for the first time we are able to state that Russia must take responsibility for its role in the downing of MH17 that killed 298 people. We have advised Russia that we hold the Russian Federation responsible for its role and we have requested that they commence negotiations. We will be seeking an acknowledgement from Russia that they accept responsibility for their part in the role of the downing of the plane and we will also be seeking reparations on behalf of the victims for their families.

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM: As you said there, seeking negotiations with Moscow – is there some sort of legal recourse that Australia and indeed the families of the victims can take to try to get some sort of recrimination?

JULIE BISHOP: We have already begun a prosecution proceeding in the Netherlands. The Dutch National Prosecution will be underway and what we're doing now is complementary to those proceedings. It is a question of holding the Russian Federation accountable. It is called state responsibility under international law and we have requested Russia to commence negotiations to open a dialogue so that we can get an acknowledgement from Russia over its role in the downing of MH17 and also seek compensation on behalf of the families. So these processes will progress in a complementary fashion - the Dutch prosecution and the negotiations.

DAN BOURCHIER: The comments that we have seen from Vladimir Putin overnight seem to all but rule out joining those processes that you mentioned. Are you considering diplomatic expulsions here in Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: Russia is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and there was a unanimous resolution on the 21st of July 2014 that all States would fully cooperate to establish accountability. So we call on Russia as a permanent member of the Security Council to abide by its own resolution to fully cooperate to establish accountability. We also believe that there will be significant pressure on Russia to acknowledge its undoubted role in the downing of MH17, but we will continue to consider all options with our partners and the international community to ensure that Russia's conduct is called out as being utterly unacceptable.

DAN BOURCHIER: And what about expulsions?

JULIE BISHOP: We are considering all our options, but at this stage-

DAN BOURCHIER: So expulsions are on the table Foreign Minister?

JULIE BISHOP: No, what I said is that at this stage we are seeking to enter negotiations with Russia. These will obviously be confidential negotiations, but what we are seeking is justice for the victims and their families - 38 Australians, 298 in total were killed when MH17 was brought down - and it has now been established that the BUK missile that was deployed to bring down this passenger jet belonged to the Russian Army.

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM: But at the same time President Vladimir Putin has denied Russia's involvement, as we would expect he would. Russia didn't really take part in the investigation so how can they actually trust the findings?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, that is not correct. Russia did produce some information that was considered by the Joint Investigation Team. Russia has been conducting a campaign of misinformation and I call on Russia to stop seeking to discredit the legitimacy of the Joint Investigation Team. This team was set-up pursuant to an UN Security Council Resolution to which Russia was a party and Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council has a particular responsibility to uphold those unanimous resolutions.

DAN BOURCHIER: Given that we are seeing a lot of focus on sport at the moment, Foreign Minister, is there a chance or are you concerned that Russia might ban the Australian team from the World Cup as a result of the pressure that you and the Australian Government is putting on them over this?

JULIE BISHOP: It's time Russia accepted responsibility for its role in the bringing down of a passenger jet. We now know, through the Joint Investigation Team, that a BUK missile was deployed from the Russian base of the 53rd Military Brigade. It was taken into eastern Ukraine. It was used to bring down a passenger jet that killed 298 people and the same day the BUK missile was taken back into Russia. We call on Russia to acknowledge its role in the bringing down of this plane.

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM: Foreign Minister, you're asking for Russia to take responsibility for the bringing down of MH17. Given that 38 Australians died in this particular incident, do you think the Socceroos should actually be involved in the World Cup in Moscow or should they just not go?

JULIE BISHOP: The Government won't interfere in the Football Federation's decisions in relation to the World Cup. What we are seeking to do is to get the Russian Federation to admit its role in the bringing down of MH17. They are entirely separate matters. There is a Security Council Resolution requiring all State parties to cooperate to establish accountability. The Joint Investigation Team has made significant findings, and Russia should respect those findings, and Russia should admit its role in the downing of this plane.

DAN BOURCHIER: On another matter, Foreign Minister, it would appear that Australia's relationship with China is further frayed. China's Foreign Ministry has given a very different account to you on a meeting this week. Was your discussion with your Chinse counterpart warm and constructive as you say, or were you lectured?

JULIE BISHOP: Not at all. It was exactly as I said - it was warm, it was candid, meaning we spoke frankly to each other, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from China made that clear that we spoke frankly to each other about different matters - but it was constructive. Officials will be visiting China - I am planning to visit China soon. We discussed matters of mutual interest, but we also discussed our differences. I have been in meetings with China when it has been cold. I can assure you this one was warm.

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM: Foreign Minister, it may be warm, however we did this week that Liberal MP Andrew Hastie had made comments and had made allegation against Dr Chau as a powerful political donor. Do you think this would have raised Beijing's heckles even more?

JULIE BISHOP: These matters have all been aired in the past. I don't believe there was any new information in Mr Hastie's comments. I understand that the Chinese have acknowledged that they were said but have no comment to make. These issues are the subject of litigation proceedings so I don't intend to comment any further on them.

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM: There has been a lot of talk though about the tension between China and Australia. Do you think much of that actually comes down to perhaps a misunderstanding of cultural sensitivities between the two countries?

JULIE BISHOP: We are very different countries and we acknowledge that. We have different histories, different political systems, different perspectives on a number of issues, but we also have a very strong trading and comprehensive partnership. We engage across a whole range of areas, and while we have our differences from time to time, our relationship is mature enough to encompass that. We have very open and direct communications. I have met with my Foreign Minister counterpart on at least a dozen occasions in a formal setting, and I have seen him on numerous occasions otherwise. So, we understand each other well. We discuss issues openly, and frankly, and candidly - but there will always be differences of opinion from two very different countries. It is how we manage the differences of opinion and I believe that we get the balance right.

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM: Ms Bishop, I want to turn our attention now to domestic matters and in the last fortnight the headlines have been dominated by sitting Liberal women who are facing brutal pre-selections battles with a Minister having lost out. Does the Liberal Party have a problem with women?

JULIE BISHOP: I would like to see more women in national politics across parties. I'd like to see more women in state politics and in local government. I am an advocate for more women taking part in public life, and I think that a country reaches its full potential when the 50 per cent of its population that is female are involved in public life, in a variety of roles. So yes, I would like to see more women in the Liberal Party, in the National Party, in the Labor Party - in all parties across government.

DAN BOURCHIER: Should the Prime Minister intervene then to save those sitting MPs that are all women, including those in ministerial positions?

JULIE BISHOP: This comes down to each state division of the Liberal Party that is responsible for its pre-selections and these matters are looked at on a case-by-case basis. So I don't think there is a general rule that applies, but that's a matter for the Prime Minister to determine, but it is also ultimately a matter for the state divisions and the pre-selectors.

DAN BOURCHIER: It is certainly a debate we will behaving for the next couple of months in the lead up to whenever the election is I suspect. Just before we let you go, I want to change direction again. Minister, we are on the eve of National Reconciliation Day. You have appointed Australia's first Indigenous woman to a top diplomatic post. Tell me – how important is this?

JULIE BISHOP: We are very excited. Julie-Ann is the first Indigenous female to be appointed an Ambassador to represent Australia. She will be going to Spain - our Embassy in Madrid. I think this is a significant milestone. We have been focusing on appointing more women to ambassadorial positions around the world on behalf of Australia, and this is the first time we have been able to appoint an Indigenous female. I am very excited for her.

DAN BOURCHIER: Foreign Minister, thank you very much for your time. We do appreciate it this morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

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