Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Channel 9 Today Show
KARL STEFANOVIC: It has been just over aweek since Cyclone Pam lashedVanuatu killing 16 people andleaving thousands homeless. ForeignMinister Julie Bishop has just come back from visiting the devastatedregion and she joins us now livefrom Canberra.
Julie, good morningto you. It is terrible on theground there, isn't it?
JULIE BISHOP: Goodmorning. Yes it is a very devastatingscene in Port Vila. Homes have beenflattened, government buildingshave been torn apart, schools, the hospitaland yet the people are so resilient.They are out there cleaning uptheir backyards, cleaning up the streets and a week on you can stillsee the devastation but the peopleare determined to rebuild theirlives.
KARL STEFANOVIC: So how much aid will we beproviding? Where does it stand nowand is it going to be enough movingforward?
JULIE BISHOP: We have provided in cashabout $10 million at this point butin addition to that we havedeployed significant military equipment, supplies, and vehicles. Infact I was on the 18th transport plane of supplies thathas been taken into Vanuatu. HMASTobruk should have arrived thismorning and an additional 335personnel will be on board. All uptoday there should be about 600civilians and defence personneldeployed to Vanuatu. We arecontinuing to assess the needs,working very closely with theirNational Disaster Management Officeand the Government of Vanuatuto ensure we are able to meet theirpriorities.
But we are not the onlypartner working with them - NewZealand, France, Britain, PNG,other countries are also supportingthem and so it is a question ofensuring that they coordinate thedelivery of supplies, particularlyto the outlying islands. And this iswhere our defence capability hasbeen so useful. We have beensending Black Hawk helicopters down to the outlying islands and weexpect that HMAS Tobruk willvisit the islands because we havelanding gear to get trucks and supplies to these islands.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Theyhave significant infrastructureproblems as you saw firsthand.What about long-term recovery?
JULIE BISHOP: Thisis going to be the challenge.Obviously the whole nation has beendevastated. There are about 83islands that make up Vanuatu and anumber of agricultural crops areobviously important for the economy.They have been flattened, so it isa question of restoring theagricultural economy. Also tourismbecause Vanuatu relies very heavilyon tourism, so as soon as Vanuatuis back up on its feet I hope thatAustralians in particular willreturn to Vanuatu as a touristdestination.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Was it difficult foryou to see it first hand?
JULIE BISHOP: Yes, itwas a challenge to get in there fora start. I wanted to go in on oneof our military transport planes and so one left from Brisbane on Sundaymorning, as I said the 18th thathas been over. And we will continueto provide supplies, water, sanitation, hygiene, medicalequipment. We were able to drivearound Port Vila because they havecleaned up many of the roads butnevertheless it is still quite adevastating scene.
I met with Prime Minister Natuman and ForeignMinister Kilman and discussed the longer term needs. I think the challengefor them will be coordinating all the offers of internationalsupport to ensure that every dollaris spent wisely.
KARL STEFANOVIC: In terms of peopleat home, and there have been a lotof people emailing us seeking whatthey can do, what is the best wayof them helping out? What is yourmessage to them?
JULIE BISHOP: There are a numberof aid agencies accepting donations -Red Cross, the World Food Program,UNICEF, Save the Children and I am sure they would welcome donations.ANZ Bank which has branches throughout the Pacific is also acceptingdonations and of course you canalways get in touch with the Australian Government. I have tosay that the people of Vanuatu weredeeply appreciative of the supportfrom Australia. Many of them toldme that last Sunday when our first C-17s and C-130s, those great big militaryplanes, flew in over Port Vila therewas a lot of cheering and clapping.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Nice to see.
Just quickly on a couple more matters - AndrewChan and Myuran Sukumaran, anyupdate on them?
JULIE BISHOP: No, we haven't any update. The legal proceedingsare still underway and I don'texpect to see any change orinformation emanating from thegovernment until such time as thelegal avenues have been fullypursued.
KARL STEFANOVIC: There seems to be someconjecture over what is happeningover the next couple of months,some saying it could be anothercouple of months now beforeanything is decided?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, we willcontinue to make representationsthat these men should be grantedclemency, that they should be giventhe same mercy and forgiveness thatIndonesia seeks of other countrieswhen their citizens are on deathrow overseas.
So we will continue to make those representations to theIndonesian Government but whilethey are still alive there is stillhope.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay, well said.
Just on a much lighter note, asyou are aware you have to beprepared for anything here - what isgoing on with Christopher Pyne? Hehas gone to the dark side Mr Fix-It.You may not be aware of this but he has been hired for hisspecialist skills by an unlikelysource. I know you have a monitor there – check this out.
Clip of Christopher Pyne in Star Wars skit on Insiders.
KARL STEFANOVIC: What do you think?
JULIE BISHOP: I wouldn't bethe first person to think thatChristopher Pyne comes straight outof a Star Wars movie!
KARL STEFANOVIC: Well said Minister. Thanks foryour time today as always.
JULIE BISHOP: Mypleasure.
KARL STEFANOVIC: May the force be with you.
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