Interview with Linda Mottram - ABC PM

  • Transcript, E&OE

LINDAMOTTRAM: JulieBishop thank you for joining us. Did Australia fail to speak up in defence ofdemocracy in Malaysia as Anwar Ibrahim is reported to have said in theAustralian this morning?

JULIEBISHOP: First, I welcome Anwar Ibrahim'srelease. I believe he has much to offer the people of Malaysia and this RoyalPardon is important because it allows him to again participate fully inMalaysia's politics and we expect him to join the government in due course. Asto whether we did enough to support him, over a long time successive Australiangovernments have raised our deep concerns with the Malaysian Government overAnwar's treatment. I recall in early 2015 publically expressing deep concernover the severity of his sentence and I made representations to the politicalleaders in Malaysia. We have done a great deal behind the scenes in trying tobring to the Government's attention our deep concern and with other countries.We have a positive and broad based relationship with Malaysia whomever is ingovernment. They are our 10th largest trading partner but as withany close and significant partnership there are always points of difference andwe've had some very frank discussions on civil and political rights withMalaysia at senior levels. I was last in Malaysia in 2017 and I met with notonly government ministers but with civil society leaders and with human rightsadvocates to discuss developments in the country. I raised human rights issueswith senior ministers and of course the case of Anwar Ibrahim. So I think ourlevel of protest and objection was appropriate in the circumstances.

LINDAMOTTRAM: He did make some other very strongcomments to the effect that countries like Australia, stable democracies,should not be seen to be appeasing ruthless, corrupt, authoritarian leaders inthe interests of further trade and economic developments. He may have beenimprisoned but surely he had a very good handle on the representations beingmade or not?

JULIEBISHOP : He should alsoknow that sovereign nations don't appreciate interference in the political andjudicial affairs of their country, just as Australia is very determined toensure that our sovereignty is not breached and others do not interfere in ourpolitical and judicial processes. Likewise, Malaysia would not appreciate thateither. We have raised our concerns with Malaysian officials, with governmentministers, our High Commission in Kuala Lumpur works actively to promote humanrights, the rule of law, media freedoms, strengthening democratic institutions.And I do recognise the new Government's stated commitment to the rule of lawand good governance so I am looking forward to working with the new PrimeMinister Mahathir. But also, should Anwar come back into Cabinet, he said he wasnot hasty to return and he would give Mahathir and the Government his completesupport so long as the Government is committed to reform agenda, I am lookingforward to working with him as well. Of course, he would have to win aby-election and be appointed to Cabinet, as you would in Australia.

LINDAMOTTRAM: Yes, some similarities. Minister, can I ask you about a matterelsewhere in the region in North Korean which has cancelled talks yesterdaywith the South, unexpectedly. That threatened the planned Trump-Kim summit thatis just weeks away now. How confident are you that that summit will go ahead?

JULIEBISHOP: I am disappointed by the cancellationof the high-level inter-Korean talks by North Korea. It is apparently on thebasis of South Korean-US military exercises but these are longstanding, theyare annual, they are entirely legitimate. I understand also that the summitwith the US is still scheduled to go ahead on the 12th of June andso we hope that at that summit we will see steps towards a genuine peaceagreement between North and South Korea. North Korea is committed to completedenuclearisation, most recently in the Panmunjom Declaration of the 27thof April, but I think the international communities demand has been quite clear– complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclearweapons programs and an end to its ballistic missile program. So we need to seeconcrete steps from North Korea that it is genuine in denuclearisation andworking towards peace on the Korean Peninsula.

LINDAMOTTRAM: But doesn't it now seem clear from whatNorth Korea has been saying over time that it has no intention of giving up itsnuclear weapons as the US wants it to – effectively unilaterally?

JULIEBISHOP: Thisis precisely why the US-North Korea summit will be so important. It is wherethe US and North Korea can begin the difficult but essential process ofagreeing on concrete actions and timeframes towards an outcome ofdenuclearisation and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Now, for North Korea tohint at missing that summit naturally raises questions about the extent of KimJong-un's commitment to denuclearisation. I've always been concerned, and I'vemade this clear as have other foreign ministers, that North Korea have madepromises in the past. In fact, every promise that is set out in the recentPanmunjom Declaration North Korea has been made in the past…

LINDAMOTTRAM: …and broken.

JULIEBISHOP: Indeed. They have not honoured thoseagreements. So there is a level of scepticism about how genuine North Korea isbut the sanctions have been working. That is why I believe North Korea is startingto come to the negotiating table because the international community's strategyof maximum diplomatic, political and economic pressure has been working. Nodoubt President Trump's threat of military action had an impact. And we mustcontinue to fulfil the UN Security Council resolutions sanction strategy and continueto maintain those sanctions on North Korea until it returns to the negotiatingtable and shows that it is genuine in stopping its illegal nuclear weapons andballistic missile programs.

LINDAMOTTRAM: Julie Bishop thank you for joining PMthis evening.

JULIEBISHOP: My pleasure.

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