Sky News AM Agenda, Parliament House - interview with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE
05 March 2015

KIERAN GILBERT This prisoner swap idea - how has it been received by Indonesia? You raised that with your counterpart in the last day or so.

JULIE BISHOP There were no specific details. I contacted Foreign Minister Marsudi to see if there were any other avenues open to us, any other options that we could pursue. I raised the fact that there were Indonesian prisoners in Australian jails and whether there was an opportunity for us to consider a prisoner swap, a prisoner transfer, or a clemency plea in exchange for the return of prisoners.

I just asked for a pause in their preparation for the execution of Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan so that we could have officials explore these ideas. I referred to Australia's International Prisoner Transfer agreement, I referred to the Presidential decree that is available in the Indonesian Constitution and asked if we could have an opportunity to explore any other avenue, any other option that might be available.

KIERAN GILBERT And was there any hope given from her? Is she going to pursue that?

JULIE BISHOP She undertook to raise it with the President and I will follow that up today.

KIERAN GILBERT Okay, it seems like every effort is being made. This is an eleventh hour bid of course. These two young men have been moved to Nusakambangan. They're going to be executed over the next few days. The show of force was extraordinary yesterday.

JULIE BISHOP We still haven't been given a timeframe so we don't know the actual planning detail and so we are waiting for specific information on that. I did ask Foreign Minister Marsudi if she could keep me informed as to the proposed timeframe, but you are right, I cannot comprehend the manner or the method of their transfer. They are two young men, they are very gentle people. I'm told by our Consul-General that they are considered model prisoners. They have never done anything that would suggest they are violent or that they would risk anybody else's life so I just cannot comprehend how it is that they could be transferred with so much military equipment and so much security.

KIERAN GILBERT And was it just the two Australians that had that treatment? Because we know that there are several other foreign nationals – a Nigerian who the experts that I've spoken to in this field believe the case against him is very, very weak and obviously representations being made on his behalf and others, but in terms of the force, was this just isolated to us?

JULIE BISHOP I'm not aware of the details of how other prisoners have been transferred but I just cannot comprehend why there was such an incredible presence of military force there - planes and vehicles and security but that's a matter for Indonesia. As for others, I know that other countries are making representations, there's a French citizen, a Brazilian, a Nigerian, Mali, so other countries are making representations, I'm aware of that and we have been in contact with representatives of the other nations effected by this.

KIERAN GILBERT The Indonesian authorities make representations for their own citizens. They've got many of their own citizens on death row right around the world, don't they?

JULIE BISHOP Absolutely, and that's the point I've made time and time again that Indonesia has been very successful in making representations to other countries, particularly in the Middle East, where their citizens have faced death sentences including for drug offences and they've been able to seek stays of execution, or pleas of clemency have been successful, and so I'm not asking Indonesia to do anything other than what they do, and what they succeed in doing in asking other countries to show lenience and clemency to prisoners on death row.

KIERAN GILBERT Now you sought clarity on the timetable of what we can expect here. What's your advice though from our Embassy, our post, our consulate officials?

JULIE BISHOP We understand that the Indonesians give 72-hours notice to the families of the proposed execution. That notice has not yet been given, so the timeframe is very open ended at this point. We don't know what's holding it up. We're trying to get more details about this but I have asked to be kept informed and I'll continue to follow that up. The Prime Minister has also put in a request for a call with President Widodo and we're waiting to hear as to when that can take place.

KIERAN GILBERT Is there anything else that can be done? It seems the Government is trying every single avenue, including this prisoner swap idea and the Prime Minister trying to speak to President Jokowi again, but he seems to - every representation to him seems to be falling on deaf ears.

JULIE BISHOP Kieran, ever since their final clemency pleas were rejected in January, we have conducted a concerted, very serious, high-level advocacy campaign across all areas of Indonesian society including the Government. We have had representations made by, not only our Ministers, the Governor-General, but heads of our agencies, Defence Force. So many people have been contacting counterparts raising various aspects of this case but overall united in our plea that the President show mercy, show forgiveness, as the leader of a strong and proud nation, to embrace this concept of forgiveness and provide a permanent stay of execution for them. I see no good purpose to be served for anyone, or either nation for these executions to go ahead.

KIERAN GILBERT It's premature to get into the ramifications I guess, but is the Government already considering what to do in the event that these two Australian citizens are executed.

JULIE BISHOP There have been precedents in the past where Australians have been executed by other countries, we're looking at that very closely. We're also speaking with other countries as to what they are proposing to do. Mind you, these countries aren't next door neighbours with Indonesia so different considerations come into play.

What's troubling me is there are still other prisoners in Indonesian jails and I want to ensure that we have an appropriate level of representation in Indonesia to look after their interests as well. We have to keep lines of communication open and so the best way of doing that is having your Ambassador in that country. So we're weighing these considerations and thinking about every option that would be available to us.

KIERAN GILBERT It's a busy few days ahead as you try and pursue those options. Foreign Minister, thanks so much for your time.

JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.

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