Sky News First Edition - Interview with David Lipson

  • Transcript, E&OE
28 April 2015

DAVID LIPSON Joining me now with more is the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Thanks so much for your time this morning Minister. Have you been given a precise hour as to when the executions will be carried out?

JULIE BISHOP Good Morning David. No I haven't been given that time and so I will continue to make representations to the Indonesian Government that there should be a stay of execution, particularly as their Constitutional Court has now scheduled a preliminary hearing for Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran's application on the clemency plea that has been listed for the 12th of May. There is also another legal proceeding underway in the Indonesian Judicial Commission. So I respectfully request that Indonesia not take any further action while there are still legal proceedings underway.

Both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran have been rehabilitated. Mr Chan is now an ordained Christian priest, Mr Sukumaran is a skilled artist with a fine arts degree now and is making a significant contribution to the rehabilitation of other prisoners. Nothing good will come out of the execution of these two men and we ask the Indonesian Government to reconsider their pleas, we ask President Widodo to show mercy for two men who have been rehabilitated and are remorseful for their crimes that were committed over 10 years ago.

DAVID LIPSON That Judicial Commission that you mentioned there was on the basis of allegations of bribery and corruption in the Indonesian court system. The President Jokowi has asked why Australia didn't raise these issues if they were so serious a decade ago?

JULIE BISHOP It is not a matter for the Australian Government to do it, it is a matter for Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran's lawyers. And it shouldn't matter when the lawyers raise the issue, while Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran are alive, there is an opportunity for these matters to be heard. It goes to the very integrity of the sentencing process. While there are legal proceedings underway, Indonesia should not take steps to carry out these executions.

So again I respectfully request President Widodo to show mercy to allow these pleas of clemency and to give these men a second chance. After all, I'm not asking Indonesia to do any more than Indonesia does in relation to its citizens who face death row overseas.

DAVID LIPSON Fairfax reports also this morning that the current Attorney-General Mohammed Prasetyo – who was a senior figure in the Attorney-General's office when he allegedly intervened back in 2006 and ordered the judges to impose the death penalty – does that concern you as Foreign Minister of Australia?

JULIE BISHOP There are many serious allegations that have been made and should be the subject of this Judicial Commission review and that's why I respectfully ask the Indonesian Government not to proceed with these executions while there are serious allegations before a Judicial Commission in relation to the original trial. There is also a Constitutional Court hearing scheduled for the 12th of May on the clemency issue.

So there are two very serious matters still to be determined and I believe that they should be considered before any steps are taken in relation to an execution. I've spoken to Mrs Sukumaran, you can imagine the pain and the suffering that the families of these two men are feeling. Their lives should not be lost in this way, they deserve a second chance.

DAVID LIPSON It does look like the executions will go ahead. You must have plans for how you will respond, how Australia would respond in that case. Will action be taken or will the response just be words?

JULIE BISHOP David while Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran are still alive I will continue to make representations. My focus is on trying to get these clemency pleas heard and for the President to show mercy and I won't go into the details of what may happen, what the consequences may be, while I am focussed on trying to save their lives.

DAVID LIPSON You have expressed some disappointment, or some anger, at the way that this was announced on the ANZAC Day weekend. There has also been the heavy handed way in which the prisoners were transported and today's Telegraph newspaper on the front page has 'Smirking Soldiers' as the headline. Could people in Australia be excused, Minister, for thinking that Indonesia was in any way deliberately trying to upset Australia in this case?

JULIE BISHOP These are all matters that I have raised directly with my counterpart Foreign Minister Marsudi. I have raised all those matters in my many, many discussions with her. I registered Australia's concerns about these matters and I don't believe the Indonesian Government could be in any doubt about the way the Australian Government feels about this matter. We oppose the death penalty for all Australian citizens at home and abroad and I will continue to make that point and I will continue to seek clemency for Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran.

DAVID LIPSON Ok well turning to Nepal. You have confirmed the death of one Australian. Will there be more?

JULIE BISHOP Sadly I have been able to confirm the death of an Australian woman – Ms Renu Fotedar – and I extend my deep condolences to the family. Our Embassy in Nepal is providing assistance to them and we can confirm that 1150 Australians have been accounted for, they are safe, but the search and rescue effort continues and we will continue to seek to find any Australians who remain unaccounted for but at this stage we can confirm 1150 have been accounted for.

Of course, there is a significant death toll, the Nepalese Government confirmed over 4000 people have died, over 6500 people have been injured. We are continuing to provide humanitarian relief, indeed, we are sending more medical personnel, we are sending a disaster expert to work with the UN team.

We have a military plane taking humanitarian supplies today and should any Australians not be able to leave Kathmandu airport, they should contact our Embassy staff because we may be able to take them to Bangkok where they can get a commercial flight. Commercial flights are still operating but in case there are Australians who need to get out of Nepal, they can contact the Embassy and get a lift on the military aircraft which will be going to Bangkok.

DAVID LIPSON You say 1150 are accounted for, is there is a figure as to how many are unaccounted for or even a rough estimation?

JULIE BISHOP Well we are still contacting the authorities, contacting hospitals, contacting people on the ground to ensure that we can account for every Australian. But we do ask people to contact their friends and relatives if they haven't heard from them, otherwise please make contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's 24-hour hotline 1300 555 135.

DAVID LIPSON Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, really appreciate your time this morning, thank you.

JULIE BISHOP Thanks David.

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