Today Show, Channel Nine - interview with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE

KARL STEFANOVIC: Australian journalist Peter Greste isfacing a bleak future after he and two of his Al-Jazeera colleagues weresentenced to seven years behind bars in an Egyptian prison, joining us is theAustralian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Good morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Karl

KARL STEFANOVIC: No evidence against the accused andseven years in the clink, how is that right?

JULIE BISHOP: We are shocked and appalled by thisverdict on the basis of the evidence we heard. We cannot understand how a courtcould have reached this decision. I know the Greste family are considering anappeal. In the meantime the Australian Government will do all we can to raiseour concerns at the highest level within the Egyptian Government.

KARL STEFANOVIC: What are you going to do about it?Egypt rejects as you know any interference on internal matters especiallyjudicial. How are we going to navigate through those problems?

JULIE BISHOP: Well first I am trying to make contactwith the new Foreign Minister Shukri, I spoke to him over the weekend, and I amtrying to make contact with him again. He's travelling out of Egypt at presentbut I have asked our ambassador in Cairo, Dr King, to make contact with theForeign Minister so I can again register our deep concerns.

Secondly we are calling in the Deputy Ambassador of Egypt, resident inCanberra, calling him in to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade toregister our concerns. The Egyptian ambassador is actually in Cairo so ourdiplomats in Cairo are making contact with him.

I have discussed this matter with the Prime Minister - in fact minutes afterthe verdict was handed down - the Australian Government will shortly be lodginga formal diplomatic level request with the President of Egypt to see if he canintervene at this point in the proceedings.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Is it enough?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, we are dealing with a newlyelected Egyptian Government and we must maintain contact with them to ensurethat Peter Greste can continue to receive consular assistance while he is inprison and so we are doing all we can by raising it at the highest levels withinthe new government. You will appreciate this is a newly sworn-in government. Inthe past I had been dealing on a constant basis with an interim government.

Of course the complexities of this case are that last year the MuslimBrotherhood was indeed the Government and then there was amilitary coup, PeterGreste got caught up in those circumstances where there was a change from theMuslim Brotherhood government to the military interim government and of coursehe was charged with supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. On the evidence we haveseen he was certainly not, he was doing his job as a journalist, he wasreporting on the political activities in Egypt at that time.

KARL STEFANOVIC: How much aid do we give to Egypt?

JULIE BISHOP: We don't provide that kind of support toEgypt. We are looking for whatever leverage we can - I can assure you we havebeen raising it with every government that we believe has a relationship withEgypt, governments that have deeper friendship than Australia does with Egyptand we have been doing that since Peter Greste was first detained.

I made my first contact with the Egyptian authorities in early January and wehave continued to make requests and make representations to the highest levels,but we have also asked our friends and partners in the region and beyond, tomake representations to Egypt and I know that they have been doing it.

KARL STEFANOVIC: The US Secretary of State as you know John Kerryannounced $575 million in military aid to Egypt and voiced strong support forthe new government. He's had something to say about this as well. Egypt can'thave it both ways, they can't accept that aid from say, for example the US thengoabout their business in regards to the judicial system like this. At somepoint the screws have got to be tightened on them.

JULIE BISHOP: I agree that the relationship betweenthe United States and Egypt is far closer than Australia's with Egypt, but thereis international condemnation and outrage from the United Nations to theEuropean Union to the United States. Across the globe, people are condemningwhat they see as a very crude attempt to blunt freedom of speech and freedom ofthe press in Egypt. We want to support Egypt to become a democracy in the MiddleEast, we have been supporting Egypt's transition to democracy but a verdict likethis does nothing to support Egypt's claim that it is transitioning to ademocracy.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Finally, Iraq, it seems to beworsening there as well. Can you take us through any steps moving forward fromhere that you are planning?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, as you know, the internationalcommunity including Australia have been calling on the Maliki Government to forma national unity government to bring in the Sunni leaders who feel excluded andmarginalised from this Shi'ite-led government. We believe there has to be apolitical solution to bring the warring factions in Iraq together to form somekind of united front against this brutal terrorist organisation ISIS.

So we are hoping that there can be a political solution. That is why theSecretary of State John Kerrie was in Iraq. The military solution would bedevastating, it would be catastrophic, but we are doing what we can to ensureour people in Baghdad are safe and we are calling on any Australians who are inIraq to leave the country immediately. Unless they have very good reason to staythere they should leave as soon as possible.

KARL STEFANOVIC: A busy and uncertain time. Weappreciate your time.

JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Karl.

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