Today Show, Sydney - Interview with Karl Sefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE
28 April 2015

KARL STEFANOVIC Joining us now is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Julie, good morning to you. This is it, isn't it?

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Karl. We have heard overnight that the Constitutional Court will hear Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran's further application and have set a preliminary hearing for the 12th of May. I would urge the Indonesian Government to allow that legal process to continue and that no steps be taken in relation to the proposed executions while there is still legal proceedings on foot.

There is also another Judicial Commission Review which is looking at the details of the original trial, and both these legal processes could impact on the outcome. They reflect the integrity of the sentencing process and the clemency process, and so we urge the Indonesian Government to allow these legal processes to proceed because of course executions are irrevocable.

KARL STEFANOVIC The mere fact you are asking them not to proceed with the executions is an indication they probably will. It is possible for the Indonesian Constitutional Court to hear the clemency appeal even if Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have already been executed, isn't it?

JULIE BISHOP My understanding from the lawyers is that Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran should well give evidence or provide information to both legal proceedings and of course they would not be able to do that should they be executed. So while they are still alive there is still hope and I will continue to advocate all throughout today.

I did send another letter to Foreign Minister Marsudi. I received a response from her last night. It didn't contain any information that would indicate any information that would indicate a change of view, but we will continue because both men have been rehabilitated, both men are making a contribution to the prison system in Indonesia and helping other prisoners rehabilitate from serious crimes. Nothing will be achieved and much will be lost if these executions go ahead.

KARL STEFANOVIC So the last correspondence you have had from the Indonesian Government is that this will be going ahead tonight.

JULIE BISHOP That's right. They gave no indication that President Widodo would change his mind and would grant the clemency that we have sought. I'm asking no more of the Indonesian Government than the Indonesian Government asks of other countries in relation to their citizens who face death row overseas.

KARL STEFANOVIC We have tried, as you know, and have been at the forefront of our very best diplomatically here. We have gone softly softly when we needed to. We get all of that. How ticked off will you be if it makes no difference?

JULIE BISHOP I'm not going to focus on the consequences should these executions proceed. I'll do that at the relevant time, but in the meantime, I'm focusing all my efforts on seeking a plea of mercy from the President. I'm asking him to show mercy to treat these citizens as he asks other countries to treat Indonesian citizens, and that's what I'm focusing on Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC Okay. This is a video - we played it a little bit earlier for our audience - but this is a video that Australian celebrities have put together. Take a look.

Clip of video

KARL STEFANOVIC So some of the messages there are of the right nature but some clearly missed the mark. What are your thoughts?

JULIE BISHOP Clearly if travelling to Indonesia would make a difference we would have gone there. We take the very best advice from our people who are in Indonesia, who are in Jakarta, who are part of a very high-level sustained campaign to seek a stay of execution, and if there was any indication that being in Indonesia would help, of course we would be there. But that's not the advice that we receive from people who sadly have been involved in these situations before, and so I will continue to do what our experts say is the best we can do, which is continue to make representations to my counterpart.

The Prime Minister has spoken to President Widodo on numerous occasions. He saw him recently in Singapore, and so we have made representations at every level across every sector of the Indonesian Government, and we will continue to do so.

KARL STEFANOVIC I suppose at the very least, it is just a mark of how emotional people are feeling about this story.

There are reports this morning that Andrew Chan married his partner. When you think about that, and when you think about their final 18 hours, your thoughts?

JULIE BISHOP I have met the families, and I know what a terrible and difficult time it is for them. I spoke to Mrs Sukumaran the other day, and we had a very long discussion. I've had messages from both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran. I've spoken to them on the telephone. It is an exceedingly difficult time. Just put yourselves in their shoes and imagine if it were your child, your son, your brother, how you would be feeling now? I think it is a tragedy and I'm deeply concerned that there are still legal proceedings underway when Indonesia is planning these executions.

And I know that Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran have both changed. They have shown great remorse. They have both rehabilitated in the most remarkable way, and Mr Chan is now an ordained Christian priest and Mr Sukumaran is an outstanding artist. In fact he has completed a fine arts degree and is helping other prisoners rehabilitate. This is precisely what prison systems are designed to achieve; that is the rehabilitation of people who have committed serious drug offences, including drug offences.

KARL STEFANOVIC Let's move on now to the crisis in Nepal, a tragedy and a disaster on a mass scale, as you know. Any updates on missing Australians?

JULIE BISHOP Yes, sadly I can confirm that one Australian woman, Ms Fotedar was killed at Everest base camp. Her family are in Kathmandu and our Embassy are providing consular assistance to them. I can also confirm that 1150 Australians have now been accounted for. They are safe and well. So I extend my condolences to the friends and family of Miss Fotedar and we will continue to search for any Australians who are unaccounted for but I'm pleased to confirm that 1150 have been accounted for.

Otherwise we know that the death toll is rising, over 4000 have been confirmed, over 6500 have been injured. We are sending more humanitarian supplies, we are sending more personnel, and I can also advise that should people not be able to obtain a commercial flight home they should contact the Australian Embassy in Nepal because we will have an air force plane taking humanitarian supplies over and so it can take Australians to Bangkok where they can get a commercial flight home if they are unable to get out of Nepal.

KARL STEFANOVIC A big job on their hands over there isn't it.

Minister, we thank you for your time this morning. It's a busy day for you. We appreciate it.

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