Weekend Sunrise, Perth

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: As we've been reporting this morning, authorities believe they've discovered part of a wing from Malaysia Airlines flight 370. But another plane that's been on our minds this past year is MH17, the passenger jet that was shot down in Ukraine just over 12 months ago.

This week, the United Nations Security Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of prosecuting those responsible. But the resolution was stopped by one vote - Russia and the international response has been scathing.

Clip of JULIE BISHOP: The veto only compounds the atrocity. Russia has made a mockery of its own commitment to accountability.There can be no reason to oppose this unless you are a perpetrator yourself. Those responsible may believe that they can now hide behind the Russian Federation veto. They will not be allowed to evade justice.

JOURNALIST: Powerful words from the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who joins us now from Perth.

Good morning, Minister. Welcome back. What possible reason would Russia have to veto this vote, unless they are responsible? Is that the case or could they have other reasons for doing so?

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning. The fact is that there are a number of investigations underway and Australia is part of a five-nation team collecting the evidence so that we can present it to a prosecuting authority. Now, no such authority currently exists. That's why we went to the United Nations Security Council to set up an ad hoc international, independent criminal tribunal so that when the investigation has concluded, and it will be shortly, they can then hand the evidence to this authority who can then, if appropriate, put it before a judge and have the perpetrators held to account. Russia vetoed it and maintained a range of excuses as to why it should do so - that it was too early, that it was biased, that it was partisan, and as I tried to point out, surely if Russia had evidence as to what happened and that was able to point the finger in another direction, why wouldn't Russia want that to be heard before an independent, impartial tribunal that had the backing of the international community through the UN Security Council? So I think that Russia just raised more questions than it answered. But our purpose in being there was to get a tribunal established so that we can get answers for the families who are, 12 months on, still grieving so deeply over the loss of their loved ones onboard MH17.

JOURNALIST: You've developed a personal relationship with some of the families. We understand that you've received text messages from them while taking the strong stance at the UN. What are the chances that you are going to be able to get those people answers?

JULIE BISHOP: We are absolutely determined to provide answers to those families. And the five nations - that's the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine - are determined to continue to find an alternative mechanism and will be meeting again shortly and we will come up with a way that will hold the perpetrators of this atrocity to account. Because it's not just for the families - of course, we're doing this for the families - but the broader international community, civil aviation must be seen to be safe. People must be able to put their faith and their trust in commercial airlines and travelling on commercial planes. And so we need to send a very strong message to those responsible for this that they can't hide, that they will be held to account and they will be able to present their response to a court and a court will hold them to account.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the Russian Ambassador to the UN has said that they support an investigation, A UN-backed investigation, they just don't support a tribunal. Will you now, given the fact that they are going to veto the tribunal, will you support that other option of having just an open-ended investigation with no tribunal attached to it

JULIE BISHOP: Well that provides no outcome at all. Russia was part of the unanimous resolution 12 months ago, the UN Security Council resolution 2166, that had three purposes - Australia brought that last year - first, to get a ceasefire between Ukraine and the rebels so that we could access the site and remove the bodies and the remains. Secondly, to hold an investigation into the cause of the crash and a criminal investigation, and they are both under way. And the third was that the resolution demanded that those responsible be held to account and that all States cooperate in determining accountability. Now we believe that that means, of course, to be held to account, it must be by a tribunal, a court, with a judge and prosecutors. Russia says that they want an investigation. There is an investigation under way.

And the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, said to us while we were there in New York, that he was very pleased with the progress of the investigation. It was impartial, it was independent and he agreed with us that we needed to be able to present the findings of the investigation to a prosecutor who can then determine whether it should go to a judge. So to have an open-ended investigation will provide no closure for the families of those onboard MH17.

JOURNALIST: Your response to the tragedy has been commended internationally. We would like to talk to you about other topics in the news this week. Earlier this morning we were talking about the potential discovery of a wing piece from MH370. What is your response to that and what do you believe that this means for the search? Because Australia is still in charge of a very large search operation off the coast?

JULIE BISHOP: Well this piece of wreckage is being analysed by experts in France. It's believed to be part of a Boeing 777. That is the same kind of aircraft that was MH370. So, in a sense, this is the first positive sign that we have located part of that plane. Coincidentally, I was with the Malaysian Transport Minister in New York on the MH17 matter when the news of the finding of the piece of wreckage at Reunion Island was announced. So the Transport Minister was very emotional about the matter and he will now go back to Malaysia and be involved in the analysis of this piece of plane.

What it does mean is that the search is in the Indian Ocean and it will continue. Australia is in charge of that search. It is an international effort. But, of course, experts will have to analyse if this is a piece of MH370, the current drifts and how it ended up there and what does that mean for the broader search question. But Australia is still committed to assisting and doing whatever we can so that we can locate MH370 and provide answers for the families of the 239 people on board that flight.

JOURNALIST: Yes. Thank you for the information on that. Now, on a slightly less serious aviational matter, our producers will kill us if we don't ask you this, but throughout the week, more and more instances of the Speaker of the House, Bronwyn Bishop's misuse or alleged misuse of private chartered flights have come forward. People are calling for her to resign. Christopher Pyne keeps saying - no, we must hold firm on this. Do you think that the holding firm itself eroding public confidence in the Speaker and in the process of Parliament?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that the Department of Finance who has responsibility for checking Parliamentarian's entitlements is looking into the matter and indeed a number of instances have been referred to the Department of Finance. I was away but I understand that the Prime Minister has asked that Speaker Bishop's travel entitlements for quite some time be analysed by the Department of Finance.

So I believe that the Australian people would expect that investigation to take place and that we would await the outcome and that's what I intend to do. I don't want to provide a running commentary on each and every instance if the Department of Finance is looking into it.

JOURNALIST: Is it difficult for any member of the Government to get traction there?

JULIE BISHOP: It can be difficult if your surname is Bishop, yes.

I think that we need to focus on the matters that are really of concern to the Australian people. And while the Department of Finance is looking in to the matter, we should allow that to run its course. In the meantime, the matters that are concerning me include MH17, MH370 and I know that the Australian people are concerned about a whole range of issues and that's where we should focus our attention.

The issue of Parliamentary entitlements has been a source of controversy for quite some time. The rules have changed over the years, but each and every member has a responsibility to be accountable for their use of taxpayer money and Speaker Bishop and every other member is accountable to the Australian public for that.

JOURNALIST: Indeed and I think that that accountability is an issue of public concern in this last fortnight. Thank you so much for joining us this morning in what has been an incredibly busy week for you.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you, it's been my pleasure.

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