Weekend Today, Perth

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: After months of intense searching, a piece of missing flight MH370 may well have turned up on the other side of the Indian Ocean. It's a discovery that could reveal answers for our air crash investigators and more importantly, of course, for the families of the 239 people who were on board. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins us this morning.

Good morning to you.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning. Good to be with you.

JOURNALIST: Now, Malaysian authorities have confirmed that this piece of wreckage, this flaperon, is from a Boeing 777. It is the same aircraft as the Malaysian Airlines flight. Is it almost a certainty that it is from MH370?

JULIE BISHOP: Our thoughts are most certainly with the families of the 239 people
aboard because this is the first news that they have had in 16 months since this plane disappeared.

I understand that the authorities have deduced that this is part of a Boeing 777, MH370 was a Boeing 777, and as I understand it, it is the only 777 unaccounted for, so it would seem most likely this is part of that plane. So for the first time since the plane disappeared we have some indication of where it might be and Australia will continue to lead the search so that hopefully we can find more of the plane and the families will have the answers that they've been longing for.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident that our team has been searching in the right area? Reunion is a long way from the search area that they have been looking in.

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that the experts are carrying out drift analysis, looking at currents and the like, and it has always seemed likely that the plane would have gone down in the area we were searching and then wreckage would drift towards the African coast. So this is consistent with the theories that our experts have been working on for some time.

Australia will continue to lead the search effort, it is an international effort, in the areas of the Indian/Southern Ocean. So I believe that the area is appropriately targeted, but the experts will be looking at why, how the wreckage ended up in Reunion, but it is consistent with the theories. At least it puts pay to all these other wild theories that the plane was somewhere else in the northern hemisphere or elsewhere.

JOURNALIST: Absolutely and good to know the search does continue as well.

You just returned home to Australia after being in New York where you have been fighting very hard at the United Nations to bring those responsible for the downing of Flight MH17 to justice. Russia vetoed that move. You were very angry at their decision to do that. Is Vladimir Putin trying to hide his country's blame for this?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is one of five countries that have been carrying out a
criminal investigation into the bringing down of Malaysian Airlines MH17. We've been collecting evidence along with a number of law enforcement authorities from four other nations and that investigation is near completion.

We believe that the evidence needs to be presented to a prosecuting authority before a judge and that's why we were in New York, seeking UN Security Council backing to set up an independent, impartial investigation. Russia used its veto to prevent us doing that. That raises a lot of questions, why would Russia want to prevent a UN-backed tribunal being set up when of course Russia is, indeed, a member of the Security Council? Surely Russia would want the evidence that we've collected to be before a tribunal set up by the Security Council of which it is a member. So, yes, I was very frustrated, but we will not be deterred.

The five nations have resolved to continue to push for some kind of prosecuting mechanism. We will be meeting shortly. There are other options, but we believe that one backed by the Security Council would have had international backing and would have maximised the chances of getting all States to cooperate with a prosecuting authority.

JOURNALIST: Yes , we do need justice to be served on this.

JULIE BISHOP: That's right.

JOURNALIST: Now, here at home, another day, another negative headline involving Bronwyn Bishop and her extravagant expense claims. This time reports that she charged taxpayers $6000 for a private plane from Sydney to Nowra, I think it is only about a 2.5 hour drive. The Speaker is meant to set an example for all politicians. Does she have your support to stay in the role?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, I don't want to get into a running commentary on each and every expense claim of each and every Member of Parliament because I understand the Department of Finance is looking into Speaker Bronwyn Bishop's claims and the Prime Minister has requested that that be done over a particular period of time. I don't want to pre-empt the Department of Finance's investigation or its findings.

JOURNALIST: Do you think she should stay as Speaker?

JULIE BISHOP: I make this point, we should allow that Finance Department investigation to run its course. There are many grey areas - as there are in life - there are many grey areas in Parliamentarian's entitlements, between party functions, between community functions; we are called upon to do a lot of things 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there are grey areas. It comes down to judgment. Now Bronwyn Bishop has already admitted errors of judgment. She's repaid money with a penalty. The Department of Finance is carrying out an investigation and I think it should be allowed to run its course before we make any further comment on it.

JOURNALIST: But it makes Australians shake their heads in absolute disgust really because we're really wanting our politician to be less out of touch with every day people and yet we constantly hear of this type of extravagant spending. What does being on probation really mean for someone like the Speaker?

JULIE BISHOP: Parliamentarians' travel entitlements have been the subject of controversy for some time. There is a view that any money spent on politicians is a waste of money. There is also another view that we should be out and about in electorates, in the community, after all, we are elected to represent the community. So there are demands on our time to travel, to go to places across Australia. It comes down to a question of judgment and I'm not aware of the details of each and every claim. That is a matter for the Department of Finance and I'm sure that Australians would expect the Department of Finance to do its job, analyse these travel claims and then come out with some findings.

JOURNALIST: We will see what unfolds in Parliament when it resumes on August 10 if she is still in the role as well.

Julie Bishop, thank you so much for your time this morning


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