The World Today, interview with Peter Lloyd

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

7 February 2014

PETER LLOYD: The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop though does join us on the line right now from Adelaide.

Ms Bishop, firstly your reaction to the comments of your Cabinet colleague David Johnston. Do you believe that there should be an investigation into the ABC?

JULIE BISHOP: There most certainly should be an apology. Our navy personnel are working in very difficult circumstances. In the recent past they've had to deal with over a thousand deaths at sea from asylum seeker boats sinking at sea.

The ABC claimed that there was evidence to support claims that our navy had deliberately mistreated asylum seekers by causing them bodily injuries, that they'd deliberately abused them.

Well, those claims have not been substantiated. The ABC management admits it got it wrong, but it refuses to apologise.

If these claims were made against individual navy personnel, it would be the basis for a defamation action. It is highly defamatory of the navy personnel who were involved.

PETER LLOYD: Should the enquiry you're talking about include Fairfax Media? They today, on their front page are saying that navy personnel were trying to punish asylum seekers for protesting and to deter others from doing a simple thing, which was going to the toilet on board the boat.

JULIE BISHOP: I didn't say there should be an investigation. I just said there should be an apology from the ABC management. They admit they got the facts wrong. Why not just apologise to the navy so that we can move on?

PETER LLOYD: Well, if you're saying there shouldn't be an investigation, does that mean you don't agree with your Cabinet colleague?

JULIE BISHOP: I didn't say that, I didn't say that. You asked me what should happen and I said for a start there should be an apology. That's the point I'm making. I believe that the ABC having admitted that they got it wrong, that the claims that they made could not be substantiated, they should apologise and I would like to see that first before we move onto any other matter.

PETER LLOYD: Alright, now on Nauru, what can you do about the apparent judicial crisis that grips that state?

JULIE BISHOP: Aspects of the report that you have just aired on Nauru are factually incorrect. We are working with the Nauruan government, we are working through the processes to ensure that they do have a functioning legal and judicial system. There is an Australian lawyer who has been appointed as a resident Magistrate. He's already heard some cases related to the actions of the detainees from last year.

The fact is decisions about visas and appointments in Nauru are a matter for the Nauru government.

However our High Commissioner Bruce Cowled has conveyed to President Waqa and to the Justice Minister Adeang, our concerns about the implications of the cancellation of visas to Magistrate Peter Law and Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames, the implications for the rule of law in Nauru and for Nauru's reputation internationally.

We have been discussing these matters. Officials from the Australian Government have been talking to officials in the Nauruan government as recently as this week and we're working through these issues. We have been asked to enhance the capacity of the Nauru government to deal with the case load on Nauru and we're actively considering that request.

PETER LLOYD: So they've asked for money?

JULIE BISHOP: No, they've asked for people.

PETER LLOYD: Alright, now Nauru's Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames, does he or does he not still hold that position?

JULIE BISHOP: This is a matter for the Nauru government. These are the sorts of matters we're working through with them. These are matters of Nauruan law so we're providing advice and support. We've conveyed our concerns about the implications for Nauru.

At the end of the day it is a matter for the Nauru government. We've made it very clear that the rule of law is important for Australia and to all countries including Nauru so we're working with the Nauruan government to sort these matters out.

PETER LLOYD: Have you told them to expedite that process? How long can they exist in a situation where they have a chief justice who's not allowed in the country but still holds the position?

JULIE BISHOP: That's a matter for the Nauruan government. Decisions about visas and to whom they grant visas and who they appoint to positions are clearly a matter for the Nauruan government.

Put the position in Australian terms. Decisions about who comes to Australia on visas, and appointments we make, are a matter for the Australian Government. But we have been asked to assist and so we're working through those requests with the Nauruan government.

The program that is involved in supporting the judiciary is actually one provided for by New Zealand, so we're working with New Zealand on their program, for capacity building in the Nauruan legal and judicial sectors.

PETER LLOYD: All right Julie Bishop, thank you for talking to The World Today.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

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