Interview with Jim Wilson

  • Transcript
Subjects: Bali bombings anniversary, France–Australia relations, Ukraine–Russia relations, Munich Security Conference, political achievements

Jim Wilson: Now, I want to have a chat with the Foreign Minister, Marise Payne. There's plenty to talk about, but I want to start with something that's certainly close to everyone's hearts here in Australia. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the tragic bombings of the Sari Club in Kuta in Bali. The bombings killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. Forty-three people from New South Wales lost their lives, six of which was members of the Coogee Dolphins Rugby League team.

Well, today there seems to be a major breakthrough in plans to build a memorial park where the Sari Club once stood. A portion of the land has reportedly been put up for sale and will cost $4.5 million. Now, it might sound like a large sum. It is, but surely the Government can step up here and work with other countries and indeed other benefactors to make this happen. It would mean so much to those impacted and the survivors of that horrific terrorist attack.

And Foreign Minister Marise Payne joins me live on the line this afternoon. Minister, thanks for your time and welcome back to Drive.

Marise Payne: Good afternoon, Jim.

Jim Wilson: Well, this has been in the pipeline for a long time, to build a memorial park on the site of the bombings at the Sari Club. The land was going to cost $15 million, but now we're looking at $4.5 million – far more reasonable, obviously. Will your government commit funds to this very important project?

Marise Payne: Jim, we worked for a long time with the Bali Peace Park Association, which, as you say, had been seeking to purchase the land on which the Sari Club stood, and I know that the 20-year anniversary will be immensely difficult for so many people who lost loved ones or who suffered themselves in the terrible bombings. So, we have been working with the Bali Peace Park Association. That association itself has now formally and legally closed, but I understand an individual has approached the Government with some information in relation to a new proposition. We would need to, obviously, make sure that we have a properly developed proposition and evaluate that to determine whether we could commit funds at all. But they had been part of the previous discussion and I will ask my officials to engage with the individual concerned in relation to this proposition as well.

Jim Wilson: So, you're going through a process, obviously, to make sure that this is a legitimate offer from the landowners, but do you think it could happen in time for the twentieth anniversary in October?

Marise Payne: Jim, I don't want to speculate because I don't think that helps anyone, let alone the people who are still dealing with the aftermath of this horrific event. What I do want to do is make sure that my officials have the information that they need to make a proper and prudent assessment of whether this is viable and what the proposition actually looks like.

Jim Wilson: But generally speaking, the memorial has had bipartisan support, hasn't it?

Marise Payne: It has historically, yes, and I think we have as a Parliament acknowledged the tragedy and the devastating impact of those explosions and those bombings. I think all of us remember where we were when we heard of those events. It's one of those altering sorts of attacks upon Australians, so we never forget.

Jim Wilson: Let's turn our attention now to Ukraine and the escalating tension in Ukraine. Is an attack imminent as far as Russia invading Ukraine?

Marise Payne: Jim, as you will have seen, particularly through the work of the United States, there is enough information that concerns us in relation to the activities of Russia, and that Russian aggression is something which we have strongly urged them to de-escalate and to continue to engage particularly in the diplomatic dialogue that has been underway at the highest levels. And I hope that the work that the United States and many others have done is able to dissuade Russia from taking any unilateral actions in relation to the sovereignty and the territory of the Ukraine.

So, from the clear concerns that we have, as you know, we have told Australians in Ukraine to leave Ukraine and that has been a message that we have been sending for some time now. And we have now temporarily moved our diplomatic operations to Lviv, which is in the west of Ukraine, with a number of our counterparts who have done the same.

Jim Wilson: How many Australians are left in Ukraine, Minister?

Marise Payne: It is difficult to ascertain a precise number, Jim, because they have been – there are many Australians who have lived a very long time in Ukraine, dual citizens, they have family connections, but we have been making contact with as many as we possibly can. Where we don't have direct contact information, we use social media and Smartraveller as a platform. We have been repeatedly and consistently updating those to ensure that we have as much information out there as possible as often as possible.

Jim Wilson: So, you're confident, though, that all Australians that want to leave are able to leave?

Marise Payne: They have been up to now, but there are growing restrictions on commercial flights, and that is why we said weeks ago that Australians should leave then. Those growing restrictions are only going to increase if the Russian aggression grows, and so we need to be very clear that any opportunity that is available now should be taken.

Jim Wilson: What sanctions can Australia impose on Russia if they do invade?

Marise Payne: We have a large number of existing sanctions applied against both Russia and against individuals, but we have been working through my sanctions office and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with a number of like‑minded counterparts who are also considering what further sanctions can be imposed to determine both entities and individuals against whom we would be able to apply sanctions. We hope that this is not necessary, Jim. We hope that there is not conflict. But if that is to occur, then we will be ready in concert with like-minded to move on sanctions which will have an impact on those perpetrators of such aggression.

Jim Wilson: Scott Morrison has criticised China for being quite happy to criticise Australia for engaging in such peaceful activities yet remains generally silent on Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border. Do you echo the Prime Minister's sentiments?

Marise Payne: I think we all have a responsibility, China included, to discourage any move towards conflict no matter, frankly, where it occurs, but in this case such a significant massing of troops on the Ukrainian border and not just in one location but in a number of locations. So, we all have that responsibility, China included. These are very, very serious and concerning actions, and they will in no way contribute to the sort of security and stability that we should all be seeking on an international basis.

So, I would encourage anyone who has a voice with Russia, and we know from the meeting between President Xi and President Putin that that voice exists, and I would encourage anyone who has a voice with Russia to exercise that voice to dissuade and discourage from military action and from authoritarian and unilateral actions that will only cost lives and cause a disaster in that part of the world.

Jim Wilson: I'm chatting to Foreign Minister Marise Payne. You're about to head overseas tomorrow, Minister, for crucial talks regarding the situation in Ukraine. What do you hope these talks achieve?

Marise Payne: This is a number of conferences that I'm attending that – one of which has only been able to reconvene in the context of a less restricted COVID environment, the Munich Security Conference, which is well‑known for its international engagement. Australian ministers have attended in the past. I will be able to engage directly and personally with a number of European counterparts as part of that visit and far more broadly, frankly, it brings Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers and leaders from all over the world.

I'll also be participating in an EU–Indo–Pacific conference and I very much welcome the EU's hosting of that conference. It is about pursuing the commitments and positions that they outlined in their Indo–Pacific strategy, which was launched just last year – an opportunity for me to reinforce with the EU that we want to work with them in the Indo–Pacific and they are a key partner in this region.

Jim Wilson: And that meeting is in Paris; is that correct?

Marise Payne: That's right.

Jim Wilson: Are we welcome back in Paris, Minister?

Marise Payne: Well, I've been invited to attend the conference, Jim.

Jim Wilson: So, is this the first step in mending bridges with the French over the failed subs deal?

Marise Payne: Well, we will continue to work closely with the French on these issues and we know, and I have acknowledged on your program, as I recall, that the decision not to continue with that Future Submarine Program has been deeply concerning to France. But I would also say that we have seen literally in the last month how important the Australia–France–Pacific relationship is in terms of our response to the humanitarian disaster in Tonga with the volcanic eruption and tsunami. Australia–France and New Zealand in a grouping that is known as FRANZ, which is a historical humanitarian assistance and disaster relief grouping, have been working closely together, including having French officials embedded with Australian officials in our operations command. So, I value that engagement very much and look forward to, in part, discussing that at the EU–Indo–Pacific conference.

Jim Wilson: Okay. Let's turn our attention because you're celebrating a magnificent milestone later this week. You'll become the longest-serving female Senator in Australia's history and the longest-serving female parliamentarian in a single chamber. It's an absolutely fantastic achievement. I mean, longevity in a very tough game. I say a big congratulations to the minister.

Marise Payne: Jim, you're very generous and I appreciate that very much, but it's actually my honour and my privilege to serve the people of New South Wales and I'm immensely grateful that they have seen fit to enable me to do that for this period of time.

Jim Wilson: You've had an incredible career. I mean, you joined the Liberal Party in 1982 aged 18, then became the first female president of the national Young Liberal movement. Did you think back then that you would be one of the most senior female members of Parliament one day?

Marise Payne: No. No, I didn't. I lived in a Labor-held seat. I joined a local Young Liberal branch. In fact, I joined the same Young Liberal branch that John Howard had been a member of in Earlwood in Sydney. I joined a local Young Liberal branch and I found it to be a great way to express my commitment to the philosophy of the Liberal Party, strongly encouraged, I might say, by my World War II veteran father at the time, not that he was into politics. He wasn't, but he was very pleased to see me engaging in this process but, unfortunately, he passed away long before I was in the Senate.

Jim Wilson: Well, you've been Foreign Minister since 2019 you're no doubt a role model to women aspiring for a career in politics. What would you say to young women listening to the program this afternoon who look up to you and your career?

Marise Payne: I would say that public service when it manifests in the political environment is immensely important and immensely rewarding. You can change people's lives. You can actually save lives, and I have seen that myself over the years in this role, and I would say that this is absolutely worth considering. I know that perceptions of politicians and parliamentarians wax and wane, but I know that we need more young good Australian women to join our [indistinct] here and I would certainly encourage them to do so.

Jim Wilson: Now, before I let you go, the Prime Minister showed a different side of himself on 60 Minutes on Sunday night along with his wife, Jenny. He was making his favourite curry. He brought out ukulele. What's your passion at home?

Marise Payne: Look, it's not playing the ukulele; I can tell you that for free. Nobody wants me to sing in public.

Jim Wilson: Oh, really? Not even “April Sun in Cuba”? No, not a fan?

Marise Payne: Not even. No, well, I am a bit of a cook myself. I like to use creative cooking as therapy, and I love to spend time with my partner and create a garden, which we're trying to do at the moment, but most particularly to live in Western Sydney, as I do, in one of the most special and inspiring communities in Australia.

Jim Wilson: Well, a huge congratulations on the achievement. I know you're very busy particularly with the events that are happening overseas. Well done on the milestone and safe travels.

Marise Payne: Thanks very much, Jim, and I appreciate your remarks.

Jim Wilson: Good on you. Thank you. That's Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Women.

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