Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News Australia

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Death of Lalzawmi ‘Zomi’ Frankcom; Hamas-Israel conflict.

Peter Stefanovic, Host: The Prime Minister is demanding all accountability, summoning the Ambassador to explain after seven aid workers, including one Australian, were killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza.

Let's go to Canberra now. Joining us live is the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong.

Minister, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. There was a response overnight from Benjamin Netanyahu. He said it was unintentional, which can happen in war. Do you accept that?

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: No, I don't. We are outraged by what has occurred, and I want to start by honouring the life of Zomi Frankcom, someone whose life was dedicated to the service of others, and I want to express to her family and those who loved her that Australians mourn with her. We are outraged by what has occurred. We have demanded full accountability.

Aid workers going into a conflict zone to deliver humanitarian aid should not meet their deaths in the way we have seen.

Stefanovic: So, by not accepting that it was unintentional, is that a suggestion that you think it is targeted, that it was a targeted attack?

Foreign Minister: I don't accept – the point you put to me, that 'this is war, this happens' - this should not happen.

Stefanovic: Okay.

Foreign Minister: And we want full accountability from the Israeli Government for what has occurred. We think Australians are demanding that, and we think that certainly Zomi's family and those who love her want that.

Stefanovic: Okay. War aside, what about the unintentional aspect of Benjamin Netanyahu's excuse?

Foreign Minister: Well, let us see what the enquiries and accountability demonstrate - we certainly want a full and thorough investigation as to how this could have occurred.

Stefanovic: Okay. Do you think, given it is a war zone, that you will get a full and thorough investigation?

Foreign Minister: Well, we expect that.

Stefanovic: But there are difficulties, yes, in doing that?

Foreign Minister: Well, we expect that. We expect Israel to ensure there is a full transparent investigation and full accountability.

Remember that Zomi Frankcom was not the only person who died in this attack. We saw a number of other aid workers also were killed in this attack, including other foreign nationals, and I would say to you this war has been, or this conflict has been, this war has been particularly deadly for aid workers; some 196 aid workers have been killed since this conflict began.

Stefanovic: Minister, you've spoken to your counterpart in Israel overnight. What were the contents of that discussion? What was said?

Foreign Minister: Well, I was very clear with him about the outrage Australians wanted to express. I was very clear with him about our demand for full accountability. I was very clear with him about the importance of transparency, and I also spoke again to him about why it is that Israel needs to ensure that it complies with International Humanitarian Law, including both the provision of aid and the protection of aid workers.

Stefanovic: And what did he say?

Foreign Minister: Well, I'm not going to go into every detail of the discussion. Obviously, we had a lengthy discussion. He did, I will say this, he did express sympathy and condolences on behalf of his government for the death of Zomi Frankcom to the Australian Government and also to her family.

Stefanovic: Okay. Is the Prime Minister expecting a call from Mr Netanyahu?

Foreign Minister: Yes. The Prime Minister is going to engage with Prime Minister Netanyahu in very similar terms to the ones I've outlined with you.

Stefanovic: Okay. Has there been any timeframe on that, or is that just a wait and see?

Foreign Minister: Well, I will, you know, details of that will be made public as appropriate.

Stefanovic: Sure. Okay. Given all of that, your discussions with your counterpart, potentially a conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu, is there still a need, or a request to see Israel's Ambassador in Australia?

Foreign Minister: We certainly will want to see the Ambassador. There is - the representations, the views of Australians will continue to be communicated at all appropriate levels, from the Prime Minister to the Foreign Minister, as well as to the Ambassador. That's what we want to do. I don't want Israel to be under any illusions about how outraged we are at the death of an Australian citizen in these circumstances.

Stefanovic: Okay. Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, a busy morning for you, a tough one, too. Appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Foreign Minister: Thank you.

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