THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THURSDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT: Bali Nine.
JUSTIN SMITH, PRESENTER: Ms Plibersek, thank you for your time.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you, Justin.
SMITH: Again, I thought you both did a terrific job in trying to get this across. The fear is that this is going to fall on deaf ears, isn’t it?
PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think we can give up yet. I think it’s very important that we continue to use all of our relationships with Indonesia, the formal relationships, informal relationships to contact the Indonesian Government and say that we understand that these young men have done something wrong, we accept that they will be in gaol for a very long time, but we plead for their lives.
SMITH: You, I believe, have only in the last few minutes received an updated briefing. Are you able to give us any more detail?
PLIBERSEK: I spoke to the Foreign Minister during Question Time but I believe that you’ll be speaking to her after 4 o’clock so I think it’s better if she talks through those things. We have been in constant contact but I’ve been very careful not to speak publicly in any way that might jeopardise the fate of these boys.
SMITH: No, look, I think that’s a testimony to the way that you’ve both behaved on this and I congratulate you for it. I’ll get that detail off her at 4 o’clock. And as I mentioned before, I played part of what you said in the House today, this is personal for you, isn’t it? Your husband in 1986 received a nine year sentence for, I think it is conspiracy, to import narcotics and I- as I said before, I’ve not met your husband but, I think you’ll back me up on this one, I heard that he’s a ripping bloke but also he is a terrific public servant and has spent the rest of his life trying to be a good father, husband and do good deeds but he could have been put to death as well, couldn’t he?
PLIBERSEK: And I guess that’s why it was- I mean, I’ve always opposed the death penalty and my opposition to it is based on the principle that governments shouldn’t kill its citizens or citizens of other nations, that it’s not the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, I don’t agree with it. But personally, of course it made me think what would have happened if Michael had been picked up leaving Thailand, that was the place that he was coming from, instead of coming into Australia, or if he had been coming from some other nation, of course I think that and I would never had met him and I wouldn’t know what I was missing out on. But his poor mother would have suffered the rest of her life and we wouldn’t have had the three beautiful children that we’ve got. He wouldn’t have been able to repay his debt to society which he tries to do every day.
SMITH: He is a person that you can hold up and say ‘hey, people do stupid things, they even do evil things, and drugs is an evil business and let’s not dance around it, but they can become good people’. And I think Chris Bowen, your colleague, said on Q&A the other night, I thought it was a terrific sentiment which is that these guys, the ringleaders of the Bali Nine should actually be poster people for rehabilitation.
PLIBERSEK: And I think that’s an important thing to say. The person who has committed the crime has to genuinely be contrite. They have to genuinely accept that they have done the wrong thing, that they deserve to be punished and they have a debt to society that they need to repay. These two young men, Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran, by all accounts, including the gaol governor, they’ve made a huge effort to rehabilitate themselves and to help other prisoners, to improve- to raise money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, improve the conditions of the gaol, teach English, improve the quality of life for the other prisoners. So, I think- I’m not saying that they don’t deserve to be punished. I think it’s very important that we have strong laws and drug importation is a terrible crime because it hurts a lot of people. But if someone has genuinely- they genuinely accept that they have done the wrong thing, they are being punished, I’m not sure how the death penalty actually benefits anyone in that situation.
SMITH: Brazil and the Netherlands withdrew their ambassadors. Would you support something like that? I mean, do we need to start looking at something like that?
PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s very important that while we’re advocating for the lives of these two young men, that’s what we focus on. I think it’s very important that all of our conversations at the moment are specifically about these boys and we don’t start getting into those kind of hypotheticals. I think it’s quite a dangerous thing to do at this stage.
SMITH: But to withdraw them, our Ambassador now, would be dangerous? I’m not talking about a protest, Tanya, I’m not talking about a protest afterwards, I’m talking about one right now.
PLIBERSEK: Actually we’ve got an acting ambassador in Indonesia at the moment, our permanent ambassador- we’re just between ambassadors at the moment. So the one who’s gone there now hasn’t been sworn in yet, of course he’s doing the job that he’s supposed to be doing. But it’s a little bit of a complicated diplomatic situation. And I think, Justin, we really need to focus, the thing right in the middle of our minds is what will help these boys best. We are taking a lot of diplomatic advice from our Department of Foreign Affairs, from former diplomats, from senior business people, Australians who are working in Indonesia and I think it’s important to follow their advice because they will understand what will be most effective with the Indonesian Government.
SMITH: Is there a- I’m not suggesting that people in the Australian government don’t know what they’re doing, or our diplomats don’t know what they’re doing, but is there something here that we’re not getting? Is there some connection between Australia and Indonesia that is not there? We think we understand the Indonesian Government, we think we understand the new president, but in a way we just don’t, we just simply don’t.
PLIBERSEK: I think we understand them but we have a fundamental disagreement because Australia dispensed of the death penalty many decades ago. We signed international conventions that urge other countries to also move away from the death penalty. We are opposed to the death penalty not just in Indonesia, but with our ally the United States, with China, our major trading partner. We oppose it whenever and wherever. And the Indonesians, they haven’t used it often, particularly in the last decade, but they think that the death penalty is an important part of the range of punishments that they can use. So we’ve got quite a fundamental different approach.
SMITH: Well, again, well done on the way you spoke today. You sounded upset there. The Foreign Minister sounded also very, very emotional. This is an awful thing that is going to happen.
PLIBERSEK: Well I think the Foreign Minister was particularly upset when she was talking about the family of Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran and I think it’s hard not be moved by the great loss you can see their mothers, sisters and so on anticipating. They are beside themselves because of course it’s every parent’s horror scenario that their child might die. It’s hard not be moved by that, I think all of us have seen it on TV. And I guess it’s a real feature of this punishment, it’s not just a punishment for the criminal, it’s a punishment for everyone who loves them.
SMITH: Thank you very much for talking to me, I appreciate it.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Justin.