THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC NEWS 24
MONDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT: Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran
KIM LANDERS, PRESENTER: Joining us now is Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek. Tanya Plibersek, do you hold out any hope that these executions can be prevented?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Of course I do, Kim. I think while there’s life, there’s hope. And for years now, successive governments have raised the case of these two young men, previously with SBY and now with President Jokowi. Those efforts have obviously intensified in recent months and weeks as it has become apparent that the carrying out of the sentences might be imminent.
LANDERS: Do you agree with the Foreign Minister’s decision, Julie Bishop’s decision, not to fly to Indonesia to try to personally lobby for these two men?
PLIBERSEK: I think the most important thing to do is take the advice of our skilled diplomats on the ground in Indonesia. A lot of these efforts have been behind closed doors, behind the scenes, they’ve been informal approaches at many different levels, through government to government relations, Australian businesses to Indonesian businesses, right across the broad spectrum of different ways of trying to influence an outcome here. The people who are on the ground in Indonesia, experienced diplomats, have the best insight into what would help and what would potentially be harmful.
TONY EASTLEY, PRESENTER: This has been going on for years, you mentioned that just then, it seems to me that the pressure has only been wound up in the last five to six months. Was it a mistake for that to be so short, if you like, a campaign? Should this have been tried years ago?
PLIBERSEK: I think most people would say that the previous president SBY had something like an informal moratorium on carrying out death sentences. Certainly there hadn’t been any for some time and it seems that the new president has a different attitude, he’s made it a point of some pride I think to carry out these sentences that have been long delayed and so of course efforts have intensified more recently as it’s become apparent that the sentences might be carried out.
EASTLEY: But it’s a case of too little, too late though, isn’t it?
PLIBERSEK: I think what you have to take into account, Tony, is sometimes by making an issue of something, you really solidify the position that you’re trying to change and I think that may have been counterproductive in the past. Up until now, a lot of our efforts in recent months have also been behind the scenes for that reason. But as we talk to our diplomats now, as we talk to the legal teams that are representing Andrew and Myuran and their families and supporters, a conscious decision really has been made to be more public in the approaches that we’re making.
LANDERS: How strong, if these executions go ahead, how strong does Australia’s response need to be?
PLIBERSEK: I think our response to the death penalty should always be strong and consistent. We should always say that Australia stands against the death penalty for anyone, anywhere. Whether it’s Australians in Indonesia, Americans in America, Chinese citizens in China, our opposition must be principled. I think any other discussion should be left to a later date. I think the most important-
LANDERS: But there already is some- sorry.
PLIBERSEK: I just think the most important thing now is to really focus on the best interests of these two young men and talking about- anything that sounds like retaliation is a big mistake right now.
LANDERS: Even so, the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, she has already canvassed the possibility of Australians considering travel boycotts to Bali, for example. She’s also said everything’s on the table, whether it be withdrawing diplomatic representation while no decisions have been made. Do you have a sense of what the official response needs to be from the Australian Government to express its displeasure?
PLIBERSEK: Well certainly we need to be thinking those things through and discussing them but I think any type of megaphone diplomacy is a big mistake at the moment. I would also say on the Bali boycotts, I don’t think that that’s a particularly effective threat to make. I think the elite decision makers in Jakarta are really a long way from the livelihood of a taxi driver in Bali and Australians have a great deal of fondness and respect for the people of Bali and I think that’s reciprocated.
EASTLEY: So there wouldn’t be any Labor bipartisan support for a boycott?
PLIBERSEK: I don’t think it would make any difference, Tony, I really don’t. If I thought it would make a difference, it would be a different matter.
LANDERS: Are you comfortable that no stone has been left unturned in trying to spare the lives of these two men? Whether it be from the Australian Government, our diplomats, our business community, even just members of the public.
PLIBERSEK: So I’m in contact with our diplomats, former diplomats, business figures, non-government figures, the legal team of the two young men, the families and friends and supporters of the two young men, the Mercy Campaign and I have said to all of them that if they feel that any stone has been left unturned, they should raise it with me. And I have myself raised different approaches, new approaches with the Foreign Minister and she’s been very open to that. There is an enormous amount of cooperation with the common aim of having this sentence commuted - with having mercy shown to these two young men. I believe the best thing we can do at the moment is take, as closely as we can, advice from diplomats and former diplomats and the legal representations of the young men because those people are in the best position to know the full range of things that have been attempted. A lot of the approaches that have been made actually haven’t been made in public for very good reason.
LANDERS: Had you heard about these allegations, for example, that have been raised today about some sort of bribes being sought by the judges who did sentence these men to the death penalty?
PLIBERSEK: Well of course I’ve read what you’ve read in the newspapers. I would say that Indonesia’s made great strides in recent years with its own Independent Commission Against Corruption style body that has actually gone after some very senior political figures, there have been convictions for corruption in recent years that wouldn’t have happened years ago, so there are more stories coming out over time. It is important that when an allegation like this is made, all of the legal processes have the opportunity to be exhausted because the very last thing we’d want is any uncertainty.
EASTLEY: Tanya Plibersek, just finally, are there any, there’s still questions to be answered about how this all came about, and that is that the AFP was tipped off about this smuggling ring?
PLIBERSEK: Yes, it’s another one of those things I think is best discussed sometime down the track. We would-
EASTLEY: But it needs to be discussed, you say?
PLIBERSEK: Look it would obviously have been much, much better if this whole group of nine people were arrested coming back into Australia. It would’ve been better if they were dealt with in the Australian legal system. I have, I’m sure- I’ve been contacted by a lot of people saying that they would’ve liked to have seen these young people convicted and indeed serving long gaol sentences in Australia, but here in Australia.
LANDERS: Tanya Plibersek, we thank you very much for joining us today.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Kim, thank you, Tony.