TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Friday 6 March 2015

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Subject: Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: [audio cuts in] Myuran Sukumaran's continuing case in Indonesia. Of course, all Australians continue to plead for clemency for these two young men. I am heartened that there's been a delay of an indeterminate time, certainly for a few days, in the carrying out of the sentence. We've been told that there are some delays perhaps due to the ongoing legal cases that these two men have ongoing in Indonesia, one of an administrative appeal type and one of a judicial type. It is reassuring that these legal processes have been given a little more time. My call to the Indonesian Government is, of course, that any legal processes be given a full opportunity to be properly heard. We also, as Australians, continue to ask the Indonesian President to give clemency to our citizens and others in the same way that Indonesia pleads for clemency for their own citizens on death row around the world. Indonesia has just under 230 of its own citizens on death row in many countries around the globe. And Indonesia has been successful in seeing some of those citizens in the past taken off death row, and indeed, continues to plead for the lives of others. We ask that that same consideration be extended to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. These are two young men who have unquestionably done the wrong thing. And they've spent 10 years in gaol already. And should their lives be spared, we understand that the Indonesian judicial system might require many more years in prison. But while they've been in prison for this last decade, they have made great changes in their lives, and not just their own lives, but the lives of other prisoners. They are a testament to the power of the Indonesian gaol system to allow people to reform and to rebuild their lives and to repay their debt to society.

JOURNALIST: What was your opinion of the photo of the police chief posing with them?

PLIBERSEK: I can't really understand why such a photo was taken and I can't understand why it was publicly released. I certainly thought it was in poor taste.

JOURNALIST: What about the use of force in transferring the men? Do you think it was disproportionate?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's very difficult to understand why such force was necessary. I think- it's certainly a contrast to the way that other prisoners have been transported in the past and it's difficult to understand why the Indonesian Government thought this show of force was necessary.

JOURNALIST: I know what you mean about the delay, that of course we're thankful that these men are still alive but do you think the constant delays are also making things emotionally more difficult, especially for the families?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think this is a more hellish time than any one of us can imagine, if you haven't gone through it. But I think for all of us and for the families of these two young men and their legal teams, while there’s life, there's hope, and however difficult the uncertainty and the delays may be, of course, the certainty of a sentence being carried out would be the worst possible outcome. This is a sentence that affects not only the lives of these two young men, but it's a sentence for everyone who knows and loves them. They will carry the grief and loss of this throughout their lives.

JOURNALIST: How do you see this impacting relationships with Indonesia?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think these are things for another day. Our focus at the moment has to be completely on finding any constructive suggestion that might cause this sentence not to be carried out. There's been a great deal of work over many years behind the scenes through successive governments, arguing that the sentence of these young men should be commuted. Now, there's also been, in more recent times, more public work, both diplomatic efforts, business-to-business contacts, person-to-person contacts. I think all of those approaches have to be tried and tried again. If there's anything we can do with the Indonesian Government, for example, prisoner swaps, of course we would support that.

JOURNALIST: It's often a tough thing… [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: I think every Australian is united in supporting the Government in any effort they can make to spare the lives of these two young men. As I say, successive Australian governments have worked with the Indonesian Government to argue the case for these two young men. As the date of their sentence being carried out draws closer, those efforts have become more public. But of course, every effort that the Government has made has had bipartisan support and I think has had also very wide support among the Australian community.

JOURNALIST: Is there the anything you would suggest that the Government could do that it is not doing?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I've made a number of suggestions directly to the Foreign Minister about ways that we can continue to support these young men, options that the Government might not have thought of. Of course, people are continuing to write to me and email me with those suggestions, and when they do, I pass them on. I think it's most critical at this time, though, to take the advice of our diplomats. We have very experienced current and former diplomats who've served in Indonesia for many years. They have close personal contacts and friendships with senior members of the Indonesian Government, business community and so on. And so we need to take the advice of those people about how we best make these approaches and the most useful offers that we can make to Indonesia for cooperation.

JOURNALIST: And is the family, do you think, getting enough consular assistance on its journey to Nusakambangan?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think the families are very grateful for the support they've received so far from the consular services of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I've certainly- the family members I've spoken to have been very grateful for the assistance they've received, in some cases over many years.

JOURNALIST: When this spying controversy emerged some years ago, Indonesia withdrew cooperation in all sorts of areas, in security, in policing. Surely those types of sanctions must be on the table, you say you don't want to talk about that now, but surely those kinds of things must be on the table instead of just words?

PLIBERSEK: As I've said in the past, I think now is certainly not the time to have those discussions. Our total focus at the moment has to be on working cooperatively with the many Indonesians who also oppose the death penalty and have helped us in pleading with their government to spare the lives of these two young men and to work absolutely assiduously with all our focus on doing something productive for these young men. The time for any other discussion is much, much later.

JOURNALIST: Is that working though? Tony Abbott said he that hasn't heard back from President Widodo about his request for another telephone conversation. Julie Bishop says she has not received a response to a letter that was delivered to her counterpart yesterday. So words don't seem to be working.

PLIBERSEK: I think at the moment, open communication, frequent communication is the best approach that we have. I've written to the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Bill Shorten has written to the President, we're in frequent contact with the Indonesian Ambassador. We continue to offer all our support to the Government in making every effort they can to see the lives of these two young men spared. Thanks, everyone.



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