TRANSCRIPT: Press Conference, Wednesday 29 April 2015







SUBJECT/S: Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Today the Opposition joins the Government and the people of Australia  in condemning the execution of two Australian men this morning, in an Indonesian jail. I extend on behalf of the Opposition to the families of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan our deepest condolences. What happened this morning in the early hours in this Indonesian jail, it was not justice, it was the senseless waste of two good lives. Labor understands that Indonesia is a separate and sovereign country, but we are disgusted at the futile act of execution of these two young Australian men.

It is clear that in the last 10 years these two men had reformed and rehabilitated themselves. We do not believe these two men shouldn't have been punished for their crimes but there is no case in any circumstances for the death penalty to have taken place here. Labor is deeply opposed to the death penalty wherever it exists. We believe that Australia should, and we shall, campaign against the death penalty not just in Indonesia but wherever it exists throughout the world. I might ask my colleague Tanya Plibersek to make some further remarks.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks so much Bill. It's true that Labor today joins with the families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, their friends, their very dedicated legal teams, the embassy and consular staff that have assisted them and all Australians in feeling the great sadness that has come upon our nation. These two young men certainly did the wrong thing 10 years ago, there is no question that they should have been punished, but in executing them all hope of them repaying their debt to society is extinguished.

They've made great efforts to reform themselves over the most recent decade including in the final hours of their lives, it's said that they were comforting the other prisoners facing the firing squad with them. Their families now bear the loss of these two young men for the rest of their lives, this is a life sentence for their families and friends. Labor will continue as Bill has said, in our strong opposition to the death penalty, not just in Indonesia and not just for Australian citizens, but wherever it is applied and to whomever it is applied.

SHORTEN: Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Do you support withdrawing the Ambassador from Indonesia?

SHORTEN: Labor does support withdrawing the Ambassador from Indonesia. Indonesia needs to understand how strongly Australia feels and how united we are in our condemnation of this disgusting act of execution. So yes we do support withdrawing our Ambassador, Indonesia needs to understand that Australians are rightly appalled at what’s happened this morning.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government should go further?

SHORTEN: I contacted the Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Sunday and we had a discussion about potential options. I certainly would expect that ministerial level communications and meetings will not be going forward at this point. We will talk with the Government in coming days about other responses. What we need to do here is understand that for the families of these two men, and for the Australians who are outraged, that Australian politics is united and Indonesia needs to understand that we are united in terms of our condemnation of this senseless execution this morning.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident that the Government did everything it could to try and save these two men?

SHORTEN: I believe that both the Government and Labor put in every strenuous effort to try and prevent what came to pass this morning, and as Tanya said I should also add at this point to our consular staff and the representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to the lots of behind the scenes diplomacy, and efforts by a whole range of Australians both in the private sector and in Government service, and to the legal team of the family, they will be feeling a real sense of loss, of shock. The legal processes had not been extinguished in Indonesia. The rule of law is important everywhere. I do not for the life of me understand why the legal processes in Indonesia - they were still continuing - why these executions had to come forward at this point.

JOURNALIST: How badly do you think this has damaged the relationship between the two countries, do you expect a sort of long tension between the two countries?

SHORTEN: I'll answer that, I might also ask my colleague Tanya to talk further as the Foreign Affairs spokesperson. One thing I would say is that I don't hold ordinary Indonesians responsible. The people who for instance in Bali which is a very familiar destination for many Australians, ordinary Balinese didn't do this. I see this as a failure in terms of the justice system in Indonesia and I see this as the wrong decision to have been made, but I don't blame ordinary Indonesians so that then goes to the question of relationship. Indonesia’s our neighbour, they're a sovereign nation, this decision though, to execute these two men this morning though, cannot go without reaction and outrage from Australia and that's what is appropriate but I also recognise that ordinary Indonesians were not part of this decision. I might ask Tanya to talk a bit further on this point.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you. Our relationship with Indonesia is a good one and a strong one. But it's been put under enormous pressure in recent weeks and months because Australians have been united in pleading for mercy, pleading for clemency for the lives of these two young men and we are deeply hurt and deeply troubled that those pleas for mercy have been ignored. So of course there will be a time that our relationship is put under pressure and that that hurt and that anger is expressed. Over the long-term we have to have a good relationship with our neighbour Indonesia. As Bill said it's not the taxi driver in Bali that's made this decision, it's a new President, a President whom we begged for mercy and who sadly did not hear that pleading. We said very clearly to President Jokowi that a strong man can show his strength through mercy and we're sad that he didn't heed that pleading.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the AFP and their role in this needs to be examined?

SHORTEN: Well, today's not a day I believe for the debate about what happened and where and why. There'll be days and weeks for that to be discussed. I should also though note, that following the arrests in 2005 and subsequent legal action, that in 2009 the guidelines were changed to this very question of providing information which would see people then potentially charged or convicted of penalties carrying, or offences carrying the death penalty. So the guidelines were changed in 2009. It is legitimate to say should these guidelines be tightened further? And by that making sure that on one hand the police have got a job to do, you know, to catch, you know, people breaking laws with regard to drugs but on the other hand where the death penalty is involved you've got to really balance out all the considerations. That's why you have in place guidelines so that these decisions can be reviewed before they're made so we don't get to this set of circumstances so maybe the guidelines need to be tightened. That will be I think an appropriate question for the Parliament to discussion in coming day and weeks but I go back to where I started in this answer, today my thoughts are with the families of these two men. They're with the spirit of these two men who have been executed and it's to everyone who loved Andrew and Myuran that my thoughts are with today and they should know that the nation is probably stopped from its day to day business to think and reflect about what’s happened to these two men.

JOURNALIST: Given your words about this not being the fault of the Indonesian people, what is your message to Australians who have thought about boycotting Indonesia or Bali after what happened?

SHORTEN: I'm not going to Australians not to be angry or outraged because I'm angry and I’m outraged about what has happened. There was no justice this morning. It was just a futile waste of two good lives but in coming days and weeks, I'll also say to Australians that I don't and we shouldn't hold ordinary or individual Indonesian people responsible and understand that if what has upset us is the death penalty then what Australians need to do is campaign against the death penalty wherever it exists, and it exists in more places than just Indonesia. What we should try and do perhaps, is think about these two men and keep them in our mind and argue that Australian Government and Australian leaders when they're abroad, should put forward the case to all the nations in the world where the death penalty occurs and say that this solves nothing.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you a few questions on other matters. On the ALP’s position on Palestine and National Conference –

PLIBERSEK: Sorry, I don't think today is the day for these other questions.

SHORTEN: I concur with Tanya. There will be plenty of times to ask us questions. It's in the nature that we like to talk about issues in Australian politics and the direction of this nation, but let's be straight today; today what matters is the two Australian men were executed. They had reformed and rehabilitated. Yes, they had committed a crime but it is clear that they were paying off their debts, they were to the community a good support to others, making a real contribution in the last 10 years and whatever contribution they could make in the future has now been stopped. That's the shame of today.

Thanks everyone.


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.