TRANSCRIPT - Sky News AM Agenda, Tuesday 17 February 2015

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Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Beheading of Coptic Christians, Copenhagen attacks, Malcolm Turnbull

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time. In the words of one of the lawyers for the two members of the Bali Nine, the court proceedings in Indonesia remain live, they remain a possible course of action, but the Attorney-General keeps threatening to move them and proceed with the execution. What’s your reaction to these developments to where things stand at the moment?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I have spoken to the legal team of these two young men and they do believe that they still have some legal processes that need to be completed. I think of course that we need to go through every possible legal channel before the young men are moved.

GILBERT: What’s the likelihood of that, given the comments out from the Indonesian government, the Attorney-General on behalf of President Joko Widodo, it doesn’t look promising, it hasn’t for many days now?

PLIBERSEK: Well we continue, both the Government, the Opposition, former Prime Ministers as you’ve identified today, many, many prominent Australians continue to be in contact with their contacts in Indonesia, urging that either mercy be shown to these two young men or at the very least, that the legal processes that are currently still live be allowed to run their course.

GILBERT: What do you say to those, and some Australians share this view as expressed even last night on national television, that these individuals knew what the punishment was before they undertook this crime and that the Indonesia law has to be respected in that sense?

PLIBERSEK: Of course we understand people having that view and I understand particularly people who say that Indonesia is a sovereign nation and it has its legal processes and we wouldn’t expect people to seek to interfere in Australian legal processes. What I would say is that after ten years in jail, these two young men are a terrific example of the reform that can happen within the Indonesia jail system and it would be beneficial for Indonesia to claim credit for the reform of these two young men, to use them as an example of what can happen when people are given the opportunity of a second chance.

GILBERT: While some members of the Bali Nine, the- I should say, my apologies, the Bali bombers, Amrozi, Muklas and Samudra were executed. A number of those involved, including Abu Bakar Bashir, weren’t, I guess this comparison comes up a bit and this is, you know, part of the reaction, such a fierce reaction in Australia to this imminent execution I guess.

PLIBERSEK: Look I think Australians were deeply wounded by the Bali bombing, losing so many of our own people at that time. But even at that time, there were Australians saying that the death penalty shouldn’t be enacted for the Bali bombers that were caught. So I think you actually need to have a principled opposition to the death penalty wherever it occurs and whenever it occurs, and in fact the Indonesian government is arguing for its own citizens on death row in other countries. I believe it weakens the argument of the Indonesian government for its own citizens to be shown clemency if they’re not prepared to show clemency to the citizens of other nations. And I’ve made that point directly to the Indonesians that if they want to see mercy for their own people, if they go to other countries and argue for mercy for their own people, they need to have a principled position against the death penalty for citizens of other nations and indeed for Indonesian citizens within Indonesia.

GILBERT: It’s hypocritical, isn’t it, otherwise? Their current stance is absolutely hypocritical.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think you can say it certainly weakens the argument.

GILBERT: What about the Government’s reaction, I know that there’s been strong support for what the Government’s done thus far, you and Julie Bishop have been in close contact over this matter, what about if sadly these two young, rehabilitated men are executed via firing squad, two of our own citizens, there’s got to be some diplomatic response, doesn’t there?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, and I think the time for having those discussions is well down the track. I think now our focus has to be on making every effort to save the lives of these two young men.

GILBERT: Should the Federal Police have to answer for some of this as well, given that they tipped off the Indonesian authorities when they could’ve picked them up back in Australia?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s unquestionable that it would’ve been better to pick these young people up when they returned to Australia. And I would’ve been quite happy for them to do long jail terms in Australia. They’ve done something very, seriously wrong. It was a large quantity of drugs and they should’ve received serious sentences, but it plainly would’ve been preferable for them to be caught in Australia, dealt with in our Australian judicial system, served time in an Australian gaol and hopefully be rehabilitated here as they have been in Indonesia.

GILBERT: What’s your sense, do you think the Federal Police recognise that mistake?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I don’t think it’s productive to have that conversation now. I think our focus really has to be on all of the measures, formal, informal, diplomatic, business, all of the channels we can use to continue to plead for the lives of these young men.

GILBERT: What about boycotting Bali as a destination, that’s been discussed on social media and elsewhere that Australians should boycott Bali as a tourist destination. Your thoughts on that?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s, you know, it’s up to individuals to make up their own holiday plans but when this issue was first raised, I really thought at the time that the decision makers in Jakarta who are proceeding with carrying out these sentences, I frankly don’t think that they’re paying much attention to the livelihood of your ordinary Balinese person. I should also say that any Australian who has travelled to Bali would know that there’s a great deal of mutual affection between the Balinese people and Australians. I think- I certainly don’t believe that a boycott of Bali would make a great deal of difference to decision makers in Jakarta. I don’t think their lives would be affected at all by that.

GILBERT: Okay, let’s move on to a couple of other issues internationally. This shocking incident, beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, Egyptians, by ISIS sympathisers in Libya. Now this has brought Egypt into the fray- attacking this group in Libya. What’s your reaction to this story? Is there any, I suppose, benefit in having Egypt as part of this fight despite the horrific circumstances under which this has taken place?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s very important to say firstly that this is an appalling crime, and that Coptic Christians have been persecuted in a, for a long time, in many different scenarios, in a number of countries in the region. It’s very important that the Coptic community here in Australia know Australians stand with them and are appalled by what’s happened in Libya. Egypt is a potentially very important figure in the fight against DAESH in the Middle East and I think it is important to have Egypt engaged constructively.

GILBERT: And finally to Copenhagen and the shootings there, another reminder of the risk and the very real threat of lone wolf terror attacks, as if we needed any reminder.

PLIBERSEK: Again, an appalling attack and I think it does raise these complex questions of how do you predict a person or a group of people might be planning something like this when they’re not part of an organised network. I think it’s very important that we continue to give support and resources to our security and intelligence organisations to keep Australians safe and that we continue to work with international partners to work out how we might best predict the type of people who might be inclined to this sort of attack.

GILBERT: Finally, on a lighter note to finish our interview this morning, Tanya Plibersek. Your regular sparring partner, Malcolm Turnbull, last night was on the ABC, generated a fair bit of response to his appearance, I suppose everything he does at the moment generates a reaction, but I guess it must be a relief for Labor to have the speculation on the other side of the fence for a change after the last few years?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think certainly Malcolm’s been biding his time and been building his support amongst the backbenchers in the Liberal Party for whatever it is he’s got planned. I guess what I would say is whether it’s Malcolm Turnbull or Scott Morrison or Julie Bishop or any of the others who think they’ve got a shot at leading the Liberal Party, the problem’s not the salesman, the problem’s the product. And all of those same people sat around the Cabinet table and agreed to the poisonous and unfair Budget that’s turned so many Australians off the current Government. Unless they can articulate a policy difference, rather than just, you know, a different way of expressing the same policies, I don’t know that they’re going to make that many inroads. Australians have rejected the Budget because it’s unfair, it’s full of broken promises and it hurts ordinary people. Unless they’re going to chuck the measures that are detailed in the Budget, I don’t know that the actual salesperson is going to have much of an easier time than the current salesperson.

GILBERT: Okay, Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time this morning, appreciate it.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Kieran.


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