THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THURSDAY, 5 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran
KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: As far as you’re aware, where are things at? There’s just a fair bit of confusion here, isn’t there, out of Indonesia?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: The Foreign Minister and I are speaking regularly about what’s happening at the moment with the transfer and what that means in terms of timing. I mean, you’ve spoken to her already so I’m not going to repeat what she said. We have been in continual contact with Indonesia authorities. I continue to contact anyone who might influence the President in his decision making. A lot of Australians have been working behind the scenes, people who have got good relations with Indonesia to continue to plead our case and certainly to argue that the legal challenges that are still afoot must be completed.
GILBERT: We’ll get onto a bit of that detail in a moment. I want to ask you, I guess to start off with, this morning there was another show of solidarity, of unity of the Parliament, wasn’t there, this morning with that candle light vigil on the forecourt of Parliament.
PLIBERSEK: I think it’s a very powerful thing to say that despite all of our differences, as Australian parliamentarians and I think as Australian citizens, we are united in saying that we oppose the death penalty for whomever and wherever it might be applied. But for these young men, we say they’ve spent 10 years in Indonesian gaol, they have made a great effort to rehabilitate and reform themselves. They’re playing a very important role in rehabilitating other prisoners. They show the success of the Indonesian gaol system when it comes to rehabilitation. They can continue to play a role in rehabilitating other prisoners and that is, I think, a very strong argument to commute their death sentence, for the President to show them clemency. There continues to be the argument about legal challenges still afoot. And I think there is an overriding argument here as well, that as Australian parliamentarians, we don’t support the death penalty anywhere. This is not just about our citizens in Indonesia, it’s about anyone, anywhere, to whom this penalty may be applied.
GILBERT: And I guess the point that’s been made as well by the Foreign Minister this morning and others over recent weeks is that the Indonesians themselves seek clemency for I think it’s nearly 200 of their own citizens on death row around the world.
PLIBERSEK: Almost 230, in fact, 229 was the most recent figure. And they’ve been successful in getting many, many of their own off death row in other countries. They do, the Indonesians do exactly what we’re doing at the moment. They are, all the time, pleading with other governments for their citizens to be shown clemency. We make the same plea for our own citizens and I have said to the Indonesian Ambassador that it surely must weaken their case when they are pleading for the lives of their own people if they do not show the same clemency to the citizens of other nations.
GILBERT: President Jokowi has only been in the job for a couple of months. You’ve spoken about the representations made to people that might have some influence over him. Sadly, according to those I’ve spoken to, including experts, Indonesia experts, who say that basically there’s a brick wall around the President. He does not want to hear, he’s made the decision and that’s it.
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s very important that our thoughts, our comments, our speech at the moment is focused on these two young men and making a case for them. I think analysis and so on is better left for another day.
GILBERT: I guess though, to start the relationship of this Presidency without, you know Australia-Indonesia bilateral relationship on this footing, is the worst possible scenario.
PLIBERSEK: I think it’s very important for us to continue to say to the Government of Indonesia and to the new President to look at the long sweep of our history with Indonesia. Australia has supported Indonesian independence, we’ve had a good relationship over many years with Indonesia. And there have been times of tension, of course, but the long sweep of our history with Indonesia is a mutually respectful, close relationship, and there are many people in Australia and Indonesia who have been working for many years to continue to bring that relationship closer. That should be the focus of our relationship at the moment.
GILBERT: And you say you’ve been in constant contact with the Foreign Minister over developments here, it does seem the Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs are doing everything they can, including this 11th hour prisoner swap offer to try and secure the freedom, well, not the freedom, but at least clemency for those two individuals.
PLIBERSEK: Indeed successive governments have pleaded for the lives of these two young men. Of course, it’s a more urgent task of diplomacy at the moment but for 10 years now, successive Australian leaders have spoken to successive Indonesia presidents and made a case for clemency to be shown to these young men. And of course, we’ll continue to do that over coming days. All Australians, I believe, are united in saying that we don’t want to see this penalty applied.
GILBERT: I don’t think you want to speculate on any possible diplomatic response that might happen in the wake of the executions because as you and others point out, while there’s life, there’s hope, but I guess that’s something Australia’s got to turn its attention to, given we have many other consular cases in Indonesia, so if you remove an ambassador, then you instantly jeopardise the success of those particular cases, those individuals, don’t you? Potentially.
PLIBERSEK: I think our whole conversation at the moment has to be on using every diplomatic means, every formal and informal channel, to focus on pleading for clemency for these two young men. And I think any other conversations are better left for another day.
GILBERT: What about the use of, the show of force around the transfer, that was quite bizarre, wasn’t it?
PLIBERSEK: It was very difficult to understand why that was necessary.
GILBERT: It certainly was. The barbaric, armed vehicles, and these are two reformed individuals as you’ve pointed out.
PLIBERSEK: It’s difficult to understand why it was thought necessary.
GILBERT: And finally, I know that you reflected on this in the Parliament, but you are well aware of the success of what rehabilitation can do to an individual so for you, there’s a much more sort of poignant emotion, I guess this –
PLIBERSEK: Indeed. I think one of the saddest things about this story, one of the saddest things on a human level, is that these two young men have obviously, of course they’ve done the wrong thing and of course they should be punished, but they have made such an effort not just to reform themselves, but to improve the quality of life, and to give hope to other prisoners. Carrying out the death penalty robs these two young men of life, it robs their families and friends of the opportunity of seeing them pay their debt to society.
But it also robs Indonesian prisoners, who they’ve helped, who they’ve become role models for, it robs them of hope and the understanding that reform is possible in their own lives. I think that the Indonesians should think about using these young men as an example of what reformation can do in the life of a person, how you can do the wrong thing, turn your life around and then spend the rest of your life repaying your debt to society.
GILBERT: Let’s hope so, let’s hope there’s a show of mercy from the Indonesian leader. Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time.