THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC LATELINE WITH EMMA ALBERICI
MONDAY, 23 JUNE 2014
SUBJECT/S: PETER GRESTE
EMMA ALBERICI: Just a few minutes ago, the Opposition's Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek joined us from Canberra.
Tanya Plibersek, thanks for being there. Now Peter Greste's been jailed for seven years after a serious lobbying effort by the Australian Government. In fact, Tony Abbott recently spoke to the new Egyptian President. What more can the Australian Government do?
TANYA PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it's important that the Australian Government stay in contact with the new Egyptian government. I know that both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have spoken to their counterparts. Of course that's welcome. The Department of Foreign Affairs have had consular staff assisting Peter Greste in jail. It's obviously very important that they keep up that effort. This is a case, I think, that has shocked us all. The length of the sentence - first of all, the idea that a journalist would be jailed simply for doing his job, and now the length of the sentence, have been quite shocking to Australians.
ALBERICI: Now clearly, diplomacy hasn't worked thus far. Should there be any retaliation against Egypt from Australia - sanctions or reprisals against the Egyptian ambassador in Canberra?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think the first decision that Peter Greste and his family will need to make is whether they take further legal action, whether there is an appeal against the conviction and sentence. I think the focus really needs to be on those next legal steps.
ALBERICI: But does Australia have the capacity to hurt Egypt in some way with sanctions or in fact sending some sort of a message via the ambassador?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I don't think that's a discussion for tonight. I think the most important message to send tonight: that the Australian Government, the Australian Opposition are united in saying that journalists, not in Egypt, not anywhere should be jailed for doing their job, that we are appalled by this sentence, that we strongly support the immediate release of Peter Greste and his colleagues and that Egypt as a country moving towards democracy must understand that a free press is a very important part of establishing that strong democracy, which Egyptians marched in the street for, which Egyptians actually suffered and even died for.
ALBERICI: John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, made a surprise visit to Cairo on the eve of this verdict. He talked there about press freedom, and on that trip, he actually released half a billion dollars worth of military aid to the Egyptian presidency, which we understand they're using to buy 10 new Apache helicopters. Was that premature, do you think, on behalf of the US Government, given the way this new Egyptian leadership has thumbed its nose at democracy and press freedom?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think it's an indication that the United States is hoping to have a close relationship with the new Egyptian government. And it is important that we keep the channels of communication open. Our thoughts tonight, though, are with Peter Greste and his family, his colleagues and his friends and our focus really needs to be on solving this individual case at the moment.
ALBERICI: Tanya Plibersek, thank you so much for joining us tonight
PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Emma.