6PR, Perth – Interview with Paul Murray

Subjects: Meeting of the Minds charity auction, Syria, Suhail Durani immigration case.

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

20 September 2013

PAUL MURRAY A little earlier in the year I was asked to get involved in a thing called Meeting of the Minds, which is all designed to raise money for the Telethon Institution for Child Health Research. It's a fantastic charity, of course, and it does so much worthwhile work so there was really not much option than to say yes, I'd like to be involved in that.

It's actually the – it's an initiative of café owner, Alida Cubbage. Thought people might love the chance to have a coffee with a so-called celebrity, pick their minds on interesting topics.

So tonight, Paul Murray, along with a whole lot of other people, and I'll tell you who some of them are, go up for auction tonight.

I think the idea is that we give up about an hour of our time to sit down over a cup of coffee with whoever is successful in the auction and to have a chat to them about things that are on their mind.

Some of the people who are involved in this, Rick Ardon, the newsreader at Channel 7; Eleni Evangel, of course, the Perth City councillor who's just become the Member for Perth in the State House; Associate Professor Judith Fordham, you've heard Judith on this program, one of the brightest legal minds in Perth; Rick Hart, former chairman of the Fremantle Dockers and also the WA Turf Club; Max Kay, of course, great hospitality man around town, also former Perth City councillor; Monika Kos runs Today Tonight on Channel 7; Professor Barry Marshall, Nobel laureate, one of the most brilliant chemists in the world; Millsy, our breakfast man here on 6PR.

Steve Pennells, Walkley Award journalist – photo journalist for The West Australian newspaper; Matt Roser, great footballer; Lisa Scaffidi, the Lord Mayor; Jenny Seaton, ex-6PR, of course, and nowadays doing radio at Curtin FM; Adam Selwood, ex-Eagle, sensational footballer; Professor Fiona Stanley, one of the great people of Western Australia, good enough to have a hospital named after her; Professor Fiona Wood, the other great medical Fiona in Western Australia, and who can forget her work during the Bali bombing; and the Honourable Julie Bishop, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, of course, and the new Foreign Minister, and she joins me now.

G'day, Julie

JULIE BISHOP Good morning, Paul.

PAUL MURRAY What's it feel like to be auctioned? [Laughs]

JULIE BISHOP Just as you said, Paul, when I was asked to be involved in an auction to support the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, I could not say no. It's a world class institute. I've long been a supporter, in fact, long before I went into politics.

When I was a lawyer I got involved in fundraising for Fiona Stanley and the Institute back in the '80s, and so I have maintained that commitment and, of course, I'm happy to be involved.

PAUL MURRAY Yeah, we're all turning up tonight, or a lot of us will be turning up tonight at a function where we're meant to make a one minute speech selling our wares.

I must say I don't find speech reading that hard, Julie, but actually find nice things to say about myself in order to get someone to buy me I found a little challenging.

JULIE BISHOP I don't think you have to say anything, I am sure there'll be plenty of people who'll want to spend an hour of your time picking your brains about political state of play, people you've met, I can just imagine that spending some time with you would be more than fascinating.

And while I spend some time on radio interviews with you, I'm sure there'll be a lot of people who'd be prepared to pay money to spend some time with you.

PAUL MURRAY I'll bet you they'll pay a bit more to spend some time with you. What do you reckon…

JULIE BISHOP We should be increasing the bids, shouldn't we?

PAUL MURRAY Well, it's going to be very interesting to see how much we're relatively worth. What would they want to talk to you about?

JULIE BISHOP I would imagine it would have something to do with politics, but I also hope that we'll be able to talk about foreign policy, because by the time I take up this challenge and meet with the auction – the highest auction bidder, I will have spent a week at the UN Security Council and meeting heads of state and world leaders and…

PAUL MURRAY [Interrupts] Because we're chairing at the moment, aren't we? The Security Council.

JULIE BISHOP Yes, we are, for the month of September and it will be a fascinating week. It's really being thrown in at the deep end. It's a bit of a baptism of fire for me, but I'm very much looking forward to representing Australia on the world stage.

There's some very serious business at hand, particularly the issue of Syria will be debated in the UN Security Council, and sitting there as chair, I'm sure I'll find it very, very interesting.

PAUL MURRAY Well, let me…

JULIE BISHOP I think world affairs would be a topic that I can spend an hour discussion with someone who bids for me.

PAUL MURRAY Okay. Well, let me just ask you about that then, on the Syria thing, because we'll get serious here. Do you – are you confident that this deal with Russia, between the Americans and Russia, will hold and is genuine?

JULIE BISHOP Well, that is what we have to see. There's an old Ronald Reagan saying, 'trust but verify'. We have to proceed on the basis that this framework has been agreed.

It is to be tested by virtue of the fact that Syria has to meet certain commitments in a very tight timeframe because the aim is to have a complete elimination of Syria's chemical weapon stockpile by the middle of 2014.

And so a number of steps have to be taken within a pretty tight timeframe this year and so the world will be watching to see whether Syria and, with the support of Russia, is able to meet those timeframes.

The debate will continue next week in the Security Council to get a resolution to ensure that this framework is enforceable and that the timetable is adhered to. It is a positive step.

It's a significant step and I have no doubt it would not have occurred had the United States President and Secretary of State Kerry made it clear that they would intervene militarily in relation to 21 August chemical weapons attack so that there would be a deterrent message sent to not only the regime but to the rest of the world that the use of chemical weapons against civilians is utterly not to be tolerated.

PAUL MURRAY I heard John Kerry this morning basically ridiculing the proposition that the rebels could have done the sarin gas attacks. He basically said how were they going to get into this part of town that Assad controls to use rockets that they don't have the technological access to and to use sarin gas that they've never had access to either, certainly not at the grade that it was used, and then get themselves out of that part of Damascus where the rockets were launched from? He seems to be just ridiculing it. Are you also similarly certain that it was the Assad regime that launched this attack?

JULIE BISHOP I have a high level of confidence that the Assad regime was behind it. I have seen the UN weapons inspector's report, and while they didn't have a mandate to lay blame, it's quite evident that the regime was involved in this attack. And you only have to read the independent weapons inspector's report to draw that conclusion.

The other point is, of course, the Syrian regime has now admitted that it does have a chemical weapons program, that it does have chemical weapons stockpiles, because it's submitted them to international control now.

And Russia and the United States have an agreed assessment of how many chemical weapons, and in what amounts and what type, Syria holds. And so the evidence points very heavily to the regime.

But, of course, this is a matter that could be referred by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court. A chemical weapons attack of the nature that occurred on 21 August is a crime against humanity.

And, if the UN Security Council were to refer it to the International Criminal Court, then of course evidence could be taken, and conclusively determine who is responsible, but I have a very high level of confidence that the Assad regime was involved.

PAUL MURRAY Is there a downside in this deal that's been done that it actually lessens the pressure on the Assad regime? And in terms of what many people have been trying to force, and that is regime change to get Assad out of power there and to get his foot off the neck of Syrians, that it actually gives him quite a bit of comfort?

JULIE BISHOP Well the United States military intervention proposal was not about regime change, it was about sending a message of deterrence over the use of chemical weapons, which is a breach of any international norm.

Syria itself is a signatory to a Geneva Convention back in 1925 that prohibits the use of poisonous gases and the like in warfare. They have not been a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention more recently, but as part of this agreement they are to become a signatory. And so that brings them within the, you know, international rules base relating to the use of chemical weapons.

I think that the challenge for the international community is the ongoing civil war in Syria, that has to have a political solution of some sort. So you can separate to some extent the issue of the use of chemical weapons, and deal with that as the United States and Russia are doing, and then as a separate but related issue, the ongoing political solution that is required.

This is literally a civil war now, the Shia and Sunni elements are in conflict, it's a terrifying scenario because the rebel forces have been joined, whether they want them or not, by extremists and Jihadists and even a Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, the Al-Nusra group is now in Syria and fighting as part of the opposition to the Syrian regime.

So, it is a deeply troubling scenario being played out that could spill beyond Syria's borders. That's why, while we are focusing on the chemical weapons attack, we must never take our focus off the humanitarian disaster that is underway in Syria, and try and use every means we can to stop that conflict.

PAUL MURRAY Julie, I know we've got limited time, I've been asked to raise an issue with you, and this may cause some problems because it's not directly in your portfolio.

But, given the seniority of your position in the Government, I wonder if you're aware of the position of an Indian doctor here in Western Australia called Suhail Durani?

Now, he has got a criminal record, he was found guilty of a sexual assault during his time as a doctor at Royal Perth Hospital. He served his time, he came out, there was an attempt to deport him.

He won, through the AAT, the right to stay in Australia. In the last week just before the election, the Immigration Minister served an order for him to be taken back in to immigration detention to be deported.

It seems strange to me that a minister would do that during the last days of a government. It does appear that some level of injustice has been done there, given the earlier tribunal hearing.

He's looking for someone to intervene in his position to take a look at it, given that this happened in the dying days of the Labor Government. I'm just wondering if you would be prepared to take up this matter.

JULIE BISHOP Of course. I'll look into it immediately. If it's occurred in caretaker period which…

PAUL MURRAY It did.

JULIE BISHOP Yes, which is as you say. I'm not aware of the facts of the case, but thanks for raising it with me. If it occurred in caretaker period the Government should have consulted, not sought permission, but should have consulted with the Opposition Immigration Minister, and that of course is Scott Morrison.

Well, Scott was sworn in on Wednesday as our Immigration Minister. I will raise this with Scott to see, a), whether he was consulted during the caretaker period and what he was told, b), what he can do about it now.

PAUL MURRAY Yeah, it seemed strange. The minister signed the order on the Tuesday before the Saturday election. It just seems a peculiar thing to do at that stage of the process.

JULIE BISHOP Yes. Well, he should have, in the normal course, have consulted with the Opposition and informed us of the reasons. As I say, they don't have to seek our permission, but they are obliged….

PAUL MURRAY Yes.

JULIE BISHOP …under the protocols to consult with us. So I'm not aware of the case, but I'll certainly take it up with Scott Morrison.

PAUL MURRAY Alright. I'll get some details sent to you.

JULIE BISHOP That would be good. Thanks, Paul.

PAUL MURRAY Thanks, Julia. Okay, and I'll see you tonight?

JULIE BISHOP Look forward to it.

PAUL MURRAY Goodo.

JULIE BISHOP Bye.

PAUL MURRAY Julie Bishop also on the block being auctioned off tonight along with me. If you're interested in having a go at this Meeting of the Minds, it is for a fabulous cause for the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. You can on online. It's at meetingoftheminds.org.au. If you just Google up Meeting of the Minds, I'm sure you'll find it. So it's http//meetingoftheminds.org.au. And you can bid.


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