Sky News AM Agenda, interview with Kieran Gilbert

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

Subjects: UK visit, missing Malaysian airlines plane, Ukraine, Russia, changes to Australian flag

12 March 2014

KIERAN GILBERT: Now the Foreign Minister has held the annual bilateral talks with her British counterpart William Hague in London, also meeting with the British PM. I spoke to her a bit earlier from London.

JULIE BISHOP: thanks for your time. You've just come from Number 10 Downing Street, what was on the agenda when you met with Prime Minister Cameron?

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Kieran.

David Johnston and I have been in London for the annual Ministerial level meetings with foreign and defence ministers from the United Kingdom and this evening Prime Minister Cameron hosted us at Number 10.

We discussed a whole range of matters, we had actually attended the National Security Council meeting of the British Cabinet this afternoon, and so it was a continuation of discussions about global and regional issues including Ukraine, Syria, humanitarian work in Somalia, South Sudan as well as other bilateral initiatives.

This is an annual meeting to discuss our cooperation on foreign affairs, defence and security issues and an opportunity to review the levels of cooperation that currently exist and identify areas where Australia and the United Kingdom can cooperate even further.

KIERAN GILBERT: Given we have a temporary place on the UN Security Council has that meant even closer cooperation with the UK in this very current crisis in Crimea on the Black Sea Peninsula?

JULIE BISHOP: There is no doubt that our temporary membership of the UN Security Council means we work closely with the United Kingdom and others on the Security Council, not only in relation to the Ukraine, but in relation to Syria and other matters.

On the question of Ukraine we've had a very detailed and productive discussion with Foreign Minister William Hague and also with the British National Security Council and we have learned a great deal about the EU's perspective and about the United Kingdom's perspective, on Russia's intervention into Ukraine and the referendum that's scheduled to take place on Sunday. So it's been a very useful meeting for us to gain the perspective of our friends in Europe and the United Kingdom in particular.

KIERAN GILBERT: When it comes to that referendum in Crimea to be held this Sunday, March 16 if those current Ukrainian citizens are asked whether they support the union of Crimea with Russia and they accept that why is that not legitimate?

JULIE BISHOP: You have to look at the context in which this referendum is being called. First, there is no provision in the Ukrainian constitution for a regional referendum on the question of succession so it would be unconstitutional. Secondly, there are Russian troops in Crimea and there's a suggestion that there will be quite a level of intimidation having these troops present while they are calling a referendum.

The referendum has been given a couple of days to get ready. I mean, there is no time for there to be a contrary case. It's being rushed through with a determined outcome and I don't believe that anyone in the international community, other than those who are taking Russia's side on this and ignoring its illegal intervention in to Ukraine, would see this as a fair way to conduct a referendum on a question as serious as secession from Ukraine.

This goes against the Ukrainian constitution and Russia's intervention goes against Russia's own agreements and treaties with Ukraine when they promised, and indeed guaranteed, to protect Ukrainian sovereignty.

KIERAN GILBERT: Australia's already reconsidering our work agenda with Russia in the lead up to the G20. Is there any prospect Russia could be suspended from the G20 ahead of the Brisbane Leader's Summit this year?

JULIE BISHOP: We are certainly hoping that there will be a political solution to this – diplomatic dialogue should take place. Indeed Prime Minister Cameron is working very hard to get a contact group established which would involve the major players in this crisis including Ukraine, Russia and European Union, United Kingdom, United States and others.

We're hoping that there will be continuing dialogue so there will be a diplomatic solution and we won't have to consider more drastic action such as the suspension of Russia from the G20 or anything like that.

So over the next few days we expect to see some progress made with the establishment of a contact group that will then be able to resolve this peacefully. It will of course involve Russia taking steps to de-escalate the tensions by withdrawing troops from Ukraine.

KIERAN GILBERT: Onto the Malaysian Airlines mystery – Foreign Minister, Interpol has ruled out terrorism, the CIA, well they certainly haven't gone that far. What's your latest advice?

JULIE BISHOP: We still have very little information about this disappearance of the Malaysian Airline plane and I am very conscious that it's a distressing and anxious time for the family of passengers, particularly those Australian passengers on board and also the crew.

We have very little information as to what happened to the airplane. We are working very closely with authorities overseas and also with Malaysian Airlines, but at this stage there's a huge effort underway to locate the airplane. Australia is providing support and we've offered to provide more should that be needed but until such time as the plane is located it's really just speculation as to what might have occurred.

KIERAN GILBERT: Now are you satisfied with what you've seen in terms of efforts by the Malaysian authorities to get to the bottom of this; what is a real mystery and the most bizarre situation?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that there is a huge effort underway, a number of countries have offered support in the whole search effort and I'm not going to comment at this point on what could have been done differently.

I think what we need to do is focus upon the search effort, other countries are putting forward planes and vessels and as I said Australia has offered two Orion aircraft, maritime surveillance aircraft, that are involved in it.

But many other countries have also offered resources and our focus needs to be on locating that airplane and then we can start to find out what happened and the circumstances surrounding its disappearance.

KIERAN GILBERT: And finally Foreign Minister before I let you go, just on a lighter matter though, I noticed the BBC asked you a question about this push by the New Zealand Prime Minister to change their flag to a black one with a silver fern on it. It seems to have generated a bit of interest in the UK but you've placated any concerns that they might have that we might do the same in terms of changing our flag, getting rid of the Union Jack.

JULIE BISHOP: Yes as I said to the rather cheeky BBC journalist who asked me about this, I said I had just met with the Queen and I was about to meet with Foreign Minister William Hague and the Prime Minister, so I wasn't going to be announcing any change to the Union Jack on our flag any time soon and that seemed to be quite well appreciated even by the BBC.

KIERAN GILBERT: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, appreciate your time from London this morning – late over there. Thanks so much for that, appreciate it.

JULIE BISHOP: It's been my pleasure. Thank you.

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