KEIRAN GILBERT: Thank you very much Minister, there is
so much uncertainty in this case isn’t there. Where to from here as far as the
government is concerned?
JULIE BISHOP: Well we are dismayed by the fact that
Peter Greste was sentenced and we’re absolutely appalled by the severity of the
sentence and I am trying to make contact with the Foreign Minister Shoukri. He
is apparently travelling out of Egypt but I’ve asked our Ambassador in Cairo to
make contact with him so that I can register our deep concern with this new
We will be filing what’s called a formal diplomatic-level request with the
President to see if there is any way he can intervene in these proceedings,
prior to the conclusion of an appeal should the Greste family decide to appeal.
And so we will continue to make representations to the Egyptian Government but
also with other governments who have leverage and a closer relationship with
Egypt than Australia.
KEIRAN GILBERT: But one is the United States provides
hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Cairo every single year – can
the White House assist? Can the US use that leverage?
JULIE BISHOP: We have been working with the United
States from the outset on this matter and I expect that we’ll continue to call
upon the US to assist us. I note the comments of Secretary of State John Kerry -
how appalled he was by the verdict - and we welcome those comments.
So we’ll continue to work - not only with the United States - but with other
governments in the region and beyond, to maintain the pressure on Egypt. It
maintains that it is now a new democracy, well we want to see a demonstration of
that and jailing journalists who are doing their job is not indicative of the
path to democracy. Democracy depends upon the freedom of the press.
KEIRAN GILBERT: Is a presidential pardon the only hope
JULIE BISHOP: We understand that a pardon could not be
considered until all the legal avenues are exhausted and that would include an
appeal. The Greste family - I understand from my discussions last night with the
family - are considering their legal options that would include an appeal, but
in the meantime we are seeking to ask of the President whether there’s any other
option - can any other intervention be made at this point in the proceedings.
KEIRAN GILBERT: We spoke about the US military aid.
What sort of aid does Australia provide to Egypt?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia doesn’t provide any aid in the form
of development assistance to Egypt so we don’t have that leverage but we are
certainly considering whatever options might be available to us to maintain the
pressure on Egypt so that they recognise that such a verdict is completely out
of the norm for a democracy.
On the evidence we’ve seen we just cannot understand how a court could have
reached this conclusion. Hopefully if an appeal is undertaken an appeal court
will see it for what it is. It was a politically motivated situation in the
first place when the military were taking over from the Muslim Brotherhood and
Peter Greste got caught up in reporting on that particular political scenario.
KEIRAN GILBERT: You spoke to the Greste family, to
Peter’s parents, that must have been incredibly difficult. It’s hard to imagine
the torment that they’re going through right now.
JULIE BISHOP: It is heartbreaking for them. They are
utterly devastated and I know that our Ambassador in Cairo is keeping in
constant contact with Peter’s brothers Andrew and Mike who are over in Cairo at
present. We have maintained very close consular support and assistance, not only
with the family, but of course with Peter - visiting him regularly, attending
all of the court hearings.
There have been 13 hearings and yet the evidence has been so scant we - as I
said - we just can’t understand it. The reasons for the decisions haven’t yet
been published. I understand that they’ll be provided in due course to the
Greste’s lawyers and then we’ll be able to have a much closer look at why or how
this verdict was reached.
KEIRAN GILBERT: Can I ask you one question finally on
the PNG matter – the former head of PNG’s corruption taskforce is flying to
Australia – he wants to speak to you and the Prime Minister to urge, have you
urged Peter O’Neill to respect the rule of law and restore it in PNG. What’s the
Government’s position on that?
JULIE BISHOP: I am meeting with Sam Koim today and I
will hear from him his concerns and hear from him the detail of what has gone on
in the last few days. Likewise I’m making contact with the Foreign Minister
Rimbink Pato to register our concerns about what has been happening in PNG over
the last few days.
This kind of political volatility doesn’t assist PNG in advancing the
interests of their citizens. It’s a very dear and close neighbour of Australia
and we want to work with PNG to make it a secure and prosperous nation.
KEIRAN GILBERT: So it’s also a country where we
provide enormous aid.
JULIE BISHOP: We do and $500 million each and every
year to PNG to support the country in its economic and social development and so
political instability certainly doesn’t help that transition to a more
prosperous and stable nation.
KEIRAN GILBERT: Foreign Minister Bishop thanks for
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
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