ANDREW BOLT Prime Minister Tony Abbott did deliver his shirtfront this week to Russian President Vladimir Putin, telling him to apologise and pay compensation for the 38 Australians killed in the MH17 disaster. He also told him to stop playing the “bully”.

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT One of the points that I tried to make to President Putin is that Russia would be so much more attractive if it was aspiring to be a superpower for peace and freedom and prosperity…instead of trying to recreate the lost glories of Tsarism or the old Soviet Union.

ANDREW BOLT But Russia, meanwhile, delivered what some say is a shirtfront of its own, sending four naval ships our way while Putin is at the G20 Summit in Brisbane. Joining me from that summit is foreign minister Julie Bishop. Thanks for your time.

MINISTER BISHOP Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW BOLT The Prime Minister told Putin this week he had evidence that the missile launcher that shot down MH17 came from Russia, and went back to Russia, where presumably it’s being hidden. What is this new information?

MINISTER BISHOP The new information from Russian state television or from the Prime Minister?

ANDREW BOLT Well, the Prime Minister's evidence that he says shows the missile launcher came from Russia?

MINISTER BISHOP From the outset Australia has had access to some of the very best intelligence sources from around the world, and those sources make it quite clear that the surface-to-air missile that shot down MH17 was brought in from Russia. So from the very beginning Australia has always had the very firm view that Russia was responsible for the delivery of a surface-to-air missile to the separatists, and someone amongst the Russians, or the separatists, used it to shoot down Malaysian Airlines MH17, and nothing we have seen since that time has changed our view.

ANDREW BOLT Well, but what a coincidence, just before Putin arrives in Australia, Russian state TV, Channel 1, on Friday, showed satellite pictures which it claimed were of a Ukrainian jet firing a missile at MH17. Is this remotely possible?

MINISTER BISHOP I don't believe so. In fact there are reports this morning that it’s quite clearly photo-shopped. There are citizen journalists who take the time to assess these things very closely, and it would seem that the picture of the jet was something just downloaded from Google. It wasn’t MH17, and they’ve done a comparison with the markings on the plane and the markings on this photograph and they don't match up. So if that is another attempt by Russia to blame Ukraine for what is clearly, in our mind from the evidence that we’ve seen, a matter involving Russia, then it’s a pretty sad state of affairs. I believe President Putin has been under quite some pressure here at the G20 by a number of leaders, including Australia, about the downing of MH17, but also their aggressive behaviour towards Ukraine, the obvious breach of territorial sovereignty and the fact that Russia refuses to acknowledge the role and influence it has over the conflict in Ukraine.

ANDREW BOLT Well, you mentioned Ukraine, it sent - NATO says it sent more troops there, it’s got the ships here, Russian jets have buzzed the air defences of Japan, Canada, the Baltic states, Holland, America, Canada, staged war exercises off Canada even, and Sweden says a submarine entered its waters. What the hell’s going on? How dangerous is Russia under Putin?

MINISTER BISHOP President Putin is clearly seeking to demonstrate that Russia is still a power to be reckoned with, and he's doing this in a number of overt ways. The deployment of Russian naval vessels to Australia was not unexpected in that Russia has done this in the past when there’s a major conference or meeting that a Russian president or prime minister is attending. For some reason, they send naval vessels to park themselves offshore, just to remind everyone that Russia has a navy, I assume. But we knew about this in advance, and so we have been tracking the Russian naval vessels, that’s in international waters, and so of course there’s nothing we can do or would do about that but we’re just keeping an eye on it.

ANDREW BOLT But he’s a menace, isn't he?

MINISTER BISHOP We are deeply concerned about Russia's very aggressive behaviour towards Ukraine, and what that means for Eastern Europe, and that’s why a number of leaders here at the G20, including Prime Minister Cameron, Prime Minister Harper of Canada, have all taken issue with President Putin about their behaviour. We should be encouraging Russia to be a responsible international citizen. If it wants to be taken seriously, and if it wants to maintain its status as a significant economy, a significant nation, then it has to abide by the international norms. And that’s why sanctions have been imposed on Russia, because it has breached those very fundamental international norms, international laws, about respecting another nation’s sovereignty. And what it has done in illegally annexing Crimea, its invasions of the eastern part of Ukraine, are simply unacceptable. That’s why Australia joined in the sanctions regime against Russia.

ANDREW BOLT Now, Australia, this month, takes over the presidency of the UN Security Council. How do you plan to use this to hold Russia to account, particularly over the MH17?

MINISTER BISHOP I will be travelling to New York on Tuesday night to appear in the Security Council on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week. There are a number of issues that Australia wants to push in our last month as president before our two-year term expires at the end of December. The circumstances surrounding MH17 have been the subject of a unanimous resolution, 2166, and so I will be investigating ways that we can revisit the commitment to the terms of 2166, because that was to enable access, unfettered access to the crash site, and also cooperation for the independent investigation into the causes of the crash. So, I’ll be getting an update on that, and if there’s a need to take it back to the Security Council, I certainly will. But the other items that we will be promoting is an analysis of the foreign fighter counter-terrorism issue in relation to Iraq and Syria. We’re also looking at peacekeeping, and the role of police in peacekeeping. Currently, the United Nations has more peacekeeping operations under way than at any time in its history, particularly in Africa, and that’s a matter that we also want to discuss.

ANDREW BOLT Barack Obama gave a speech in Brisbane yesterday, flogging his global warming deal with China, urging Australia and other countries to get on board, warning the Great Barrier Reef could possibly be gone in 50 years. My god! It sounded like a rebuke to Tony Abbott and a bit of politicking, meddling in our domestic affairs. Inappropriate?

MINISTER BISHOP I think President Obama has an eye on the next two years in the lead-up to the presidential elections, and he’d be thinking about his legacy. Last time he was in Australia, he made a significant announcement about the United States’ re-balance, or pivot, to Asia, and this time he's made a statement I think about the next two years of his presidency. I’m expecting a number of nations to give similar statements about their proposed commitments to climate change in the lead-up to Paris climate change summit in the second half of next year. And the big issue, of course, will be whether countries take the step from making statements about what they’re going to do to actually committing to legally-binding targets and commitments, and that’s what happened in the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. It was all very well to talk about it, but people didn't commit to legally-binding targets that would backed by legally-enforceable penalties, so…

ANDREW BOLT That’s exactly the story with his deal with China, isn't it? I mean, China promising, “Yeah, we’ll cap it in 16 years’ time.” All talk, no action?

MINISTER BISHOP Yes well some are saying that China now has the free reign to continue to operate as usual until 2030, and China would say that’s fair enough, because other countries have been using fossil fuels to develop their economies over many years and it’s China's turn to catch up. But what Australia will do is ensure that any commitment we make balances our national economic interests with the interests of our environment.

And you mentioned the Great Barrier Reef. Well I have been involved in some detailed discussions about the Great Barrier Reef and Australia is committing to world's best practice in the conservation and preservation of the Great Barrier Reef. Last week, we announced that there would be no dumping of capital dredge waste in the marine park. Mining and drilling is not permitted in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. We're working to stop what is the greatest impact on the Great Barrier Reef, and that’s the run-off of nutrients from agricultural land. We’re working with farmers and landowners to ensure world's best practice. So I believe that, under Australia's careful management and guidance, and the commitment of resources to the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef, we will have an outstanding example of preserving and conserving one of the world's environmental icons.

ANDREW BOLT Just before we go, there’s a lot of mockery by some in the media, especially in the ABC, in a skit this week, of Tony Abbott's threat to shirtfront Vladimir Putin. What did you make of that ABC mockery?

MINISTER BISHOP I was very sad to think that the ABC thought it was appropriate to make fun of what is a very serious issue, that the Prime Minister is taking very seriously, and that is holding Russia to account for the shooting down of a Malaysian airline that killed, amongst others, 38 Australian citizens and residents. The families of those killed on that plane are still grieving deeply. I’m in touch with a number of them. Their anguish, their heartbreak, is almost too much to bear, and if any of them had been watching that ABC program, I think they would’ve been devastated. And to think that taxpayers' funds went towards making it? I really think the ABC should have a long, hard think about what is appropriate in these circumstances when you’re talking about the deaths of so many Australians.

ANDREW BOLT Julie Bishop, thank you so much for your time.

MINISTER BISHOP Thank you, Andrew.

ANDREW BOLT Coming up: The panel, Michael Kroger and Cassandra Wilkinson.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555