MARK BRAYBROOK Minister, what was your reaction when you heard this news [that Peter Greste has been ordered a retrial].
JULIE BISHOP I was frustrated, as the Greste family were, initially that he wasn’t acquitted. But his appeal has been upheld, his conviction has been overturned, and a retrial ordered. So now Peter Greste is back as an accused person facing retrial, not a convicted person facing seven years jail. This opens up more options and avenues to pursue, because Egyptian law has changed since Peter Greste was first detained. So there is now an opportunity to consider deportation, and I know his lawyers are looking at that very closely now.
MARK BRAYBROOK With the laws being changed and obviously being new laws, are you able give us any indication whether that is a reasonable expectation?
JULIE BISHOP It gives his lawyers an avenue to pursue and I know that they are doing that. Our Ambassador Ralph King has been with the Greste family. I spoke to him a couple of times last night. He was present in the court room for the appeal and I understand from Ralph King that Peter Greste’s legal team are working on these options, including under these new laws that were passed not such a long time ago.
MARK BRAYBROOK How difficult is it for you and for your ministry, the foreign office, to try and deal with another country when it comes to issues like their laws, and trying to get some sort of justice for an Australian citizen? Is it extremely touchy and difficult area you’re working in there?
JULIE BISHOP Well it does underscore the complexities that arise when Australians are subject to legal systems overseas. There are very rarely quick fixes and you have to work with the legal system. We have been making representations at every level - at the political level, legal, administrative, bureaucratic and diplomatic. Egyptian Government representatives have made many statements publicly and privately about the Greste case. We still hope that it can be dealt with quickly and we can bring Peter Greste home as soon as possible.
But I do point out that at any one time, there are a considerable number of Australians who are in detention, or in trouble overseas. Our consular staff do whatever they can to support Australians in trouble, but again, you are subject to the system of the country in which you find yourself in trouble. That can be difficult.
MARK BRAYBOOK When you're dealing in this situation, I would imagine you would have to be extremely careful with the way you present your case and the words you use? Different countries have different ways of reacting to different things, no doubt?
JULIE BISHOP Of course. We have to ensure that any public comment we make is not counter-productive. We have to ensure that everything we do is acting in the interests of the Australian citizen. But there are limits as to what the Australian Government can do, particularly when somebody is caught up in the legal system of another country. If you put the shoe on the other foot, if there were an overseas national, subject to the laws of Australia, we would expect people to respect the independence of our judicial system and allow legal proceedings to take their course. That's what the Egyptian Government has been asking us to do. But I do feel that there are now opportunities available more options to Peter Greste that were not available to him when he was first detained
MARK BRAYBROOK So while you said you were frustrated like the family, having thought about it more and looking more into it and speaking to his lawyer, are you a little bit more encouraged and able to see the light at the end of the tunnel?
JULIE BISHOP I've been speaking with the Ambassador, who has been present for the appeal, who has attended every one of the hearings Peter Greste has been subjected to. So he has a very close understanding of the procedures and the nuances and the implications. After talking to him several times overnight, I feel that there are avenues now available to the Greste family and the legal team and have every confidence that they will pursue them.
MARK BRAYBROOK Minister, thank you for your time on that. But I wanted to ask you another question as well, because you're quoted in Fairfax media as ’60 being the new 40’. You’re in your 50s, like I am. I was very pleased to hear you say that you believe 60 is the new 40, because it was only a few years ago that 50 was the new 40. So we are becoming a bit younger in that respect.
JULIE BISHOP Well it's an important form of productivity measure. Quite frankly, we need as many age cohorts as possible to participate in the formal labour market. From young people to people over 60, who have generally much to offer. They can be very productive workers. And with experience, comes wisdom, and we should encourage employers to value older workers and the contribution they can make. Our economy needs it. Our society should demand it.
MARK BRAYBROOK Do you have any opinion as to why we don’t?
JULIE BISHOP I think it's just stereotypes. People think that the age of retirement is around 65, so therefore people should be retiring. But that pension age was set back in the early 1900s, at a time when our life expectancy was so much lower. Now our life expectancy in this country, through medical intervention, through good food and healthy living and opportunities to live longer means that people have so much to contribute for longer in their lives. I think it’s about changing outdated attitudes.
I was Minister for Ageing in the Howard Government and I came across a lot of discrimination against older workers. I had to battle it then, arguing that older workers often have a great contribution to make. Not only for their wellbeing and peace of mind, but for the economy. Just look at the bottom line. We need more taxpayers. We need more people contributing to ensure we can maintain the standard of living that we enjoy in this country. So I think it’s an obvious area in this country for us to pursue and I hope the employers that do have these views change them and do value their older workers.
MARK BRAYBROOK Thank you very much for your time this morning, first on the Greste retrial and then also having a chat just briefly on 60 being the new 40. I think it’s terrific someone in your position talks about it because the stats are quite alarming to consider how difficult it is for people over the age of 55 to find a new job. Minister, some of them even give up, don’t they?
JULIE BISHOP They do. And that’s why the Abbott Government did introduce a measure to support people having the opportunity to take up employment - the Restart incentive. A 10,000 dollar incentive to take on mature age workers. I’m hoping people are enthused by the prospect getting a new job or continuing in a current job beyond the age of 60. I think our initiative actually apples to people over the 50 who’ve been receiving income support of some description. So there are opportunities and the Government encourages it, but we need the private sector to embrace the idea of valuing and treasuring people older workers and giving them the opportunity to contribute.
MARK BRAYBROOK You’ve been very busy over this Christmas break. Do you get an opportunity to have a break when the Prime Minister comes back a bit later in January, or will you work straight through again?
JULIE BISHOP Well, it’s been quieter. I’m still working, but at a lesser pace. The events of the world don’t stop over Christmas and New Year, I can assure you. There’s plenty of work for an Australian Foreign Minister to do.
MARK BRAYBROOK As the farmers say, the cows don’t know it’s Christmas either. Thanks you so much for your time this morning.
JULIE BISHOP My pleasure Mark.
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