ALAN JONES Well the Foreign Minister, goodness me, she needs a sleep I think, every other day there’s something lands in her lap.
Julie Bishop, good morning.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning Alan.
ALAN JONES Goodness me, how many miles have you travelled?
JULIE BISHOP I have been away for quite some time. I arrived back at 5am this morning and I have been doing interviews ever since – on the earthquake in Nepal, on the pending executions of Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan and numerous other issues, so life is very busy at present.
ALAN JONES Very challenging. So can you tell us, what is the latest on Nepal?
JULIE BISHOP First Alan I want to offer our deepest condolences to all those affected by the earthquake in Nepal including the families of those who have died in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The latest advice from the Nepalese Government has put the death toll at over 1900, and that figure is likely to rise. To date we have been able to confirm the welfare of 830 Australians in the country. 550 had been registered on our Smartraveller website, but we have been able to confirm the welfare of 830. In other words they are safe. Our embassies are also providing consular assistance to a number of Australians, and we are seeking to confirm the welfare of all Australians in the affected area.
We have deployed a Crisis Response Team to Nepal which willassist in establishing the welfare of Australians unaccounted for and also assist in humanitarian assessments to support the Nepalese Government and the international efforts in response to the earthquake. We have activated our 24-7 emergency call unit which has taken over 1250 calls from the family and friends of missing Australians. Although I do urge people if they have friends or family in Nepal to try to contact them directly and if they are unable to do so and still hold concerns for their safety then to contact our 24-hour centre on (02)6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 at the cost of a local call.
ALAN JONES Can you confirm – or is it only a rough guestimate – how many Australians are unaccounted for, and how many deaths can you confirm?
JULIE BISHOP I am aware of one media report that an Australian has died on Mount Everest, and our Embassy in Kathmandu is urgently seeking to confirm that report. Otherwise we are aware of the 830 that we have contacted, but otherwise we are still just trying to find out how many Australians are actually there. We only know officially of 549 who had registered on our website. Of course that is a voluntary registration process, so unless people tell us they’re there, we have to work through lists, work with the Nepalese Government and others. Obviously the Embassy in Kathmandu - our Embassy - remains in close and ongoing contact with the Nepalese authorities, local partners and NGOs to see if we can find people and make assessments of humanitarian needs on the ground, and whether any Australians need further assistance.
ALAN JONES The epicentre of this earthquake on ANZAC Day was between Pokara and Kathmandu, and includes three of the world’s tallest mountains. So it’s trekking season and there are people everywhere aren’t there?
JULIE BISHOP That is right, and the earthquake has triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest near base camp, and the Himalayan Rescue Association are working hard to contact anyone who was there. But the worst hit areas are Kathmandu, Gorka and Lamjung. This is all North East of Kathmandu. We understand that Kathmandu has sustained damage to many buildings and the latest reports suggest that there were around 700 deaths in that city alone. The international airport is still open but communication networks in the affected area including Kathmandu have been disrupted following the earthquake. So it is a devastating scene.
ALAN JONES Congratulations you’ve done a phenomenal job, as has the Prime Minister on this barbaric business about Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. The former lawyer of Chan and Sukumaran has said that Indonesian officials asked for more than $130,000 in order to give the pair a reduced prison term. He says that a deal fell through when they were ordered by a senior legal and government member in Jakarta to impose the death penalty.
JULIE BISHOP Yes I’m aware of these reports and there is a separate investigation underway by the Indonesian Judicial Commission into claims of corruption in the original trial. There is also an action before the Constitutional Court in Indonesia and both of these processes raise questions about the integrity of the sentencing and the clemency process.
I did speak to Foreign Minister Marsudi again last night while I was in transit in Dubai. I made contact with her and I raised all of our concerns again, asked her to pass them on to the President and on to the Attorney-General, including our request that these legal processes be allowed to continue and be determined before any further action is taken. And I will continue to do everything possible to advocate for a stay of execution and a reconsideration of the clemency bid. I also point out that the United Nations Secretary-General has put out a public statement appealing to Indonesia to refrain from carrying out the execution. So there are many in the international community, including in Indonesia, who share our deep opposition to the death penalty.
ALAN JONES Absolutely, that’s the guts of it. Thank you for all you do, go and get a sleep and thank you for being in touch with us.
JULIE BISHOP Good to talk to you thanks Alan.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555