KIERAN GILBERT Minister thanks very much for your time. I know you’ve spoken to the UN Ambassador for Russia Vitaly Churkin. He said they are going to veto any proposal along these lines. Is he, or Russia, showing any sign of wavering?
JULIE BISHOP Good morning Kieran.
I have been meeting with representatives of all of the nations on the UN Security Council to sure up support for this resolution to establish an independent criminal tribunal to investigate who was responsible for bringing down Malaysian Airlines MH17.
I did meet with Ambassador Churkin today. We had a very frank discussion for about an hour. I put to him all the arguments why we owed it to the families of those aboard MH17 to find out who was responsible for this atrocity. He countered with arguments and I countered back so at the end of the day I asked him to seek instructions from Moscow to not use the veto because I do not believe that a veto should be used to deny justice to the families who are still grieving over the loss of their loved ones and in circumstances where a criminal investigation has been underway for about 12 months. And its findings should be presented to an independent tribunal and I think one backed by the Security Council would be independent and impartial and have the requisite degree of integrity that would be needed, not only to provide justice for the families, but also to send a very clear message that actions such as downing a commercial plane in commercial airspace will not be tolerated by the international community.
KIERAN GILBERT He says it would, a resolution along these lines, a tribunal of this sort, would create another hotspot of confrontation and have far reaching impacts on international relations. What do you think he is talking about there?
JULIE BISHOP Well quite the contrary. Russia did support Resolution 2166 last year which called for, essentially three things – a ceasefire of the conflict between the separatists in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Government so that we could get access to the site to retrieve the bodies and the remains, and that has been done. It also called for independent investigations, and they have been carried out and Australia is part of the joint investigation team that is looking into who is responsible for this incident; and the third thing that was envisaged was a demand that those responsible, the perpetrators, be held to account and that all states cooperate in determining accountability. So, this is the third step in what was a unanimous resolution. So I find it difficult to understand how Russia can now claim that a tribunal set up along the lines envisaged by Resolution 2166 is now going to be the cause of greater conflict. I think in fact that Resolution 2166 envisaged such a tribunal and indeed this would be the action needed to reflect the sentiment in that resolution that required those responsible to be held to account. I can’t think of a more impartial, or independent tribunal than one set up by the Security Council which would have the backing of the international community.
KIERAN GILBERT The New Zealand Prime Minister, and New Zealand is the current President of the Security Council, he’s made some comments, he says he wants a measure that will go all the way. I guess, his comments, seen in light of this likely veto from Russia. Are there any other options other than this tribunal to seek justice, or to achieve justice in this case?
JULIE BISHOP Yes there are other options available but I believe, and the other four nations that make up the joint investigation team – that’s the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, Ukraine – together with Australia, we believe that a tribunal with the backing of the UN Security Council is most likely to be able to deliver justice and we don’t want it politicised. We want the prosecuting authority, the tribunal set up now, before the investigations are completed so that it can’t be said we are just fashioning a tribunal in response to the findings. We believe that now is the appropriate time.
We will be bitterly disappointed if Russia were to use the veto. I don’t believe that justice should be denied to the families by the use of a veto and we are continuing to meet with representatives of all of the countries on the Security Council. We’ve got a significant amount of support. In fact a number of countries are offering to co-sponsor the resolution and there are only five countries that can defeat this resolution by veto and Russia is the only one that has indicated that it would use it.
I’ve asked Russia to reconsider its position and I’ll remain optimistic but of course Russia may well do this. It would be a setback for us but there are other ways of setting up other tribunals but we believe one with the backing of the Security Council would send the strongest possible message that this kind of atrocity will not be tolerated.
KIERAN GILBERT Well let’s hope you succeed in that. I want to ask you about a couple of other issues now and NATO has backed Turkey in its strikes against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. I guess, is the concern here, that Turkey will also hit the Kurds and therefore one of the most effective forces thus far against IS?
JULIE BISHOP We welcome Turkey’s commitment to fighting Da’esh or ISIL or whatever it is called, Islamic State. We welcome their commitment to join the fight with the Coalition working closely with the United States. That border area between Turkey and Syria, had a high level of conflict there. It was also where many refugees are fleeing Syria into Turkey. I believe Turkey now has about 1.8 million people from Syria claiming refugee status in Turkey, so Turkey is carrying a very heavy burden. Turkey has also been a pathway into Syria from a number of foreign terrorist fighters. So with Turkey committed to this fight hopefully it will cut off the supply lines to Da’esh.
There is concern that Turkey may use this for other purposes, and you mentioned the Kurds. Of course, the regional conflict and the complexities are quite profound but I do point out that PKK is a listed terrorist organisation in Australia, as it is in Turkey. But the focus that we have is on defeating Da’esh and we welcome Turkey to the Coalition. We welcome the commitment they have made to working with us to defeat this barbaric terrorist organisation.
KIERAN GILBERT David Cameron has said that the British Government is considering extending their operation to air strikes in Syria, possibly even Libya. Should Australia now be looking beyond its role which is confined to Iraq?
JULIE BISHOP We are obviously discussing the strategy with our Coalition partners on how to defeat Da’esh. We have been requested by the Iraqi Government to assist them in Iraq and that is what we are doing. We are there with the consent of the Iraqi Government. We have not been requested by the Coalition partners, we’ve not been requested by Syria, we have not been requested by any other country, to extend our commitment to fighting Da’esh beyond Iraq.
KIERAN GILBERT Finally on the issue of female representation within the Liberal Party some of your, well one former Howard Government Minister, a colleague of yours in that Government, still in this Government on the backbench, Theresa Gambaro is calling for an initial target of 30 per cent for the Liberal Party for female representation within the Parliamentary Party. She says it is time for political parties to get out of the dark ages. Do you agree with the idea of setting a target, if not a quota?
JULIE BISHOP Well I certainly believe our democracy would be stronger if we had a more diverse range of representation amongst our Parliamentarians at a State level, at a Federal level and the Liberal Party is very mindful of that fact and we actively seek to recruit women for safe Liberal seats, or strong Liberal seats and a number of women have successfully been preselected and have won and retained strong Liberal seats. Likewise we have done that in marginal seats and there are some notable examples of Liberal women winning marginal seats and holding on to them.
I think we should all be mindful of the need to have greater diversity amongst public office holders and those elected to public office and I hear my colleagues suggest 30 per cent. Well if it is to be representative we will be aiming for 50 per cent. But I believe people should be elected on merit. I don’t believe quotas are adhered to. I have noted that in the past the Labor Party have said that it embraces affirmative action. It does until such time as a former union boss, a male, says that they want a particular seat so the woman who is meant to be preselected is shoved aside. So quotas are no protection against the will of a former male union boss. I think we should be all mindful of seeking to attract the very best people we can to public office and I certainly, in my role as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, seek to encourage more women. I seek to mentor women who are in the Parliament and I think we can all take on that responsibility of encouraging and mentoring the very best talent that is available to stand for public office.
KIERAN GILBERT My final question, and it is on this issue, I want to ask you about the comments Peta Credlin made recently at the Menzies Institute. She said, “our women are not in safe seats, so when we lost Government we lose our pipeline. Right now we have a lot of women who could be in the Ministry but they were just elected in 2013”. Do you agree with her that you need more women in safe seats to have that presence where you do get them onto the Treasury benches?
JULIE BISHOP Well there are a number of Liberal women in what would be considered strong Liberal seats. I am an example, Karen Andrews, Nola Marino, Kelly O’Dwyer. I don’t think the issue is about being preselected for what are considered strong seats - that is happening. I think the broader issue is that we need to attract a more diverse range of people to public office, to the Parliament and that includes more women but it also includes people with different life experiences, different ethnic backgrounds, more representative of Australian society as a whole. So I think we need to do more to mentor and encourage people. I think there are some spectacular examples of Liberal women winning strong Liberal seats and maintaining those seats, as well as marginal seats, so I don’t think that is the issue.
I think the issue is to ensure that we can attract women and people from diverse backgrounds to the notion of public office in the first place and there can be many reasons why people don’t want to take up the role of a politician or the role of an elected representative but we should remove whatever barriers and hurdles there are in their way as best as we can.
KIERAN GILBERT Foreign Minister Julie Bishop thanks for your time from New York this morning and we hope you are successful in securing that Security Council backed criminal tribunal.
JULIE BISHOP We certainly owe it to the families aboard MH17.
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