MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, says there is a very high possibility that the plane debris that washed up on Reunion Island is from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Yesterday, the Malaysian Prime Minister confirmed the piece of wing was from the missing plane, but the French investigating team haven’t drawn the same definitive conclusion. Julie Bishop is in Malaysia and I spoke to her a short time ago.
Julie Bishop, there has been some criticism that the Malaysians have come out too quickly with the confirmation that this plane part was part of MH370. Has Australia had it confirmed?
JULIE BISHOP: We have been discussing this matter with the Malaysians, indeed, I’m here in Kuala Lumpur and have had meetings with the relevant Malaysian ministers and they are convinced that the part of the wing found on Reunion Island is part of Malaysia Airlines MH370. Indeed you can make that very strong presumption in any event because it has been confirmed it’s part of a Boeing 777 and there is only one Boeing 777 unaccounted for in the world today and that’s Malaysia Airlines 370. So the Malaysians have confirmed that the wing, in their opinion, is from 370, but the French-led investigation team is being more cautious. They have more tests to carry out, more analysis to be done. We have now a representative in France as part of the investigation team, so we’ll be able to have direct communication with our representative in relation to this matter. We’ve put it that it’s a very “high possibility” this is part of MH370. I think you can deduce pretty confidently that it is, but I understand that there is more debris that is yet to be analysed by the French authorities. And the French are involved because, of course, Reunion Island, where the debris washed up, is French territory.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Indeed there are reports now that some aircraft seat cushions and some window panes have also been found. Is that correct?
JULIE BISHOP: That’s what the Malaysian Government claim, but again, the French authorities are being very cautious in relation to this. They have particular tests and analysis that they want to undertake and so I doubt that we’ll hear anything on that for the next couple of hours. But here in Malaysia, it is a very sensitive issue. The public are demanding information – as much information as they can get – and we can understand that because the families of those on board have been waiting for over 16 months for some answers – some clues – as to what happened to MH370. It is one of the great aviation mysteries of our time.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And the last day or so has been pretty difficult for those families, hasn’t it?
JULIE BISHOP: Of course it has. Their anguish has only deepened as the news comes that part of the plane has been found and, of course, our hearts and thoughts are with them at this time and we only hope that the finding of this piece of wing and perhaps other debris can confirm that we are searching in the right location. The search will go on; Australia will continue to lead that search effort along with Malaysia and China. Up to 26 countries have been involved in this international effort to locate 370 over some period of time, but Australia will continue to lead while we focus on this part of the Southern Indian Ocean.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay. Now you’re there in Malaysia for the ASEAN meeting – a pretty important regional meeting, it has to be said. How’s the relationship with Indonesia, because that’s certainly been problematic, to say the least, in the last few months or so?
JULIE BISHOP: As I have said, throughout the challenges and difficulties that we face from time to time, I maintained very close contact with the Indonesian Foreign Minister, and Retno Marsudi and I have met for the first time, officially, since the Indonesian Government carried out the death penalty on two Australian citizens. We get along very well. We understand that it’s important for us to have a close and strong relationship given that the national interests of both our countries depend upon this. So we will continue to work closely together. We will have difficulties and challenges from time to time with Indonesia – that is inevitable – but it’s how we deal with them and how we recover from periods of difficulty that counts.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Ok. Just quickly on the issue of entitlements, no one’s questioning the Foreign Minister’s travel entitlements of course, but do you think generally that entitlements are out of balance with community expectations?
JULIE BISHOP: I try to exercise appropriate judgement and ask myself is this a necessary expense for carrying out my job and I take many opportunities to meet people, attend functions across Australia. Of course it’s part of my job to travel overseas, but there must be a level of support for politicians, but it invariably comes down to common sense and judgement. So, that’s what I try to exercise.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Ok. Julie Bishop, we’ll leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you
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