JOURNALIST: Minister, can you give us an update on the negotiations regarding the Extradition Treaty with China?
JULIE BISHOP: The Extradition Treaty has been in the Senate and I understand that there’s been a motion to disallow it moved by Senator Cory Bernardi and so it will be debated sometime this week in the Senate.
JOURNALIST: What’s the possible cost of that being disallowed?
JULIE BISHOP: We have extradition treaties with about 39 countries around the world and the reason we have extradition treaties is to ensure that Australia doesn’t become a safe haven for criminals and also it provides us with an opportunity to bring back citizens from other countries who have committed crimes in Australia so that they can be trialled in Australia. So it’s very much in our national interests for us to have an extradition treaty with China because we want to ensure that we can continue to have a very close relationship with them on cooperation in counter terrorism, in consular matters, and our relationship more broadly. The fact is all extradition treaties have safeguards in place to ensure that our legal and political system have oversight and I’m confident that the China Extradition Treaty has those safeguards in place.
JOURNALIST: What do you say to some of your colleagues including Tony Abbott who said that China’s legal system has to evolve further before we can be confident that those before it will receive justice under the law?
JULIE BISHOP: I disagree. We have extradition treaties with a range of countries that have very different legal and judicial systems. We have extradition treaties with Venezuela, with the United Arab Emirates, with Vietnam, and their legal systems are no more developed than China’s. This is about our national interests; this is about serving our interests in not being a haven for criminals around the world who would seek to escape justice by being in Australia. But we have safe guards in place for every extradition treaty that ensure that people are not extradited if they face the death penalty in the country seeking to extradite them, we can take into account whether the person fears they would be tortured or subjected to cruel or inhumane treatment, we can take into account humanitarian grounds, we can take into account whether or not they would receive a fair trial. So there are safeguards and the Minister has an absolute discretion, total discretion as to whether he or she would permit an extradition to take place, and if the Minister were to decide an extradition should take place there is still the opportunity to have it reviewed by judicial review in our Federal Courts. So I have faith in our political and legal system to ensure that safeguards mean that these extradition treaties work in Australia’s national interests.
JOURNALIST: Would you say Mr Abbott’s comments are unhelpful then in this debate?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m just focused on ensuring that we work towards a closer and deeper relationship with China, and with other countries. That’s my interest.
JOURNALIST: If it’s such a good idea, why have none of the other Five Eyes nations struck such a deal with China?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia has often been at the forefront in international engagement. We have a free trade agreement with China before many other countries and they are now all seeking to get a free trade agreement with them. We have an International Prisoner Transfer Agreement with China that has worked very much in our benefit. In fact the Extradition Treaty was signed at the same time as the International Prisoner Transfer Agreement and China has kept faith with that International Prisoner Agreement, and we have brought Australian prisoners home from China to serve out their sentences in Australia. So it’s worked very much in the interests of Australian citizens. So we have signed the Agreement, it went through the usual treaty process in the parliament; the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommended the Government ratify the Treaty and so that’s what’s happening.
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