PATRICIA KARVELAS: The nuclear deal with Iran is being hailed and criticised across the globe today as leaders respond to the detail. Iran has agreed to curtail its ability to build nuclear weapons and will allow inspections of nuclear and military sites.
In return, long running international sanctions against Iran will be lifted. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has cautiously welcomed the deal and she joins us now on RN Drive.
Welcome to the program.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you, good to be with you.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: As Barack Obama says - this is not a deal based on trust but on verification. What kind of inspections will take place and what will be inspected?
JULIE BISHOP: We acknowledge the work of the P5 + 1 countries in reaching an agreement which represents progress towards addressing international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. We understand that the success of the deal will depend on Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement. Key elements of Iran’s nuclear program will be frozen and controlled, if you like, for 10 to 15 years and that’s why President Obama has made the comments that the deal will cut off pathways to a nuclear weapon and that without the deal there would be no agreed upon limitation for the Iranian nuclear program.
I should also point out that the agreement states that the sanctions, this is the United States and EU nuclear-related sanctions, will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear related steps but the sanctions would, to use their phrase “snap back” into place if Iran failed to fulfil its commitments.
So Iranian implementation of the key steps and the verification may take some months but essentially there’s a whole list, there’s a comprehensive plan of issues - relating to enrichment, inspections and transparency, reactors, reprocessing - so it is very detailed and we are working through it line-by-line now to ascertain what Iran needs to do and what would satisfy us because we also have autonomous sanctions in place against Iran.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: And what is your call on our autonomous sanctions? Are we reviewing that position now?
JULIE BISHOP: In the context of these developments Australia will now review its autonomous sanctions but until all these processes are complete, including Iranian implementation of agreed measures, and there is also a UN Security Council resolution that is going to address the UN sanctions, then Australian autonomous sanctions against Iran will remain in place.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: You’ve told the Jewish online publication J-Wire, “that in any meetings with the senior leadership of Iran you will continue to formally condemn the threats towards Israel”.
JULIE BISHOP: That’s right.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Given that, if we were to lift sanctions, how does that, how is that consistent with that statement?
JULIE BISHOP: It is utterly consistent. Any claims against Israel that would lead to the destruction of Israel, of course we would condemn in the strongest possible terms. What we are talking about here is a completely separate issue. I was responding to a specific question about Australia, Israel and Iran to the Jewish News. What I’m talking about now is what we would need to be assured of, in order to lift sanctions, and I’ve pointed out that we will review our autonomous sanctions and until all the processes are complete and as I said, for Iran to fulfil those commitments of the key steps and for the verification to come from the International Atomic Energy Agency may take quite some time. So we will keep our sanctions in place until we are assured that Iran has kept its side of the bargain.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Julie Bishop you no doubt have noticed that Israel is not happy. It says the deal is a stunning mistake. How are you managing those differences, the fact that Israel is so angry about this deal?
JULIE BISHOP: There is no other credible option to address the international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and I think surely it is better to have in place an agreement, subject to verifiable assurances for the international community, that Iran’s nuclear activities will be exclusively peaceful because this brings Iran into the international inspections regime. So to have Iran’s nuclear program frozen or controlled for at least 10, hopefully 15 years, and as our Prime Minister said hopefully forever, is better than the situation we have at present. And I think that some Israeli commentators have noted that - that of course it would be better to have control and inspections in place than no deal at all because then there would be no agreed upon limitation for an Iranian nuclear program.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: How can we verify that Iran is not at this moment planning for secret facilities not known to the West?
JULIE BISHOP: Well that’s precisely what the International Atomic Energy Agency is about, that’s what it does in relation to countries across the globe.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But it has done it before.
JULIE BISHOP: Iran is not the only country that has had international concerns about its nuclear program, Iran is not the only country, so the IAEA has now been given this backing by the P5 + 1. We cautiously welcome the progress made toward addressing international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. We acknowledge the work that has been done and we note President Obama’s comments that the IAEA international inspectors will monitor Iran’s nuclear program at every stage. So we are cautiously welcoming it but of course it will depend on Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement and it is important that Iran fully implements all of its undertakings.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Regional critics say the pact rewards Tehran for interventions in conflicts that have escalated tensions in the Middle East from Syria to Iraq to Yemen, this is a regime that has been trying to reach out further in waging wars and to take over from the stronghold Saudi Arabia has in the region. Do you think they are being rewarded for these kinds of interventions?
JULIE BISHOP: There are some terrible regimes in the world and we should do all we can to ensure that nations work constructively to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, to prevent escalating conflicts, so efforts by Secretary Kerry and other representatives of the P5 + 1 should be acknowledged. What they are trying to do is address international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, whether they are successful will depend upon Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement. That’s why our autonomous sanctions against Iran will remain in place until we are satisfied that processes have been completed and that includes Iranian implementation of the agreed measures.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: We are about to speak to Labor MP Michael Danby who is in Israel but he says the idea of allowing Iran to open up consulates in Melbourne and Sydney has poor precedents, that it could exacerbate inter-Islamic community tensions. What do you think?
JULIE BISHOP: Well Australia has had an Embassy in Iran for decades. We have an Ambassador, we have diplomats in Tehran. So Australia has a diplomatic presence, a significant diplomatic presence in Iran. We’ve had a longstanding relationship with Iran, under Labor and Coalition Governments.
Our two countries are in an ongoing dialogue at present as a result of the weakening of our border protection laws and the influx under Labor of thousands and thousands of Iranians. Indeed there are 8000 Iranians in detention in Australia as a result of the proliferation of the people smuggling trade under Labor. Perhaps Michael Danby could answer a few questions about why they weakened the border protection laws so that we’ve now got 8000 Iranians in Australia and 300 in Nauru and 300 on Manus Island. I mean these are the sorts of questions Labor should answer.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: What do you make of them opening up consulates in Melbourne and Sydney?
JULIE BISHOP: They have to be subject to agreement by the Australian Government, and as I pointed out, we have a significant Embassy with Ambassadors and diplomats and representatives of Australia in Tehran.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: There is also big news from Japan today. A parliamentary committee today voted for a policy that opens the way for Japan to fight overseas, for an army to fight overseas for the first time - bills that are expected to be passed by Parliament this week. Do you welcome the news?
JULIE BISHOP: Japan is a vital strategic partner for Australia and we certainly support Prime Minister Abe’s ongoing efforts to strengthen Japan’s capacity to contribute to shared regional and global peace and security initiatives.
We’ve worked very closely with Japan on regional and international security matters for some time now, including the peace operations in East Timor and Iraq, recently our humanitarian relief operations in the Philippines and Vanuatu with the Japanese Defence Force, and in other forums on disarmament and counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism.
So I think that security and defence cooperation with Japan is an important pillar of our bilateral relationship and most certainly I welcome Japan being a more proactive global partner with other countries in efforts to promote regional and global peace and security.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Have you had any response from members of the UN Security Council in relation to Australia’s request for an International Criminal Tribunal to investigate the downing of MH17?
JULIE BISHOP: The request has been made by the five countries that make up the joint investigation team into the downing of MH17, that’s The Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, Ukraine and Australia. We’ve asked the UN Security Council to support what is the next step, and that is the establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal. We are working through all of the permanent and temporary members of the Security Council now.
It’s almost 12 months to the day since MH17 was downed and we think it’s the right time to establish a tribunal – the framework for a prosecution and we have had some very good feedback and positive support but we are working through every single one because obviously we want it to be unanimous.
I’m hoping that we can put a resolution to the UN Security Council this week or the next week but I know the Security Council has a number of issues, including the P5 + 1 agreement with Iran, in its schedule for July. But I know it takes a long time to establish an International Criminal Tribunal with UN Security Council backing so we are trying to get on to that as soon as possible.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But are you confident given the power of Russia?
JULIE BISHOP: We are working country by country to get their support. Russia supported the resolution on the 21st of July last year. It was a unanimous resolution and that called for not only access to the site and a ceasefire and an investigation, but it also called for those responsible to be held to account. So this is the next stage and I hope that Russia will support it.
There is some concern that we should wait until the final report is delivered. My counter to that is that it can take 12 months to two years to set up an International Tribunal. We don’t want to waste any time trying to bring those responsible to justice and we think it would be good to put the framework in place so that when the final report is delivered later this year it can be sent straight to the tribunal for consideration.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: And can I bring you to domestic matters, I don’t mean to bore you, but it has been running very strongly this story and I’m confused about why. Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop in just two weeks racked up more than $88,000 on a taxpayer-funded trip to Europe and another one, she also spent $5500 on a charter plane from Melbourne to Geelong, and I’m sure you’ve done that trip, it’s a 50 minute car trip. Do you think it is justifiable?
JULIE BISHOP: Every Member of Parliament has a travel entitlement and there are specific rules and guidelines as to that entitlement and all Members of Parliament are obliged to abide by those rules. We are all accountable to the public so if there are any specific questions about a Member’s travel then that Member should answer them.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But sure, she is a Speaker of the House, she is a Liberal MP. It’s not a good look, is it?
JULIE BISHOP: I only know what I’ve read in the newspaper so I haven’t heard the Speaker’s side of the matter.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Let me put it another way, would you ever take a charter plane from Melbourne to Geelong when you could just get on the road for 50 minutes like the rest of us?
JULIE BISHOP: Well that is hypothetical, I don’t know the circumstances, I don’t know the context. What I do know is that every Member of Parliament has a travel entitlement, there are specific rules and guidelines that cover it and we are all obliged to abide by them and that’s what we all seek to do.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, thanks for joining us.
JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Patricia.
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