SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins us now from Canberra. Minister, good morning to you. It is a remarkable story, isn't it? How happy were you to wake to this news this morning?

JULIE BISHOP: I have been in contact with our Embassy in Bangkok overnight and I think like everyone around the world, I was so relieved that this extraordinary ordeal is over and that all of the boys and coach Chantawong have been rescued and are now safely out of the cave. It has been 17 days and there have been many times when the Thai authorities and the rescue teams have been physically and emotionally drained, and concerned about the outcome. We are absolutely delighted that our rescue team has been able to assist the Thai authorities and the international rescue teams to bring about this quite remarkable result.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: The focus right now is on the boys' recovery, as you know. I am wondering if you have received any information from your counterparts there on their conditions this morning?

JULIE BISHOP: We are keeping a very close eye on this, as you know. Dr Richard Harris, from Adelaide, has been involved in the health assessments of the boys, but they are now in hospital, and I am not sure if Dr Harris has had any further involvement, but we are hoping for a full recovery for all the boys and the coach, also all the rescue teams who have been through this extraordinary ordeal.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: You mentioned Dr Richard Harris there, he has emerged certainly as a hero from this operation, as well as the other more than a dozen Australians involved in the dive operation. You must be extremely proud of their involvement - I wonder if you have made contact with them yet and, if not, when you think you might be able to?

JULIE BISHOP: Dr Harris is well known to us, he has worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the past. In fact, he was in Vanuatu in about 2013 as part of the Australian Aid Medical Assistance Team overseas. So he is well known to us. He is also an expert in this kind of cave rescue, so I hope to have an opportunity to speak to him at some point. His dive partner, Craig Challen, is a Vet from Perth and I am hoping to contact Craig at some point as well. We had 20 personnel all up - six Australian Federal Police divers, a Navy clearance diver, support from the Defence Department, from the Defence Force, from the AFP and from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. So it has been a collective effort from Australia as part of a much broader international effort that's been brilliantly coordinated by the Thai authorities. In fact, I am hoping to speak to Thai Foreign Minister Don later this morning to thank him for the leadership that Thailand has shown in this regard.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: I understand you will be hosting a reception for the Aussies involved when they return home. Are there any plans in place yet?

JULIE BISHOP: We have certainly spoken about it. I know the Prime Minister is very keen to personally thank the rescue team. This is what Australians do so well - under our aid program, we have tragically many opportunities to support neighbours in times of crisis, and so this is just another example of Australia being a good friend, a good neighbour, and helping out when it is needed.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: It has been a wonderful example of the world coming together as one, hasn't it?

JULIE BISHOP: It has indeed.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: A great story to watch unfold and thankfully a very good outcome indeed. In other news this morning, Minister, the ACCC is releasing its recommendations this morning on how to overhaul the energy market back home and bring down prices which is much needed for customers across the country. Will the Government adopt these recommendations?

JULIE BISHOP: We are certainly committed to affordable and reliable energy, and under a number of our initiatives energy prices are already coming down. Scott Morrison commissioned the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to produce a report on how we can bring prices down further. The Prime Minister has now received the final report from the ACCC and he will be responding during the course of the day on that matter, but we are committed to affordable and reliable energy.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Meantime, overseas, Donald Trump has touched down in Brussels for the NATO Summit. He fired some pretty, well, nasty shots, perhaps you might say, before he took off. He predicts it will be easier to negotiate with Vladimir Putin than his traditional allies. How worried are you, Julie Bishop, about the breakdown of the Northern Alliance?

JULIE BISHOP: We are deeply committed to NATO. Australia is, in fact, an Enhanced Partner of NATO. It has brought peace and stability to the European continent for many years. President Trump is requiring the NATO partners to do more in their own defence and they are responding. He's looking at an increase in their defence spending so that the United States doesn't have to bear as much of the burden. It is a message that he has given to NATO in the past and they have responded. In relation to Russia, it is coming up to the fourth anniversary of the downing of MH17 so Australia is calling on Russia to accept State responsibility for its role in the bringing down of a plane that killed 298 passengers and crew. We also believe that Russia should be called to account over the presence of a nerve agent Novichok in London which has now seen the tragic death of a British citizen. So we believe that Russia has many questions to answer, and I hope President Trump takes the opportunity to raise these issues with President Putin.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Is Donald Trump undermining our relationship with the US by showing so much support for Russia?

JULIE BISHOP: The relationship between Australia and the United States is strong and enduring. We have differences of opinion with a number of countries from time to time. In the case of Russia, we believe Russia should be held to account for its bad behaviour.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Alright, Julie Bishop there, we appreciate your time, Foreign Minister. Once again, very happy to share that great news out of Thailand with you this morning. Thank you very much.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555