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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 24 June 2014: CEDA's State of the Nation conference; Peter Greste; Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area

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24 June 2014


Subjects: CEDA’s State of the Nation conference; Peter Greste; Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.



Look, it’s been very good to address the CEDA conference this morning and to talk about the Government’s plans to boost participation for younger people, for women and for older people. And in particular to talk about what the Government is doing to kick start the Work for the Dole programme which is a very, very important part of the strategies of this Government to try to ensure that everyone is doing the right thing by our community.


Mr Abbott, what sort of representation will the Government be making regarding Peter Greste?


You heard Julie Bishop speak very passionately about this last night. We're obviously shocked, dismayed, really bewildered by the decision of the court in Egypt. Of course we respect the legitimacy of the Egyptian government; of course we appreciate the rights of the Egyptian justice system to make its decisions. Yes, we understand the need of the Egyptian government to maintain internal order and to crackdown on extremism including the Muslim Brotherhood, but it is important that there be due process, it is important that decisions be made on a fair and just basis. So we will be talking to the Greste family. We will be talking to the Egyptian government about what we can do to try to ensure that Peter Greste comes home as quickly as possible.


Prime Minister, you haven't made any representations so far since the decision?



Well the decision only came down yesterday evening. I spoke to Acting President Mansour a few weeks ago. I spoke to President al-Sisi over the weekend. I have to say that I did have a very constructive discussion with President al-Sisi. My understanding is that the Egyptian court system does work at arm's length from the government, but I do understand that once the court system has done its work then there are options for presidential acts, presidential clemency, presidential pardons and so on and that's why I'm not in the business of being critical of the government as such. What I want to do is ensure that we get the best possible outcome, not only because that's right for Peter Greste, but because in the long run that's best for Egypt as well.


So far these conversations haven't worked. What other options are on the table for Australia to ensure that this best possible outcome you speak of is obtained?


What we don't want to do is engage in unhelpful megaphone diplomacy because that won't do Peter Greste any good, it won't do his two al-Jazeera colleagues any good. What we want to do is to talk calmly and patiently and reasonably to the Egyptian government. We want what's best for the long-term interests of Egypt, as well as what's best for Peter Greste and his colleagues, and in the long run it is best for Egypt if it is a full and acknowledged member of the international community and that's what I want to see.

As I said, I respect the legitimacy of the newly elected government in Egypt. We want Egypt to be a full member of the family of nations. We appreciate that the new government wants to quickly as possible normalise things in Egypt while maintaining internal security against jihadist elements. Of course we want to work with the Egyptian government to achieve that and that's why the continuing imprisonment of Peter Greste and his colleagues is no good thing.


Are you going to be abiding by the World Heritage decision on Tasmanian forests made overnight?


Look, we're disappointed with the decision but the application that we made to remove from the boundaries of the World Heritage listing areas of degraded forest, areas of plantation timber, we thought was self-evidently sensible. We’ll be carefully looking at the decision and deciding what's best now.

Thank you.