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Transcript of interview with Michael Brissenden: ABC AM: New York: 29 July 2015

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ABC AM, New York - interview with Michael Brissenden

Transcript, E&OE

29 July 2015


The United Nations will decide later this week whether it should set up an independent

criminal tribunal to prosecute the people who shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The plane came down last

July over rebel-held East Ukraine during heavy fighting between the Ukrainian government forces and pro-

Russian separatists. All 298 passengers and crew, including 39 from Australia, on board the flight from Amsterdam

to Kuala Lumpur were killed. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in New York to lobby nations to support the motion

and I spoke to her a short time ago.

Julie Bishop, you’ve had a series of meetings today. Are you now hopeful that this motion to establish an

international criminal tribunal will get up?


Michael, I am in New York to meet with representatives of the Security Council nations to shore

up support for a Security Council resolution to establish a tribunal so that the perpetrators of the downing of MH17

can be held to account. I have to say at the end of my day, I’m optimistic that we have a high level of support but

whether one of the permanent five nations will veto the resolution is yet to be seen. I believe we have a significant

amount of support. Most nations that I have spoken to understand the need for an independent impartial tribunal

and that can be delivered, if the Security Council is able to establish it, but I’m not sure whether we will get all of

the 15 members on board. I’m optimistic, but there’s always a chance of a veto.


And Russia is the one that could veto it, isn’t it? It’s all but certain now that it was

Russian-backed separatists who shot the plane down. It’s a big call for Vladimir Putin to agree to such

international action, isn’t it?


Last year Russia backed resolution 2166 which called for a ceasefire between the Russian-

backed rebels and Ukraine so that we could access the site to retrieve the bodies and remains. Secondly, it called

for investigations into the crash and they have been underway and thirdly, the resolution demanded that those

responsible for this atrocity be held to account and that all states cooperate in determining accountability. So we

are taking what is the logical third step in what was a unanimous resolution and I did remind the Russian

representative today that Russia had backed the ceasefire, the retrieval of the bodies, the investigations, and so

of course it was logical that it should back the setting up on the tribunal which would be able to investigate the

causes of the crash and to hold those responsible to account.


Right, so you have met with the Russian representative. Did they follow that logic?

What was the response?


Russia had many arguments as to why a tribunal should not be set up and a tribunal by the

Security Council should not be set up, but I did ask again that he seek instructions from Moscow to not veto the

proposed resolution, because I believe we have the requisite number to get the resolution passed subject to a



So it’s fair to say you haven’t persuaded them yet?


Well I won’t know until we walk into the Security Council. As happened 12 months ago, I couldn’t

say with any certainty whether we had Russia’s support or not and it ended up supporting us, but at this stage,

Russia has said that it would veto. But I then had a long conversation with the Ambassador and I asked him to go

back to Moscow to seek instructions to not use its veto and that Russia should reserve its veto for matters which

really count towards Russia’s national interests and this would not serve Russia’s national interests in seeking to

deny the families of those aboard MH17 justice.


Ok. Can we quickly turn to a couple of other domestic issues - ones that you would

have been across - the calls for more women in Parliament? I know that you don’t back quotas for the Liberal

Party, but what about targets which are being talked about?


Well we certainly do have targets. We look to increase the number of women pre-selected. We

believe that democracy will be better served with greater diversity among elected representatives and all political

parties, including the Liberal Party, should strive to attract the best possible candidates for election. If we were to

reflect the makeup of the Australian community, we would be seeking at least 50 per cent of the Parliament would

be made up of women.


Would you like to see that as a target?


Well candidates should be selected on merit but the Liberal Party is mindful of the need to attract

a diverse range of candidates, including more women. We’ve got a strong record of pre-selecting women in

Liberal seats as well as in marginal seats and many women have successfully retained their seats. I note that the

Labor Party has in the past claimed it embraces affirmative action, but in practice it abandons that affirmative

action whenever males, usually a former union boss, claimed a seat that would otherwise be reserved for a

woman. So history shows that any quota Labor introduces will be no protection against the will of the unions.


But some of your female Liberal colleagues, certainly in the last couple of days, have

seemed certainly less than happy with the female representation in the Liberal Party, some calling yesterday for

targets of around 30 per cent. Do you think that those things should be concrete?


I believe that merit should be the overriding element for pre-selection and election, but of course,

we should always strive to increase the level of diversity in the Parliament, not just in relation to women but across

the pre-selection and election process and in the case of women, I’m not sure why 30 per cent would be seen as a

target; why not aim for 50 per cent if it were to be truly representative? I don’t think that setting targets that aren’t

going to be met is useful. I don’t think setting quotas that are abandoned when it doesn’t suit male union bosses to

take a seat should be necessarily the answer. I think that we all understand that the greater the diversity the

stronger our democracy will be. So the Liberal Party is mindful of that, but certainly, as a female Deputy Leader of

the Party, I’m very concerned to mentor women who are interested in entering Parliament. I believe very much in

formal and informal mentoring programmes and processes and I do my very best to encourage women to enter

public office, whether it be at a local, state of federal level.


Ok. Just quickly on the Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop. Is her position now untenable?


I understand that the Department of Finance is carrying out an investigation into a number of the

claims that have been made and I think it’s appropriate that the Department of Finance be able to continue that

investigation and I’ll await the outcome of it.


But if she doesn’t produce the paperwork that her travel was approved by the

committee, that she says it was, should she resign?


Well this is a matter for the Department of Finance. I’m not going to pre-empt what Speaker

Bishop says to the Department of Finance and I’m not going to pre-empt the Department of Finance’s inquiries or

findings. So, obviously, this matter has a way to run. We are all obliged to comply with the guidelines for our travel

allowances and all Members of Parliament have to account for it and so, therefore, the Department of Finance

should be allowed to continue its investigation and Speaker Bishop should be given an opportunity to provide

whatever information they require.


Ok. Julie Bishop, thanks very much, we’ll leave it there.


Thanks, Michael.

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