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Foreign Minister discusses Schapelle Corby.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS HON ALEXANDER DOWNER, MP

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: May 30 2005

TITLE: 5AA Interview with Leon Byner

Journalist: Let’s speak to the guy who has to try and got through all the diplomacy of this and that’s the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. Good morning

Downer: Good morning Leon.

Journalist: Alexander, were you surprised or disappointed when you heard the verdict last week?

Downer: Well I don’t want to get into what I personally thought, for good reason. And that is I don’t think that as a government we are going to help anybody here if we’re going to set ourselves up as commentators on this. Obviously I had my own views and expectations of what would happen in the case and like any Australian I am entitled to my own opinion. But I mean our job in the government is just to do what we can to look after Australians who get into difficulties overseas. But what we can’t do is instruct foreign courts and there are not special laws for Australians in other parts of the world, including in Indonesia. So there is a limit to what we can do and it doesn’t matter who the person is whether it’s Schapelle Corby or the Bali Nine or other Australians who are in prison in Indonesia. Once they are in Indonesia and they get into difficulties then they are in the hands of the courts.

Journalist: How politically delicate is this for the Australian Government?

Downer: Well it’s not so much politically delicate I wouldn’t put it that way.

Journalist: How would you put it?

Downer: Well it’s a legal issue, I mean in the end everywhere around the world where people are charged with offences, these matters are not resolved by you know, media commentary or politicians speeches. They are resolved by courts. And it will always be thus, it’s not going to change no matter what politician and journalist or people like yourself or the public say or do, no matter what we all think it’s not going to make any difference. The court is going to make its decision. The thing I would say is this - that a lot of people are trying to take this out on the whole of Indonesia as if all 220 million Indonesians had something to do with it. I mean most Indonesians (inaudible) heard of this case. And Indonesia is being, the country ultimately that

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holds Schapelle Corby and if people believe she should be released then beating up on Indonesia is unlikely to persuade the Indonesians to release her.

Journalist: How do you feel about Australian citizens conducting their own sanctions by either not travelling to Indonesia as a holiday resort or indeed refusing to give to any charities that connects with that country?

Downer: Well it is a free world isn’t it Leon? I mean people are entitled to draw their own conclusions. They’ve become much more preoccupied with the Schapelle Corby case then they are with cases like the case of Van Nguyen an Australian citizen who is on death row in Singapore or other Australians who are in jail - there are 154 of them in different parts of the world. You can’t tell people what to think I mean people can draw whatever conclusions they like and take what action they like. But I do make this point that if you want the Indonesians at some point through some method to release Schapelle Corby, if that is you objective then beating up on the Indonesians is unlikely to be a very good persuasive technique to use.

Journalist:: Well there is now the danger that the appeal process itself could end up with a sentence for Schapelle that’s far more serious then that which she already got.

Downer: Mmm. No that’s right it’s obviously possible.

Journalist: But the other thing is there is also talk of a government letter or a plea being made for clemency or for a pardon. Now the clemency plea has been made has it not or are we still looking to see whether or not the judicial process follows its road?

Downer: Well, lets just understand how the system works here. (inaudible) a story in the Advertiser today is a bit misleading, not that I’m criticising the Advertiser, but the way different quotes juxtaposed. You have to go through now what is the appeals process, she’s been convicted and she can appeal and the prosecution is appealing to the Bali High Court. If that appeal is unsuccessful or somehow unsatisfactory then Schapelle Corby’s lawyers can appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court. Now once it is resolved, assuming they lost in the Indonesian Supreme Court, I’m not saying they will but assuming they lost in the Indonesian Supreme Court then the only other option is an appeal for a pardon to the Indonesian President. And he can grant the pardon, and does of course, the Indonesian President whoever it may have been has traditionally granted pardons on Indonesia’s National Day. So once a year some pardons are granted. So I mean that’s a bit down the track and that’s making an assumption that Schapelle Corby’s appeals will all be unsuccessful, which isn’t an assumption we wouldn’t necessarily make.

Journalist: But nevertheless to ask for a pardon does one have to admit guilt in order to get a possible pardon?

Downer: You don’t have to admit guilt. You can only ask for a pardon, I mean this is a statement of the bleeding obvious but you can only after for a pardon if you’ve been convicted. If you’ve been acquitted she doesn’t need to ask for a pardon. You know but you’re not going to accept - and Schapelle Corby’s lawyers at this stage don’t accept that she is going to be finally convicted because they’re hopeful that she will be freed through the appeals process. So you would only consider a pardon if all the appeals had failed. I mean you

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can’t then just turn around and stand on your feet and say that she is innocent having lost the appeal and expect something to happen because if you do that nothing will happen. All you can do is make an appeal for a pardon.

Journalist: What diplomacy if any is going on now between the Australian Government and Indonesia regarding this case or others?

Downer: Well I spoke yesterday with the Indonesian Foreign Minister, I had quite a long talk with him, not just about this but much of the conversation was taken up with the discussion about it. I was just briefing him on what the reaction has been in Australia to this decision of the Bali Court. I also talked to him about the prisoner transfer agreement and the progress that we are making on that. And he was very positive about the idea of a prisoner transfer agreement and Indonesia has been, he was explaining some experience with controversies of this kind in the past. You know he didn’t go into the details of that, I’m not sure what they are but you know when foreigners have been upset about the people being in jail and so on so he understands the dimensions of the issues and he was very understanding of it actually. So we’re going to send this team up to Indonesia today week and they are going to begin the process of negotiating the prisoner transfer agreement. We sent them a draft text already, you know otherwise this of course in the courts. I mean you can’t, just as in Australia, you can’t just say that well I don’t like the decisions of the courts so lets abandon the courts altogether. The fact is that the courts are going to make decision here and let us hope that the defence is able to ensure that they have a very strong case put forward in the appeals process. They can for example bring fresh evidence to the appeal, well then that may be more convincing then apparently has been the case in the lower courts.

Journalist: Minister what do you say to the many, many thousands who are very angry about this?

Downer: Well I think that we’re all sometimes angry about decisions that courts make and I say to those people there is an appeals process and it’s up to the defence to mount its case in the appeal court. And it’s just that in the end you can’t do anything else, no amount of shouting, no amount of anger, no number of emails much as people might feel good about doing those things is going to make any difference in terms of the appeal. And so if they do feel that Schapelle Corby is innocent and an injustice has been done and people have various views about that -those judgements ultimately in every country are made by courts. They are not made on the basis of PR or opinion polls they are made by courts, in every country in the world, and so all that can be done for those who feel very strongly about this is to get behind the defence team to ensure that they put their best foot forward in the appeals process.

Journalist: If Schapelle Corby is able to come to Australia through any prisoner transfer system, which is probably going to take some time anyway…

Downer: Yeah

Journalist: Can she appeal in Australia or she really has to appeal through Indonesia?

Downer: She has to appeal through Indonesia that would always be the case. In this respect the case in no different from the thousands that take place every year around the world, there

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are people picked up for drugs, they obviously face the courts in the country of where they are picked up in. Occasionally in certain circumstances, eventually there can be a prisoner transfer agreement. But remember that in the prisoner transfer agreement that would mean that the prisoner would remain in prison albeit it back in his or her home. Not that the prisoner

would be released.

Journalist: Alexander, I appreciate you have limited time but I want to read you part of an email which really says in a nutshell what a lot of Australians are thinking. It says “ the Indonesian court rejected outright any involvement by others in placing the marijuana in her baggage as well they might following the comments by the head of the Australian Federal Police Mr Keelty who told the Indonesians there is nothing to support that baggage handlers are involved in Schapelle Corby’s case, maybe there isn’t but he could have expressed the obvious - it was feasible. The Federal police has still not put on record the marijuana found in the Melbourne couples baggage in Indonesia three years ago. They have still not even questioned the people involved, I agree we cannot interfere in another country’s legal system but I’m sure tendering evidence from the top of government supporting that baggage handlers could have been involved would have weighed heavier than it did. Seems to me that neither the Prime Minister nor Mr Downer see anything wrong in sitting in an Indonesian court for a year or so being too bad”.

Downer: Well, if it was so easy, if everything in life was so easy everything would be fixed, wouldn’t it? The fact is that the defence came to see me in December last year, I think it was December it might have been November last year, November I think - and then in February or March again this year and asked for my help in their task of trying to assemble evidence. And we did what was asked of us where we were able to get that evidence. I think at times they were frustrated that evidence that they wanted just didn’t exist. But of course you can’t create out of nowhere that which doesn’t exist. Now they did put that evidence to the court in Bali and the fact is if you, you know I spoke to the person I don’t know who it was but who sent the email and others who do hold that view and quote a lot of people do - if you get the chance have a look at what the judge has actually said, I think you’ll find English translations of what the judge has said. And have a look at how they viewed the evidence that the defence put forward as against the evidence that the prosecution put forward. Now what other evidence could have been brought forward that wasn’t brought forward that is convincing and would convince a court in any country? Well that is the question and I think that you know if the defence have fresh evidence to bring forward then I’m sure that a lawyer would advise them to bring that forward. And one of their tasks must be to hunt for evidence during the appeals process. But certainly of course we provided them with any information that they wanted but as we would always do for any Australian who might find themselves in this situation. But we can’t provide evidence that doesn’t exist. Now some people say that it should exist, well alright it should exist but the fact that it doesn’t exist means that it cannot be used.

Journalist: Alexander, thank you very much for joining us today.

ENDS