ABC Lateline interview, Canberra

29 April 2015

Topics: Execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, death penalty, agricultural trade with Indonesia.​


TOM IGGULDEN: Mr Joyce, withdrawing the Ambassador from Indonesia is unprecedented. Are you worried about the effect that might have on trade?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well I think it is clear that we should have a philosophy; my personal philosophy is I don’t believe in the death penalty. I don’t believe in the death penalty anywhere in the world. I believe that no one has the right to take another person’s life, in whatever form that is, unless that person whose life they are taking is a direct and immediate threat to them. When someone is incarcerated they are not a direct or immediate threat. I also note that the person who commits the crime is not the person who you end up executing. I believe in the redemptive nature of the human spirit that if someone can recognise that they have done something wrong and you have to approach that individual in the light and circumstances of the time. And the time of the execution is not the same time as the crime. There is an absolute right that any government has to defend their laws and part of that defence is incarceration and I think that’s the appropriate format to follow. In this instance when you say that the withdrawal of the Ambassador – it’s a decision of the Government. I understand that there were a whole range of issues that were pertinent to this tragic event where these two individuals were killed and that goes beyond the circumstances of the announcement, the circumstances of family’s access to those individuals and their capacity to get pastoral care before their death. And might I say I don’t think we should get too wrapped up in this – Indonesia itself has withdrawn their Ambassador from Australia in very recent history for circumstances that I think were far less serious than this.

IGGULDEN: And you have been outspoken about the need to rebuild that relationship and now we have done something that we haven’t done with other cases exactly like this – we’ve withdrawn our Ambassador. Is that going to run counter to what you have been calling for?

JOYCE: Indonesia remains an extremely strong trading partner with Australia. We’ve been working very hard to make sure we grow that relationship. It’s very fundamentally important to some of our major agriculture exports and I think for the families in Australia and the families in Indonesia which are part of that trade, we should try as much as possible not to involve them in the discussions of Government.   And they are doing their job feeding people in Jakarta and we are doing our job in other places in Indonesia, and we are doing our job in the breeding and delivery of protein for the community that we live in which is South East Asia.

IGGULDEN: So that said, was perhaps the step of withdrawing the Ambassador one too far for instance Bill Farmer, former Ambassador for Indonesia, has advised against this in the past.

JOYCE: I think that you have to be extremely cautious with these discussions and I don’t think it's a case of withdraw, it's... I think the technical term is coming home for consultations.

IGGULDEN: So perhaps it's not quite the step that it's been made out to be, you think?

JOYCE: Well it's coming home for consultations, which means that we're looking forward to the resumption of negotiated settlements and the only way, if this circumstance was to arise again, then of course we are going to need those channels to discuss issues. Lets also remember, there are other people who are part of this Bali Nine that we have managed, through arduous efforts, negotiate an outcome that has managed to save people’s lives and Scott Rush is the immediate one that comes to mind.

IGGULDEN: It is a sensitive time for this to happen in terms of the cattle trade. Ramadan – or the end of Ramadan’s approaching - cattle need to be sent fairly soon yet your ministerial contact is actually being suspended as I understand it.

JOYCE: No, I have continued my consultations and communications which are pertinent to the agriculture trade. The agriculture trade continues, it’s important.

IGGULDEN: So you are still consulting with the agriculture minister directly?

JOYCE: Indirectly, not myself every day on the phone. We have to, by reason of being the billions of dollars of trade that goes between us – of course there can’t be silence. There has to be the continual discussions – that is how trade is effective.  I would expect that to happen and I would think most other people would expect that to be the case as well.

IGGULDEN: Indonesia did punish, for example Brazil, when it withdrew its Ambassador. Cattle quotas have in the past been used by Indonesia as a diplomatic tool – are you expecting that kind of response?

JOYCE: I want to make sure we have a clear statement that we don’t believe in the death penalty. I think that’s the view that is held on both sides of the political fence. I think it is a philosophical view that is held by a large group of people across the globe. That discussion should continue on – I think there should be a motivation to progress that discussion. It would be a shame if the issue about trying to move away from the death penalty as a form of punishment was to cease by reason of this event. In fact, I think it should enliven the discussion about the death penalty and I think we have to make sure that in the communication of that ethos, obviously that there are people prepared to listen to you, so I don’t think it serves a great purpose if we stop talking to one and other. 

IGGULDEN: So do you think that there is possibility that Indonesia could lash out with cattle quotas if they're pushed too hard on this issue?

JOYCE: Well I'm not going to talk about what the actions of another sovereign nation may or may not do and that is ...

IGGULDEN: So it's a possibility?

JOYCE: Well that's for the Indonesian Government. They're a sovereign nation, they're a democracy. They have had a very effective election, they had an election where I think 110 people went to the polls and to the best of my knowledge no one to my knowledge was assassinated or murdered so they are a very effective democracy. They have a policy of their own government, and that policy has to be respected by those who win the election. One of their policies, unfortunately one of those policies is the death penalty for drug trafficking, but I think it is not for me, as Agriculture Minister, to be talking about another sovereign nation and what is does within its borders. It’s a discussion on a much wider field, and that wider field is that I believe that if a person is not an imminent threat to you, and it’s not capable of delivering a threat to you, then that life should be respected.

IGGULDEN: You have obviously got strong beliefs in this area based on your religion, but what is your feeling about the wider view in the community about this issue and the level of support for these two deceased men.

JOYCE: Well it varies. I think that, to be frank, that the views that are held in Canberra by myself, by my colleagues, by the members of the Opposition, and by the media are different in many instances to the views that are reflected in the public and I see that, and I think we should acknowledge that. Maybe that is more for the discussion that we should have on a domestic level as well. I have to be honest, I do get approached by people saying, "Well, that might be your view, Barnaby, that you don't support the death penalty, but it's not our view." And I find that rather startling at times and I think that the discussion that we're having about others, we should also be carrying out domestically.

IGGULDEN: Alright, thanks very much.

JOYCE: You’re welcome.