Interview with Kieran Gilbert and Laura Jayes, Sky News

E&OE..... Check against delivery.

Subjects: Indonesia, Israel, ABC and NSW Labor

KIERAN GILBERT:

Let's go to Liberal Senator and former Leader of the Government in the Senate Eric Abetz. Give us your sense of where things are at with Indonesia because you've watched these sorts of relations for some time and they've reacted angrily to our consideration of an embassy move. Now obviously we make our own foreign policy and so on but was this an own-goal particularly when we're trying to get a free trade agreement where, Senator Abetz,you know well and good that economic relationship is underdone isn't it?

ERIC ABETZ:

Our economic relationship with Indonesia has a capacity to grow and grow substantially for the benefit of both nations and so I think that is one consideration. The other consideration is that our foreign policy should not be dictated to by other countries - a country, with respect, like Indonesia which does not recognise Israel, it does not have an embassy there, up until very recently did not even recognise Israeli passports so in those circumstances, I think Australia is right to forge its own foreign policy without being dictated to by Indonesia and let's keep in mind one thing of the announcement that was never publicised as it should have been, we believe that we should be looking at West Jerusalem and recognising West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but also exploring whether East Jerusalem should become the capital of a Palestinian state and that would help develop the prospect of a genuine two-state solution and when you put it in that context, Scott Morrison's investigation into this matter is exactly the right direction to go.

LAURA JAYES:

Well the investigation into this matter sure, but where has this come from? Senate Estimates, you know very well Eric Abetz, revealed that there was no advice or Government Departments weren't aware this was coming. There's meant to be a review, surely given what you say, this needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later.

ERIC ABETZ:

When you announce a review, it's because you are starting to think about it and so you don't need alot of advice in relation to starting a review and the United States have gone down that track, the Federal Council of the Liberal Party overwhelmingly carried a motion in support of moving the embassy, my own state division of Tasmania has done so, countries like Romania, Brazil, the Czech Republic are moving down this track as well because a lot of people are seeing this as pushing toward a two-state solution.

KIERAN GILBERT:

You, I recall, in the last couple of weeks had raised that issue that exploded last week for the Luke Foley and the Labor Party in Senate Estimates of the ABC in relation to that reporter. Subsequently, she has come out and said she didn't want it used as a political football. What's your reaction to those developments.

ERIC ABETZ:

I would fully agree with her and that is why I was at pains to ensure that her name was not mentioned and in fact, I was not aware of her name until it became public, my concern was for ABC and indeed other journalists because the ABC as a government enterprise or independent statutory authority has a duty of care to all its employees and if there is an allegation that somebody has been assaulted in the workplace then the ABC has a duty of care to ensure that no other staff member should therefore be put into that position when management knows that this might occur. And so to protect other staff members, it is important to know what the ABC did with it and if I might say, the acting General Manager of the ABC was quite right to say 'serious allegation, will be investigated'. When did it all become public? It would appear after Greg Combet, a former ACTU official and Labor heavy became involved trying to broker a deal between the journalist and Mr Foley. 

LAURA JAYES:

Do you think it was possible for her to do this without putting her name to it though? And wasn't that forced upon her by the actions of yourself and David Elliott? 

ERIC ABETZ:

Absolutely not. The article on which I was relying on was an article in The Australian in May, some 5 months earlier. That she did not see a need to go public then, when I asked the questions at Senate Estimates, she didn't see the need to go public. When did she go public? It was after the conversations with Mr Foley where it appears that he reneged on a deal that had been brokered by the ALP powerbroker Greg Combet where Mr Foley then allegedly refused to resign in circumstances where he had promised to resign and it was in those circumstances that it became public and she made a statement. So let's visit this on the people concerned, namely Mr Foley and Mr Combet. If there was a need to go public because of my questions, one assumes that would have occurred immediately not after Mr Foley was so heavily involved.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Senator Abetz, thanks for your time.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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Contact

136 Davey Street
Hobart  TAS  7001

(03) 6224 3707

Senator.Abetz@aph.gov.au

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