TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH FRAN KELLY, RADIO NATIONAL
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 25 JANUARY 2012
FRAN KELLY: Before he boards a plane home the Defence Minister Stephen Smith joins you. Stephen Smith welcome back to Breakfast.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you Fran, good morning.
FRAN KELLY: Minister, how much oil does Australia import from Iran now?
STEPHEN SMITH: Very little and the Foreign Minister made that point when he announced today in the press conference after our Australia United Kingdom Ministerial meeting that whilst in the past we've had sanctions which adversely impact on Iran's oil and gas industry and oil and gas companies, there's very little Iranian oil that's imported into Australia. So in that respect it's symbolic but it does add to the strength of the sanctions that we have imposed over the recent period and we've made it clear we fully endorse the European Commission's recently announced sanctions.
FRAN KELLY: So the European Commission sanctions were about banning imports of Iranian oil but went beyond that. Will we be adding to our sanctions against Iran and in what way?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well we have always up to this point in time done two things. Firstly we fully implemented any United Nations Security Council resolutions on sanctions against Iran and we've done that over a period. At the same time together with the European Commission and the United States we've also implemented over recent years so-called autonomous bans which go beyond that which the Security Council has asked member nation states to effect. And progressively, over the years they have related to commercial or financial dealings with Iran, particularly related to those banks or aspects of Iran's financial system which go to funding of Iran's nuclear program. More recently Iran's petroleum resources industry and now as the European Commission has made clear in the last couple of days, a ban on import of oil.
So these are very significant and quite wide ranging sanctions and together with the Untied States and Europe, Australia has been at the forefront of such bans against Iran making the point to Iran that we want Iran to comply with Security Council resolutions about its nuclear program and also international atomic agencies findings so far as its program is concerned.
FRAN KELLY: As we were discussing on the program yesterday with a former British ambassador to Iran, Iran has showed little appetite for responding to threats so far, responding to sanctions so far. In fact in response to this latest move by the EU, Iran is threatening to block the Straits of Hormuz which is a major thoroughfare for oil suppliers. What do you make of that threat? Do you expect Iran to carry through on that threat?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well just on the sanctions point, first we are of the view that whilst Iran might be saying publicly that it is ignoring these sanctions, over a period of time they do have an effect, they do have a bite, they do have an adverse impact.
So far as the Straits of Hormuz are concerned even before the announcement of the European Commission of these more recent sanctions, Iran of course had indicated that it would use military force to protect the Straits of Hormuz and we saw evidence or presence of Iranian defence and military assets together with the United States, British and French vessels sailed through the Strait of Hormuz in recent days as they are perfectly entitled to do in accordance with international law and it's very important, not just for the Straits of Hormuz but for other sea lines of communications that all nation states accord with international law [indistinct].
FRAN KELLY: With this kind of action going on in the Straits though what mood did you pick up in Britain and perhaps Europe more generally? Are people fearful that these threats and this posturing could lead to some kind of conflict?
STEPHEN SMITH: Two things, firstly the fundamental and very important point which I've made again today that sea lines of communication are very important to trade and commerce, binding by international law, abiding by law of the sea, abiding by international norms in that respect is very important for trade and prosperity and also for peace and security. And that applies not just to those straits but to other sea lines of communication in our region and in other parts of the world.
Secondly once that fundamental point has been made I think there is a view that you would describe the Iranian rhetoric in recent-
FRAN KELLY: Hello Minister? Well that was Defence Minister Stephen Smith joining us from Britain before he jumps on a plane.