3AW, Melbourne, interview with Nick McCallum, Pat Panetta and John Michael Howson

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST Welcome Minister.

JULIE BISHOP Thank you, good morning.

JOURNALIST Good morning. When I read about you - when you mentioned 60 was the new 40 it mentioned that sometimes you worked 20 hour days. How do you look so glamorous and so fantastic when you work 20 hour days?

JULIE BISHOP I try not to work 20 hour days but it turns out that way quite often, particularly when we are travelling overseas - I'm having to ring back home - for Cabinet meetings and national security meetings are generally at say 3am European time so there can be some very very long days, but I try and run every morning, it keeps the mind and body healthy.

JOURNALIST Minister you and the Prime Minister were both invited to be a part of this march in Paris. Why couldn't you go?

JULIE BISHOP Well logistically we just couldn't get there in time, obviously the march is taking place in Paris.....

JOURNALIST In about 8 hours time.

JULIE BISHOP ...indeed and the President of our Senate Stephen Parry will be representing Australia because he was going to be in Europe in any event and also our Ambassador to France Stephen Brady so we will be represented at the very highest level. The President of our Senate will be there.

JULIE BISHOP World leaders have been invited by President Hollande and the French Government in a show of unity. The President has said that unity is our weapon, that liberty will win over barbarism every time. And so its been a very powerful message from the French Government on behalf of the French people and its already being reported that perhaps up to a million people will join in that unity march in Paris on the 11th.

JOURNALIST So what does that say? A million people turning up on the streets of France.

JULIE BISHOP Well it says that Paris has returned to calm and we welcome that after three horrific days that shook France, shocked the world, but that people are united in their condemnation of these barbarous acts, that they clearly want to send a message of support to the families and friends and relatives of the 17 innocent people who were killed and its also sending a very powerful message that we will not be cowed by terrorism, that we won't be intimidated by these brutal attacks which were to the very fundamental pillars of French society, attacking police, attacking a Jewish supermarket, attacking a media outlet

JOURNALIST Journalists.

JULIE BISHOP That's right. So France is the home of liberty and freedoms, as they claim, likewise is Australia. We are free, open, tolerant societies and we have to stand up for our freedoms and values and that's what I think this unity march is all about.

JOURNALIST But it must be pretty scary after 17 lives over a series of days, I'm sure the French people, you'd have to be pretty nervous and frightened.

JULIE BISHOP I have been speaking to our Ambassador Stephen Brady over the last few days to keep confirming that no Australians have been involved in any way in these acts and that is the case. But he has described the atmosphere in Paris as very tense, but nevertheless people showing a great defiance. They will not be intimidated, they will not be cowed by terrorists who seek to destroy our way of life and all that we stand for.

JOURNALIST One of the things that worries me is this could inspire more groups to come out and do it again anywhere.

JULIE BISHOP Well that is always a risk - that this type of attack can inspire others to also take up this cause of hateful ideology and carry out these attacks. We have seen it around the world on far too many occasions over the decades and Paris has in fact experienced some shocking attacks over recent times. So that is the risk but I know that the French authorities are redoubling their efforts to ensure that people are as secure and as safe as they can be. It's been estimated that about 88,000 police and defence personnel were out deployed in France over the last couple of days. So I'm sure there will be a huge security presence for this march.

JOURNALIST But leading up to these horrible events we've had other horrible events like Jewish schoolchildren being shot, a madman driving a car into a group of civilians, ordinary people on the footpath, so it was like one thing after the other, and I worry now that there could just be some person out there who thinks I'll get my name in the papers, i'll die a martyr and i'll do something.

JULIE BISHOP I think you are right to be concerned, the copycat attacks or attacks being inspired by other brutalities is just a risk that we face but it brings home to us all that terrorist acts can take place at any time anywhere. And that's why the Australian Government has redoubled our efforts, to ensure that our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies have more funding, more resources, more personnel so that they can work in cooperation with other agencies throughout the world to keep Australians as safe as we can either here at home or overseas.

JOURNALIST Minister, the terrorism expert Clive Williams has suggested the number of people who have come back from fighting, who we believe may have been fighting in Iraq and Syria need to be monitored better he has suggested some sort of bracelet or tracking device. Is that feasible?

JULIE BISHOP Well I know this is something our security agencies have very much under review. We do know historically that those who have been trained by terrorist organisations do try to come home. We saw this with Australian citizens who trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. About 30 we estimate trained with Al Qaeda, about 25 came home, of those about 19 were reported to have taken part in some kind of terrorist activity and some were jailed. We now have about five times that number that our intelligence agencies estimate are fighting with or supporting ISIL or Da'esh as its called in Iraq and Syria. We are doing all we can, working in cooperation with other security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the region, in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere and of course with our network, with the United States and Canada and the United Kingdom and New Zealand. We do know who these people are and we can monitor their activities. But often we don't know who these people are because they might be radicalised within a few weeks and then buy a ticket, they've got a passport and then head off overseas and so that's why we've spent an additional $630 million ensuring that our agencies have resources and greater capacity to keep track of these people.

JOURNALIST But electronic tracking, getting back to that question, is that feasible that someone who might have been to that area, you don't have enough evidence to charge them, is it then feasible to have an electronic tracking device on them?

JULIE BISHOP Well Nick I'll leave that to our experts, but you did raise the point about not having enough evidence. This is one of the challenges we face. When people come back from overseas, in order for us to be able to detain them or arrest them, or prosecute them we obviously have to have evidence of what they've been doing. Now you don't get too many eyewitness accounts of what is going on over in Iraq and Syria although they do post stuff on social media.

JOURNALIST But now you only need to know though, don't you, that they've been to a particular area and that's against the law?

JULIE BISHOP Well we have changed the laws and one of the offences is that we can proscribe areas as being off limits, unless you have a very valid reason for being there and I have already declared that Al Raqqa in Syria which is the headquarters of ISIL or Da'esh is off limits unless you have a very valid reason for being there. For example if you are a journalist, or a humanitarian worker or you have family. But if you don't fit into those categories, why are you, an Australian citizen, spending time in the province that is the headquarters of this brutal terrorist organisation? So we do have new offences. We have another offence of advocating, promoting terrorism and I believe that these will be the weapons that we need to seek to counter terrorism in all its forms.

JOURNALIST How difficult would it be to stop issuing passports to people?

JULIE BISHOP I have already cancelled about 80 passports to people, I've refused to issue a number and I've also suspended some passports where our agencies don't quite have enough information to support a recommendation to cancel. So I can refuse to issue, I can suspend and I can cancel passports and we are doing that.

JOURNALIST How many have you done?


JOURNALIST About 80. And what then happens to those people are they then monitored?

JULIE BISHOP Well if their passports are cancelled they can't travel overseas and of course they'll be monitored. If they are overseas and their passports are cancelled they come to Australia with a specially issued passport but of course we'd be waiting for them at the airport.

JOURNALIST Welcome home!

JULIE BISHOP What we are seeking to do is prevent them going to other countries so this is also a challenge for us - going to another country and carry out activities in a third country.

JOURNALIST 14 minutes to 11am and your calls for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Geoff you're first. Hello.

LISTENER Yes, thank you for the privilege of asking a question. I would like to ask the Foreign Minister and the panel if any thought could be given to the idea of not responding to hostage situations in order to a save the individuals, b risk the lives of the security personnel and c prevent the phenomenon and thus save many more lives long term and maybe prevent this cycle of hostage taking by Islamic radicals.

JULIE BISHOP Geoff, it's Julie Bishop here. Look I understand your thinking however we have to leave it to the security experts to deal with each case on its merits, on the particular circumstances and if there isn't a response to the hostage situation then even more people might have their lives at risk. So I think each situation demands an assessment at the time as to the best way to handle it.

Tragically in France the hostage situation did lead to the death of a number of innocent civilians, also to the death of the gunmen in these siege situations and there are many people saying they would have liked to see these suspected terrorists face a trial but in this case they have been killed in the sieges and run the risk of being turned into martyrs by the madmen and hateful, barbarous people who are behind this kind of ideology that drives these acts, so it's a difficult issue.

JOURNALIST The French Police had no option did they really? Once the gunmen came out it was on.

JULIE BISHOP Well once the gunman had taken over that Jewish supermarket I don't believe the security forces had any choice but to seek to rescue the hostages and sadly some were killed.

JOURNALIST Well they really weren't hostages were they? They just burst in and started killing people. When you keep people locked up somewhere..

JULIE BISHOP Well you don't know how long it's going to continue though.

JOURNALIST It's the same as what happened with the poor souls in the magazine they just burst in and killed them.

JOURNALIST Yeah and we shouldn't second guess from so far away the experts on the scene.

JULIE BISHOP Indeed, and so we have to rely on their views but I can understand your question Geoff we don't want to see other people take the opportunity to repeat these barbarous acts.


LISTENER Good morning look I just want to know I've got family in Turkey, there's a bit of unrest there at the moment is it going to be safe when people go over there for the ANZAC 100 years this year. You know there's talk going on that it's unstable, the police there aren't that great, I mean for safety reasons are some of our own people going to go round there?

JULIE BISHOP Sia we are working very closely with the Turkish authorities, we are working very closely with the government. Our security, our law enforcement, our intelligence agencies are working hand in hand with the Turkish authorities. We're doing all we can to ensure it's as safe as it can be for Australians who want to be there for ANZAC Day on the 25th of April. There have been some nasty attacks in Turkey recently. There was a suicide bomber outside a police station and the suicide bomber was apparently part of an outlawed extremist group. But I have to say Sia, this can happen anywhere, anytime so all we can do is warn Australians to keep up to date with the travel advice that's issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and that's on www.smartraveller.gov.au , to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade so that we know that you are going overseas, and listen to the advice of the local authorities when you are in another country.

JOURNALIST Is it safe to travel to Paris, Minister?

JULIE BISHOP I would travel to Paris. Yes of course. We can't not keep going on with our normal lives. We can't change our lives because there are some murderous people committed to a hateful ideology and we have to confront that ideology and expose it for what it is. But we should continue to go on with our lives as best we can but be mindful that terrorist attacks can occur so we have to exercise a very high degree of caution when travelling overseas.

JOURNALIST Foreign Minister Julie Bishop taking your calls on 3AW. Hi there Don.

LISTENER Yep hi there Minister, pleased to speak to you, and Pat you're really lucky Julie's not one of the Emily's List sexist people because you said she was gorgeous so 3AW would have been off the airwaves!

JOURNALIST Yeah well Darren James wasn't here today so I thought I'd just fill the role!

LISTENER Minister, how difficult is it when a lot of these people who are going to fight come back, where to police them and everything. Do you get resistance from a lot of the social do-gooders?

JULIE BISHOP We work very closely with communities across Australia in relation to this phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters and the government works with religious leaders, with community leaders and with families because I believe our first line of defence lies with the families and friends of those who have become radicalised, or have become extremists. They will note the changes, they will note that there's something going on in this person's life and can alert the authorities to it. So we work very closely with the communities to ensure that we can keep Australians as safe as possible and we prevent young people from becoming radicalised in a way that leads them to for some reason believe that joining ISIL or supporting this terrorist organisation is a noble cause. It is not.

JOURNALIST Could the Muslim community in general do more to prevent the radicalisation?

JULIE BISHOP I think that religious leaders around the world need to unite in their condemnation of these kind of terrorist attacks and most certainly we are working with the Muslim communities in Australia, in Sydney, in Melbourne to ensure that they can help us prevent these young people from becoming radicalised. So of course there's more that we can all do.

JOURNALIST But you are happy at the moment that they are cooperating enough?

JULIE BISHOP I believe that the Muslim communities are deeply engaged in trying to prevent young people being radicalised but as with other religions there are extremist elements, people appropriate the religion, they appropriate the name, they appropriate the ideals and then turn it into their own form of hateful ideology that drives these barbaric acts. So we all need to do more and of course we call on Muslim leaders, religious leaders to condemn these acts and do what they can to prevent young people becoming radicalised.

JOURNALIST Robyn you're talking with Julie Bishop, welcome.

LISTENER Hi how are you all? Thank you for taking my call. I'm a little bit nervous, sorry about that. I'm due to fly to Bali next week with my children and I'm just wondering how safe that is before I cancel?

JULIE BISHOP No Robyn don't cancel, go to Bali, but I just ask that you register your details on the Government's website.

LISTENER Yes I've done that.

JULIE BISHOP That's good. Be mindful of the fact that there have been terrorist acts in Bali in the past but there hasn't been any change in our advice on travelling to Bali or Indonesia. Recently the United States did change their travel advice to reflect the fact that they had information that there could be an attack in Surabaya so we reflected that on our Smartraveller website. But Robyn you have a holiday planned, go for your holiday but just be mindful of the fact that there can be attacks any time any where so just exercise a very high degree of caution. You've registered your details. We know you're going to be there and I wish you all the very best. I'm sure you'll have a great time.

JOURNALIST Just briefly Minister, on Bali the Bali 9, the two on death row. What's the latest on that?

JULIE BISHOP I won't talk about Mr Chan because his application is still pending and I don't want to speculate. In relation to Mr Sukamaran, the President has refused his application for clemency but I understand there is a further avenue of judicial review available to him. The Australian Government continues to provide consular support, indeed our Consul General Majel Hinds in Bali has visited Mr Sukamaran recently and we remain engaged with the Indonesian officials because we do not support the death penalty. We oppose it, and we certainly oppose any Australians being executed even though they have been convicted of drug related offences and that does carry the death penalty in Indonesia.

JOURNALIST Sorry, Minister, John Michael has a question for you.

LISTENER One question, we don't allow hate mongers like David Irving into the country and yet there have been some hateful people given visas to come here and address, talk in mosques, preaching their really virulent hatred. What's the different between an idiot like David Irvine and a Muslim hate monger being allowed in?

JULIE BISHOP One of the fundamental pillars of Australian society is freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of ideas, and that's why we were so shocked by this attack on Charlie Hebdo in France. It was a brutal attempt to silence a controversial media outlet. In Australia we value people's right to have their say however wrongheaded or however misguided it might be. However there are now new offences under the terrorist laws to make it an offence for people promoting, advocating, supporting terrorism.

JOURNALIST What about then, in extension of John Michael's question, there was a huge debate about removing insult and offend from the current racial and religious vilification laws. Why not go ahead and do that because I don't think it should be illegal to insult and offend.

JULIE BISHOP Well the changes to the laws were in fact related to terrorist activities so it was the promotion, supporting, advocating terrorism in one form or another.

JOURNALIST But this is the broader debate we had during the middle of the year and the government backed away from it.

JULIE BISHOP Well it would be interesting to see how 18c, that's the section of the act you're talking about would apply in other circumstances but a decision was made by the Prime Minister that it wasn't appropriate for us to continue with that change to the laws at that time and I know that disappointed a number of people. But I think that we're now dealing with a much broader issue of the promotion and advocating of terrorism and that's where we're focussing our efforts at this stage. When you've got something like 150, 160 people known to our authorities as being involved with a terrorist organisation in some form or another then you can see that's where we're focussing our efforts and that's where our priority is and countering terrorism is our number one national security priority.

JOURNALIST Is there, Tony Abbott said a little while ago that there was some chatter being picked up when they monitor all these things, is that still happening?

JULIE BISHOP Well I won't comment on specific security details but our agencies do monitor social media, they do monitor online activity very closely and can pick up trends, pick up different perspectives from that. Our agencies are very experienced, they are very good, they are amongst the best in the world.

JOURNALIST And just very briefly Minister we've got to mention Boko Haram in Nigeria, do you think the Nigerian Government is doing enough to try and counter it?

JULIE BISHOP It is a sickening story, the whole Boko Haram brutality is frightening, terrifying. We have offered in the past to help in any way we can, I know European countries are also helping the Nigerian Government. The fact Boko Haram is still wreaking havoc means they haven't managed to counter it but I'm sure with the support from other countries they will be able to at least deter if not disrupt Boko Haram from its murderous activities.

JOURNALIST They killed 2500 in the last couple of weeks it's terrifying.

JULIE BISHOP It's shocking, unspeakably shocking.

JOURNALIST Should I give Darren James your love Ms Bishop, when I see him next?

JULIE BISHOP Would you mind?!

JOURNALIST Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

JOURNALIST Thanks Minister.

- Ends -

Media enquiries