ABC 24, Canberra - doorstop interview

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALISTWe will leave that becausethe Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is speaking in Canberra.

JULIEBISHOPOur Immigration Minister is in Parismeeting the UNHCR to discuss what Australia can do to play our partin this unmitigated disaster that is unfolding in Syria.Australiahas taken a lead over the past two years in relation to the UNSecurity Council and authoring and leading debate onresolutions to call for ceasefires, to call for greater access forhumanitarian aid into Syria and so we will continue to play our part.We have already provided about $156 million in humanitarian aid toSyria and I'm also giving consideration to what more we can do inthat regard.

JOURNALIST [Inaudible question]?

JULIEBISHOPWhen will that happen? When hehas spoken to all the people he believes he needs to. I believe heis going on to Geneva and will also be speaking toother agencies including Red Cross so he will be in a positionto provide the Prime Minister with some advice after he has met withall relevant authorities.

I'malso speaking to counterpart Foreign Ministers, not only ourpartners, but the Foreign Ministers of countries in the region- Persian Gulf countries, other countries in the Middle East,as well as European countries who are involved inthe international response.

JOURNALISTWould you like to see theplanned increase in the refugee intake fast tracked?

JULIEBISHOPIt is being fast tracked. We areobviously looking at making an announcement this week on what wecan do, so that is fast tracked. There are a number of options. Somepeople will be only looking for a temporary safe haven. When theconflict is over or when it is safe for them to return, they willwish to go home. Others, such as the persecuted minorities inSyria, will be looking for permanent resettlement. Australiawill consider what we can do in relation to boththose categories.

We arefocusing on particularly families, women and children who have beenin the camps along the Syrian border in Lebanon, Jordan and now inTurkey and also the persecuted minorities because there are a numberof ethnic and religious minorities in both Syria and Iraq whoclaim persecution and even if the conflict were over theydon't believe they have a home to return to, so we willbe looking at those particular groups.

JOURNALISTTo be clear, is there roomfor one-off increase to Australia's annual intake?

JULIEBISHOPThese are matters that we willdiscuss with Minister Dutton. Cabinet will deliberate on this. Thereis a Cabinet process and then we will make an announcement.

JOURNALISTDo you think Australia has beenslow to respond?

JULIEBISHOPNo I don't think Australia hasbeen slow to respond at all. We were authoring and leading the debatein the UN Security Council back in 2013. In 2014 I was involved inresolutions calling for more humanitarian support to Syria, in February of2014, in July of 2014, again in December of 2014. Under theprevious Government and under this Government we haveprovided about $156 million in humanitarian support. Not only dowe pledge it, but we pay it. I call on all countries who have pledgedhumanitarian support to actually pay the money.

We are alsoconsidering what we can do to resolve the conflict. Australia hasbeen part of the discussions on what's called theGeneva Communique, to find a political solution to the Assadregime, but also we are prepared to be part of the military solution,that is carrying out air strikes in Iraq to defeat this terroristorganisation ISIL or Da'esh that is operating both in Iraq and Syriaand carrying out appalling attacks on civilians in both countries.

JOURNALISTIs it a fait accomplithat Australia will start bombing IS targets in Syria?

JULIEBISHOPThis is a matter to be discussedby our National Security Committee, and of course Cabinet, so thereare processes that we will undertake. We are also seeking legaladvice, our military advisers will have much to say on this matterso it's a process that we will go through to come to theright conclusion.

It is withoutdoubt one of the most horrendous conflicts we have seen.A terrorist organisation that is focused on brutal violentacts against civilian populations and we must defeatthis terrorist organisation to ensure that some form of peace andstability can return to Syria and Iraq.

JOURNALISTEwen Jones wants Australia toconsider taking up to 50,000 Syrian refugees. Do you think a figurelike that is unrealistic?

JULIEBISHOPAnybody can come up with anyfigure they wish but the fact is we need to resettle peoplepermanently in the case of the persecuted minorities. That meansensuring there is the accommodation, the services, whether it be inhealth or education or otherwise, available for them.

Australiadoes permanent resettlement exceedingly well under our Humanitarianand Refugee Resettlement Program. We have one of the highest percapita intakes in the world but we have to ensure the services areavailable for them and these are some of the issues we are workingthrough now.

JOURNALISTAre you surprised by Australians'reactions to this and the vigils that were held last night?

JULIEBISHOPNo I'm not surprised by it atall. The images on our television screens are horrendous. I have been inLebanon and Jordan, I have been in Iraq, I have spoken to people whoare suffering under the regime of the Assad Government. There areothers who are suffering and fear the consequences of the rise ofthis terrorist organisation. It's a very complex, diabolical situationin both Syria and Iraq.

JOURNALISTDo you agree with assessmentsthat the Assad regime has only a few months left in it [inaudible]?

JULIEBISHOPWe are certainly part of thesupport for what is called the Geneva Communique, the Geneva Process,which is to find a political solution to the Assad regime. I'm of theview the Assad regime lost all legitimacy when it used chemicalweapons against its own citizens. The removal of the Assad regime issomething the European countries have been talking about for sometime but there needs to be a transition. We certainly supportthat process.

JOURNALIST [Inaudible] is there anytimeframe?

JULIEBISHOPWe will make a decision when wehave all the appropriate and necessary advice but the Prime Ministeris seized of this matter. We have sent our Immigration Ministerto Geneva. European countries have been discussing this matter forsome time, they are in Europe, they have been meeting. We have sentour Immigration Minister now to Geneva, to Paris, to speakwith the authorities, to speak with the experts on the extentof the problem and what Australia can do to assist. Australia alwayssteps up to the mark when it comes to humanitarian assistance and wewill certainly do so in this case.

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