ABC 720 Mornings, Perth - interview with John McGlue

  • Transcript, E&OE
08 September 2015

JOHNMCGLUEWith me is Australia's ForeignMinister, the most senior Liberal in Western Australia, Julie Bishop. Welcometo the program.

JULIEBISHOPGood morning John.

JOHNMCGLUENow the PM says the response will begenerous. When exactly do you think the Government will be in a position totell us how generous that will be?

JULIEBISHOPOur Immigration Minister Peter Duttonis in Paris, meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner on RefugeesGuterres. He has more meetings today with the UNHCR officials and theInternational Organisation for Migration because we partner with theseorganisations to determine who we can resettle and in what circumstances.

There are twodifferent groups of refugees. We are talking about people who are seekingtemporary protection, a temporary safe haven because they do not want to leavetheir homeland and they will want to go back when the conflict subsides, whenthere is peace and security in Syria. There are others who are persecuted andit wouldn't matter if the conflict between the Sunni and the Shia wereresolved, they would still be seeking resettlement.

A number ofboth groups are in camps along the Syrian border in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkeyand so we are focussing on working with those authorities, with the UNHCR andthe International Organisation for Migration, to take women and children andfamilies from some of these persecuted ethnic and religious minorities. Thosewho want to return to Syria when the conflict is over are more likely to stayin Europe and the Middle East so that they can return when it is safe to do so.

JOHNMCGLUEWhat about Australia's process ofdeciding who it is going to give refuge to? To what extend will our focus herebe on giving shelter to the biggest oppressed minority in Syria which is, ofcourse, Christians?

JULIEBISHOPThis conflict has been underway inearnest since 2011-12 and Australia has been playing our part since then. Underthe previous Labor Government, they took in 100 Syrian refugees in 2012. Whenwe came into Government in 2013 we took 1000, in 2014 we took 2200 from Syriaand 2200 from Iraq and surrounding countries.

This is underour humanitarian and refugee program and we are able to resettle peoplepermanently under that program – we have the funding, the support, theaccommodation, the healthcare to ensure that these people can come to Australiaand resettle permanently.

There is alsoan option for temporary safe havens such as we did with the Kosovo crisis wherewe took Kosovars for a number of years but when peace came to their country,they wanted to return home. So there are a number of options available to usand we are having these discussions – in fact, I have just come from a PartyRoom discussion.

Cabinet willbe receiving a briefing from Peter Dutton and we will make a considered,measured response in keeping with the international response that is required.No one country can do this alone. It requires an international response ofcountries in Europe but also the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and thencountries like the United States, Canada and Australia that have historicallytaken refugees under humanitarian visas.

JOHNMCGLUEJulie Bishop, as I said, there's beenthis outpouring of compassion in Australia over the past 24 hours. Politiciansand interest groups climbing over the top of each other raising the number ofrefugees they say that Australia should take in. 30,000 is the number threemajor charity groups have identified, 50,000 according to your Liberalcolleague Ewen Jones. I wonder realistically what vicinity is that numberlikely to be?

JULIEBISHOPThere are millions and millions ofdisplaced people in the Middle East. This conflict in Syria has been going onsince 2011. When we were on the Security Council in 2014 we authored, and leddebate on three resolutions on the humanitarian crisis in Syria – in February2014, again in July 2014 and in December 2014.

Australia hasbeen playing our part, leading debate on it, calling for more humanitarianassistance and Australia has provided $156 million in humanitarian funding tosupport countries who are bearing the burden of those fleeing from Syria butwho want to remain and go home when it is safe. Whether or not we can increaseresources to those refugee camps, increase the humanitarian intake of othercountries – not only western nations but in the Middle East more generally –and I am making calls to a number of my counterpart Foreign Ministers in theregion, that is the Middle East, to see what more they can do.

In the caseof Australia, we have capacity but we need to do it in a way that ensures thesepeople come to Australia and can be permanently resettled. I welcome thestatement by Premier Barnett and Premier Baird in New South Wales that thosestates are prepared to carry the burden of resettling people. When I sayburden, I mean, to ensure we've got accommodation for them, that we have placesin schools for their children, we've got healthcare for them. It is a detailedprocess and that's why Australia has been so successful in our resettlementprogram under the humanitarian visa because we plan, we do it in a considered, measuredway.

JOHNMCGLUEFinal question Julie Bishop, youmentioned Colin Barnett's support for refugees coming here. The Member forO'Connor, your Liberal colleague Rick Wilson, said he was going to raise theargument in the Party Room that WA country towns like Katanning, like Albany,might be the ones to take in Syrian refugees. What do you think of that idea?

JULIEBISHOPThe majority of refugees who have comeunder our humanitarian program are in metropolitan cities. The majority, over80 per cent or more, are actually in our major cities and there are challenges- many of them are still unemployed and are still on social security benefits.

We have toensure that the people we bring in are not only safe from persecution and fromthe conflict, but that they are able to make a positive contribution toAustralian society. That's why we are being measured and cautious about thisbut of course it is not just a question of our heads, it is a question of ourheart and that's the balance the Australian Government is trying to achieve.

There arepersecuted minorities in both Syria and Iraq and we will focus our attention onthem because there is no home for them to return to. But in the case of theSunni majority out of Syria that is being ruled by a Shia minority, many ofthem want to return home. In the case of Iraq where it is a Shia majorityruling over its Sunni minority, again if we can maintain peace and stability inthe Middle East then these people will want to remain in their homes.

There is alsoa need for a security solution – not just political, not just humanitarian –but a military and security solution and Australia is also playing its part intrying to ensure that the terrorist organisations that have taken territory inSyria and Iraq are defeated so that they stop these barbaric attacks againstcivilians in those countries.

JOHNMCGLUEAppreciate your time today, thank you.


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