ABC 7.30, Interview with Leigh Sales

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: The foreignministers of 68 countries are currently in Washington meeting about theinternational fight against Islamic State and of course news of the Londonterrorist attack struck the gathering like a lightning bolt. Australia'sForeign Minister Julie Bishop is one of those there. She spoke to me fromWashington earlier.

Julie Bishop, what's been the reaction there inWashington among all the gathered foreign ministers and is there any doubtamongst all of you that this attack was motivated by Islamic State?

JULIE BISHOP: Leigh, the foreignministers gathered here in Washington were shocked and dismayed and saddened tohear of the attack in London. About five people have been killed and manyinjured, and we all expressed our deepest sympathy with the British people andthe British Government and the British authorities are treating it as aterrorist incident and it was noted that it had all the hallmarks of otherattacks that have taken place in Europe, notably in Nice but elsewhere. So wewere joined in solidarity with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who was here, inexpressing our condolences and our deep concern about this attack.

JOURNALIST: IsAustralia's Department of Foreign Affairs going to elevate the travel warningfor Australians in London?

JULIE BISHOP: The Department hasalready referred to this incident on our Smartraveller website, so we'vealready amended our travel advice to reflect this incident and to give theadvice about being vigilant and aware of such incidents that can occur inpublic places and places of mass gathering. There has been one foreign nationalwho was resident in Australia who was injured by the vehicle, I understand, andhas been hospitalised, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade isreaching out to her for consular support should she need it. But my informationat this stage is that no Australians have been affected. A foreign national residentin Australia has been hospitalised.

JOURNALIST: Terrorism experts have noted that recently there's been a shift awayfrom mass orchestrated terrorist attacks, towards attacks on softer targets,using improvised weapons. This isn't the first time, for example, that we'veseen a vehicle used to target pedestrians. There really is no way forgovernments or authorities to prevent those sort of attacks, is there?

JULIE BISHOP: It is extremelydifficult to detect what is called a lone wolf attack. This is a person who forvarious reasons decides to take it upon themselves to attack innocent people,and that's what appears to have occurred in London. The investigation isunderway so we don't know the identity or the motive of the attacker, but mostcertainly we are seeing more of these attacks. We have seen them in Europe andelsewhere, and it just means that our security and intelligence and lawenforcement agencies have to be ever more vigilant to respond and to try andprevent these attacks. And I do pay tribute to the British police and theBritish authorities for their rapid response. Nevertheless, people still werekilled and many injured in this attack, seemingly by one person using a motorvehicle.

JOURNALIST: Is it just amatter of time until an attack like this happens in Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: Leigh, we have reviewedour security arrangements, we work closely with the state and federal police,we ensure that our security an law enforcement and intelligence agencies havethe resources they need, and we passed laws in our parliament to ensure thatour security situation is as safe as it can be, but I'm afraid this can occuranywhere, any time.

JOURNALIST: You told theFederal Parliament earlier this week that the Coalition against Islamic Stateis at a pivotal point. Why is this a pivotal point?

JULIE BISHOP: At this meeting of theCoalition we noted that progress is being made militarily against ISIS, in Iraqin particular, and you will be aware that the Australian Defence Force hasprovided a significant number of personnel to help train the Iraqi securityforces. Those security forces are now engaged in an operation to retake thecity of Mosul from ISIS and there is some success. In fact, Prime MinisterAbadi was confident that they would be able to retake Mosul within the next fewmonths. So progress is being made. Then we have to turn to Syria, where asimilar operation will have to be undertaken in Raqqa. But once ISIS isdefeated, or once ISIS is degraded, we then have to find politicalreconciliation that lasts in Iraq and a political solution in Syria becausethere is a civil war raging in Syria. So it's at a pivotal point in the sensethat while we're progressing militarily, there are still significant challengesahead of us to find a lasting peace in both Syria and Iraq.

JOURNALIST: The USSecretary of State Rex Tillerson pointed out at the meeting you're attendingthat the US has put up three quarters of the military resources in the fightagainst IS and that other countries will need to increase their contributions.Australia will be expected to do more, won't it?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is already oneof the largest contributors to the military effort. We have about 1000 defencepersonnel in Syria and Iraq, taking part in airstrikes over Syria and trainingand advising and assisting the Iraqi security forces in Iraq.

JOURNALIST: But does theTrump Administration expect more from Australia in addition to that?

JULIE BISHOP: There was no requestmade of us. As I said, we're already one of the largest military contributors. Therewas a plea for more humanitarian funding but particularly to the countries thatwill benefit most from the defeat of ISIS in the Middle East - the Gulfcountries and the Middle East countries. But if there were a request from theUnited States, a specific request, of course we would consider it because it'sin our interests to defeat ISIS at its source in Syria and Iraq, to prevent thereturning foreign terrorist fighters from being able to carry out attacks ontheir way home, in our region or indeed in Australia.

JOURNALIST: We're out oftime Foreign Minister. Thank you for joining us this evening.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

Media enquiries