ABC AM, Interview with Kim Landers

  • Transcript, E&OE
23 March 2017

JOURNALIST: The Foreign Minister is Julie Bishop.Minister good morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Kim, good to be with you.

JOURNALIST: Let's start with the London terrorist attack.Have any Australians been caught up in this?

JULIE BISHOP: Ihave been in contact with our High Commissioner in London and I understand thatno Australians have been reported as being involved. Most certainly all ourEmbassy staff in London are safe and I'm waiting to hear further but at thisstage, my understanding is no Australians are involved.

JOURNALIST: Haveyou got any information about who is responsible for this attack?

JULIE BISHOP: Iunderstand that the British police are treating it as a terrorist incidentunless other information comes to light. I have spoken with Foreign SecretaryBoris Johnson, here in Washington because he is present at this meeting, but hewasn't able to give any further indication other than that the attack had happenedand at this point, the British police were treating it as a terrorist incidentuntil further information came to light.

JOURNALIST: Youare in Washington for a high level meeting about the next phase of the fightagainst the Islamic State group. The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ispublically pleading with America's allies to commit more money and militarypower. So will Australia do that?

JULIE BISHOP: Australiais already one of the largest contributors to the military effort to defeatISIS. We have about 1,000 personnel involved in the air strikes over Syria andtraining and assisting and advising the Iraqi security forces. Indeed, we havetrained about 20,000 of the Iraqi security forces who are involved inoperations including the retaking of Mosul from ISIS at present. We have alsocontributed about $500 million to both Syria, Iraq and also the nations thatare hosting a number of the refugees that are leaving Syria and Iraq. So we arealready a significant contributor. We haven't been specifically asked to domore but of course we would consider that, should we be. But I think therequest was also directed to the countries that will benefit the most from thedefeat of ISIS and that is countries in the Middle East and the Gulf.

JOURNALIST: You say that Australia hasn't specificallybeen asked to more but would consider that. The Secretary of State is specificallysaying that more military and financial resources are needed though. So what isit that Australia could consider doing?

JULIE BISHOP: Wehaven't been asked to provide anything specifically, that's my point. But ifthere were requests to provide something specific, we would of course considerit. There have been requests for further funding and I will certainly take thatinto account in the context of our Budget. But the point I'm making is thatAustralian has already contributed $500 million, committed and provided $500million to the effort, particularly the humanitarian effort – in Syria and Iraqand the countries surrounding Syria and Iraq, who are hosting most of the bulkof the refugees. In addition Australia has taken 12,000 Syrian refugees overand above our annual intake of humanitarian and refugee visa holders. So we'realready making a great contribution, but of course, should there be a specificrequest for us to do more, we would consider it. I understand specific requestshave been made of countries, particularly in the Middle East and the Gulfcountries.

JOURNALIST: TheSecretary of State also announced that the US wants to set up interim zones ofstability to help refugees return home. Do you have any understanding how thatwould work?

JULIE BISHOP: Wedidn't go into that kind of specific detail, but all options were on the table.The first meeting was a meeting of about 68 foreign ministers, the largerCoalition, and then this afternoon's meeting was the smaller group of about 22foreign ministers. Of course, I represented Australia in both meetings, butthese ideas of safe zones for refugees are being discussed across –

JOURNALIST: Couldit require for example, could it require some increased air power fromAustralia, to help enforce a no-fly zone? Or indeed some troops to help protectthese areas?

JULIE BISHOP: Thatwas not a specific proposition. These matters are being discussed at officials'level and we will continue our discussions with the United States. This meetingwas to gather all those who committed to the Coalition together, to reaffirmtheir commitment to defeating ISIS, to ensuring that we destroy the caliphatethat is being claimed in Syria and Iraq, and to work on the humanitarian crisis,and also the need for political reconciliation in Iraq and a political solutionin Syria. Otherwise there won't be any peace in either country.

JOURNALIST: Asyou mentioned, Australia has now issued the 12,000 visas promised to Syrian andIraqi refugees, fleeing Islamic State. There are reports this morning that 500people were refused entry to Australia after a security red flag. Can youconfirm that?

JULIE BISHOP: I'mnot in a position to do so, but that would certainly be consistent with thevery tough approach that we take to security checks. We have to ensure that thepeople we bring into Australia are not going to pose a national security threatto our country. So I wouldn't be surprised if some people had been refused onthese grounds.

JOURNALIST: Now that Australia has issued those 12,000visas that were promised, now that that's been done, could Australia once againlook at another special intake for example?

JULIE BISHOP: That'sa matter for the Immigration Minister to consider and a matter for our NationalSecurity Committee to consider. It's not a matter that we have been discussing.We have been working very hard on ensuring that we could process 12,000 visasfor those who are seeking to flee the conflict in Syria, particularly thosefrom minority groups who would not be able to return to Syria however and wheneverthe conflict is able to be resolved.

JOURNALIST: Ministerthank you very much for speaking to AM.

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