ABC News Breakfast, New York - interview with Lyndal Curtis

  • Transcript, E&OE

PRESENTER The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in in New York where she has been attending the United Nations Security Council.

She joins us live from New York and the Foreign Minister is speaking with our political editor Lyndal Curtis.

LYNDAL CURTIS Julie Bishop, welcome to ABC News 24. You were at the UN Security Council meeting a couple of days ago. Do you believe the Security Council is firmly behind nations taking action against the extremist Islamic State movement in Iraq?

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Lyndal.

Yes, yesterday I attended a special meeting of the UN Security Council chaired by the United States as it is the President of the Security Council for the month of September.

About 40 nations were represented, most by their Foreign Minister, and there was universal condemnation of ISIL and a commitment to support the Iraqi Government in its fight back against ISIL's advances and its murderous activities.

A number of countries indicated the pledges that they would provide in terms of military support, humanitarian support and other means of trying to starve ISIL of funds and fighters and weapons and ammunition and this is in anticipation of another meeting held on Wednesday that will be presided over by President Obama. There was a very strong, virtually universal, condemnation of ISIL and support for the Iraqi Government's attempts to combat this terrorist organisation.

LYNDAL CURTIS Would you like to see more countries join the military action, particularly Middle Eastern countries so it doesn't look like a Western force moving in against the Islamic State extremists?

JULIE BISHOP I anticipate more countries will make clear their intentions over the coming days in the lead-up to the meeting convened by President Obama. There is a lot going on behind the scenes. Countries are taking action, they are working together. France has already begun airstrikes in Iraq to disrupt ISIL's activities.

A number of other countries made significant pledges of funding and so efforts are under way to ensure that there's an international effort to try and destroy this murderous terrorist regime that is taking over towns and claiming territory in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq.

LYNDAL CURTIS The Prime Minister has said an Australian decision on committing the forces already in the Middle East to action in Iraq will be taken after the UN meeting. Are you expecting that decision to be taken pretty quickly after the meeting this week?

JULIE BISHOP Clearly, the meeting is designed to gauge the international response to see how many countries will provide what support and depending on the number of countries, and depending on the range of support that is offered, then Australia can determine what would be a prudent and proportionate role for us to play. In anticipation of such a request from the Iraqi Government to support a US-led intervention, we have pre-deployed planes and Special Forces who would be advising and assisting the Iraqi defence forces. The whole objective is to build up the Iraqi Government, build up the Iraqi defence forces so they can defend themselves against ISIL and its ilk.

LYNDAL CURTIS Australia is not proposing at this stage to take any action in Syria although the Prime Minister hasn't ruled it out. In the last 24 hours, around 60,000 people, mainly Kurds, have crossed from Syria into Turkey as Islamic State has seized Syrian villages close to the border there. Given what is happening in Syria, does it make it more urgent to deal with Islamic State, not only in Iraq, but Syria as well?

JULIE BISHOP If you starve ISIL of fighters and funds and weapons, then that will have an impact in Iraq and Syria, but the legal situation is far more complex in relation to Syria. In Iraq, the government of the day, the Iraqi Government, is inviting support, inviting countries in and is providing consent for operations within Iraq. That is not the case with Syria. Australia's focus is on the strategy to deal with ISIL in Iraq. That's what we have been asked to do and that's what we've agreed to participate in, a strategy that focuses on Iraq with the support, the consent of the Iraqi Government.

LYNDAL CURTIS On the question of Vladimir Putin coming to the G20, you've accused Russia of attempting to discredit the investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17. You said the security around the crash site is deteriorating because of Russian support to armed separatists. Russia has also annexed part of Ukraine, yet Vladimir Putin is still invited to the G20. How bad do you have to be to be uninvited?

JULIE BISHOP I did speak yesterday at a special meeting convened by Russia of the UN Security Council and we took the opportunity to learn more about the investigation into the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines 17. I thought Russia displayed a lot of bad faith during the course of that meeting because it sought to discredit the Dutch-led investigation into the causes of MH17. Australia's view is that MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, probably by the Russian backed separatists in the eastern Ukraine and nothing I've seen or heard since we formed that view two months ago has changed.

In the case of the G20, Australia is the host but we don't have the right to rescind invitations that have been sent. That would have to be a consensus view within the G20 and there isn't that consensus. I've taken soundings and countries are determined to ensure that the G20 remains the premier economic forum for global issues and there is a view that President Putin should turn up and face the international condemnation for its behaviour in relation to Ukraine, that is, the breach of Ukraine's sovereignty, the conduct of separatists backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea.

LYNDAL CURTIS The new counter-terrorism laws will be introduced into Parliament. Under those laws, you will have the power to certify a locality where travel is prohibited because of a certain level of terrorist activity. Could that locality be a whole country?

JULIE BISHOP Clearly we're focusing on regions that have been taken over and are under the control of terrorist organisations. ISIL has territorial ambitions. We've seen that this murderous terrorist organisation has claimed territory. It claims to be a state. Of course it is not but it is in control of territory. For example, a town like Mosul that is being held by and controlled by ISIL, one would have to have a very good reason for wanting to visit Mosul at this time. A person will be asked why are they travelling to Mosul and if the reason doesn't stack up then obviously our intelligence and security and law enforcement agencies would want to know more.

LYNDAL CURTIS Under the legislation, could a locality in fact be an entire country, as you understand it?

JULIE BISHOP If an entire country were taken over by terrorist organisations, then that would be an appropriate designation. We have seen ISIL take territory within Iraq and that's why there's this international effort to win that territory back to the legitimate government of Iraq and that's why we're providing support for the Iraqi Government.

LYNDAL CURTIS The UN leaders will talk about a proposal to deal with foreign fighters. What do you understand that proposal contains?

JULIE BISHOP There was a meeting yesterday, convened by the United States, to gauge support for the Iraqi Government in its fight against ISIL, in its fight against terrorism and about 40 countries attended. There will be another meeting on Tuesday on counter-terrorism measures that will be convened by Turkey and the United States again to discuss specific action that countries are taking to counter terrorist activities in their countries or in the Middle East and more broadly and then on Wednesday, this will culminate in a meeting being convened by President Obama to focus on this issue of foreign fighters. And we know, our intelligence agencies inform us, that about 60 Australian citizens are fighting with ISIL in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria and that there are at least 100 Australians who are supporting ISIL in some form or another in Australia.

We will also discuss the efforts we're taking to deal with it as a domestic security threat because of course history shows that people who have been radicalised, trained in terrorist ways overseas, have come back to Australia and have sought to carry out their terrorist activities in Australia. That's what we're seeking to prevent, to ensure that Australians are kept safe from this kind of terrorist activity.

LYNDAL CURTIS Julie Bishop, thank you very much for your time today.

JULIE BISHOP It's my pleasure Lyndal.

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