ABC, Radio National - interview with Fran Kelly

  • Transcript, E&OE

FRAN KELLY:The Federal Government is keeping up the pressure on home-grown extremismsparked by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State movement wasdescribed by the Prime Minister yesterday as one of utter ferocity, of medievalbarbarism, allied to modern technology.

So, how do you approach a threat that Tony Abbott says is as dangerous andserious as that posed by Islamic State. Yesterday the PM outlined a range ofmeasures aimed at trying to stop the radicalisation of young Australians, toprevent them from going abroad to fight and to arrest and jail those who do ifthey try and return to Australia.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has been looking at the issue with her UScounterpart John Kerry and they'll be taking a joint US-Australian plan to theUN General Assembly next month. The Foreign Minister joins me now in ourParliament House studios.

JULIE BISHOP: welcome to RN Breakfast.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Fran.

FRAN KELLY:Julie Bishop, yesterday you spoke with John Kerry about the plan the two of youintend to bring before the UN General Assembly on this notion of foreignfighters, home-grown terrorists. What is the essence of that plan?

JULIE BISHOP: We firstbegan discussing this during the AUSMIN meeting, that is the US-AustraliaForeign and Defence Ministers meeting that was held in Sydney recently. And theUS joins with Australia in our deep concern about hardened home-grown terroristscarrying out terrorist activities in our respective countries - not onlyAustralia and the US, but also other countries in our region. This is an issueaffecting Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Arab nations, throughout Europe, UK,Canada and the like. This is not an isolated situation and we decided that itshould be the feature of the United Nations General Assembly Leaders' Week -that's in mid-September – when many of the world's leaders will gather,President Obama will be present.

FRAN KELLY:Will Tony Abbott be going?

JULIE BISHOP: Well ifPresident Obama makes foreign fighters and the fight against terrorism andextremism a feature I would hope that the Prime Minister would be able toattend. It is during a Parliamentary sitting week but I'm hoping that the PrimeMinister would be able to be there and put forward Australia's support for thecounter-terrorist activities that will have to take place across the globe.

FRAN KELLY:In terms of the plan you mentioned though. Again, can you give us some sense ofwhat are the central elements of the plan you're bringing?

JULIE BISHOP: This is acall to other nations to take steps to counter terrorist activities in theircountries. This is not just Australia, although we do have a significant numberof Australian citizens who are taking leadership roles, we understand, withinthe ISIS or Islamic State terrorist organisation. This is a particularly brutal,barbaric organisation and we are concerned that while there are about 60Australians fighting in Syria and Iraq with them there are about 100 that weknow of back here in Australia supporting them.

FRAN KELLY:Australia is putting in place some measures to try and deal with this and somesoft counter-terrorism measures were announced yesterday by the Prime Minister.But what about first and foremost for instance, full biometric screening at allairports being put in place because we've already had in recent times two knownextremists leave Australia headed for Iraq. I mean for instance KhaledSharrouf's brother, why didn't he have the biometric passport given that he wasthe brother of a known terrorist? We're falling at those kind of hurdlesalready.

JULIE BISHOP: That's whywe have announced $630 million in new funding to boost our border protection,customs, passport capability. There had been a reduction in funding for ourintelligence organisations, for customs, for border protection over the last sixyears or more. We are now trying to boost that so that these matters are lesslikely to occur. It's very difficult to screen every person but we want toensure that we are in the best possible position to prevent people who pose asecurity risk to our nation, leaving the country so they can be prosecuted here,or indeed coming back if they've already been fighting overseas with terroristorganisations.

Proscribed terrorist organisations are those that if you support them or workwith them you can face punishment of up to 25 years in jail so it's very seriousto be supporting, or working with a proscribed terrorist organisation underAustralian law.

FRAN KELLY:Minister does the plan and discussions you've been having with John Kerry andthe discussion you imagine will be taking place at the UN General Assembly, doesit go beyond this? Does it go to developing a broader coalition of support formilitary action in New York? Because yesterday the Prime Minister said inQuestion Time Australia was a very close and supportive partner of the US andconsultations are continuing with the US and others. What options for Australianinvolvement has been considered?

JULIE BISHOP: The UnitedStates has asked us to be involved in the humanitarian effort in Northern Iraq,and we have in terms of humanitarian air drops. The United States has not asked,or invited us to be involved in any further activity, we're keeping in closecontact, to understand the United States plans as to how it intends to preventthe spread of this extreme, brutal ideology and extremism that we're seeing withthe likes of IS and others.

FRAN KELLY:But National Security Cabinet is considering possible future options isn't it?

JULIE BISHOP: We arelooking at what we can do in Australia and overseas to prevent the spread ofthis kind of terrorism.

FRAN KELLY:And on a military front what might that be?

JULIE BISHOP: We've notbeen asked to put forward any suggestions on military intervention but we aresupporting the United States in its humanitarian efforts in Northern Iraq. Butthe United States has been taking steps in other countries, in Yemen, in NorthAfrica, in the Middle East more generally to stop the spread of this extremismbecause these are people who want to exterminate anyone who opposes theirideology. So it's not just a threat to the West, it's a threat to Arab nations,and we want to build a coalition of support to stop this kind of terroristactivity including among Arab nations.

FRAN KELLY:Yesterday in the Parliament, the Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt accused thePrime Minister of mission creep on Iraq and asked the Prime Minister for acommitment that he would seek parliamentary approval before any troops weredeployed. The Prime Minister said, well he will consult, but that's as far as hewent. Essentially, is that decision in your view, the view of the government, aleader's call? Or should any further military action in Iraq, if there is anyagainst IS, require some kind of parliamentary approval?

JULIE BISHOP: We willcontinue to consult with the opposition and with the crossbenchers. Indeed, weoffer intelligence briefings. I know that the opposition has taken them up. Idon't know whether the crossbenchers have. But we can share with thecrossbenchers the kind of information that we have that gives rise to our greatconcern that this is one of the greatest security risks that we have faced in avery long time and I want all parliamentarians to understand, indeed I want allAustralians to understand, the security risk that we currently face.

FRAN KELLY:But no parliamentary approval if we decide to go further militarily?

JULIE BISHOP: We wouldact as we have always done, and that is consult with the opposition and thecrossbenchers but we're talking hypotheticals. We're focussing on thehumanitarian effort into Northern Iraq. That's what we've been asked to do andthat's what we're responding to.

FRAN KELLY:Minister, later today you're heading to Indonesia, I want to come to that in amoment, but before I leave this – a Kurdish representative to Australia HavalSyan has asked you directly I understand for weapons and aid for the Peshmergasmilitary and humanitarian operations in Northern Iraq. Will you say yes?

JULIE BISHOP: We areproviding humanitarian support and we will continue to do so, we have..


JULIE BISHOP: I've notbeen asked to supply weapons…

FRAN KELLY:He said he's asked you for weapons. Have you not been asked for weapons?

JULIE BISHOP: I've notmet with him, no, I've not been asked.

FRAN KELLY:Alright, because Iran is arming the Kurds, we know that, so if we wereconsidering that we would be – Iran and Australia would be in a sense supportingthe Kurdish Peshmerga.

JULIE BISHOP: The enemyof my enemy is my friend.

FRAN KELLY:Which goes to the same issue in Syria because if the US does have operations,military operations, over the border in Syria, it would be in a sense giving,serving the interests of the Government of Bashar al-Assad. It's throwing upsome strange bedfellows the Islamic State, isn't it?

JULIE BISHOP: We wouldonly act in our national interest and our national interest is to ensure thatAustralians can be as safe and secure as the Government can achieve. And that'swhat we're seeking to do with the changes in the law. That's why we want thesupport from the crossbenchers, from the Opposition to ensure that we can makethe environment in Australia as safe as possible and to prevent terrorism. It'sbetter to be preventing people becoming terrorists than prosecuting them afterthey've carried out terrorist activities.

FRAN KELLY:And sorry I interrupted you in terms of if there is a Kurdish request, it's inthe press that there has been, if there is for weapons, would Australianconsider that?

JULIE BISHOP: Well Iwould consider any request that a country made but we are focussing on ahumanitarian effort and if (Iraq) Kurdistan has sent the request to theDepartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade well I'll follow it up but we have mostcertainly responded to their request for humanitarian support.

FRAN KELLY:Minister, you fly later today to Bali for talks with your counterpart MartyNatalegawa in Indonesia. You'll sign the code of conduct on intelligence mattersthat was prompted quite spectacularly by Indonesian fury over revelations thatAustralia had spied on senior Indonesian officials and tapped the phone of thePresident's wife. Is this code of conduct more of a tidying up episode or aface-saving exercise with Indonesia before the Presidential change, rather thana code with much to it? Will it change much?

JULIE BISHOP: Theseallegations referred to events in 2009. They came to the surface via the Snowdenrevelations and it was a matter that we inherited, if you like. Over time wehave been continuing to work very closely with Indonesia and at the request ofPresident Yudhoyono we are signing what I call a Joint Understanding and itspursuant to the Lombok Treaty, which is already a treaty between Australia andIndonesia over respecting each other's sovereignty. And this specifically saysthat Australia and Indonesia will not use our resources, including ourintelligence resources, to harm each other's interests. It also lays the groundfor greater cooperation between our intelligence agencies and this isparticularly pertinent in the light of the foreign fighter terrorist activity inSyria and Iraq because there are a significant number of Indonesians who arealso heading to Syria and Iraq to fight with the likes of ISIL.

FRAN KELLY:In the light of that, and the potential increase in terrorism threat in ourregion, is this code of conduct going to change anything? Will it limit thecapacity of Australian intelligence forces to gather or conduct intelligencesurveillance?

JULIE BISHOP: In fact itenhances the opportunities for cooperation between our intelligence agencies andanticipates a greater level of engagement between Australian intelligenceagencies and Indonesian intelligence agencies.

FRAN KELLY:Minister, just before I let you go, Clive Palmer yesterday made an apology tothe Chinese Government for his comments last week on Q and A. His colleagueSenator Jacqui Lambie is not backing off her criticism of the Chinese and thethreat she says is posed to Australia by the communist regime. What's yourresponse to that and has there been, have you had any representations from Chinato suggest that these comments by Clive Palmer had done any harm?

JULIE BISHOP: Clearly MrPalmer himself recognises the potential for damage to the relationship becausehe's made this fulsome apology and I welcome it. It's a little late, I wish he'ddone it earlier. I did ask him to reflect on his words, he clearly has done thatand he's now apologised. I hope that Senator Lambie likewise reflects on thecomments that she's made and the potential for harm with one of our largesttrading partners.

FRAN KELLY:Well she's reflected and she's standing by them.

JULIE BISHOP: Wellthat's what Clive Palmer said last week until he apologised. We should beworking to enhance our relationships with trading partners. We want to befriends with other countries. They don't have to trade with us and we'redependent on getting our exports into countries like China. The Government wantsto enhance our relationships. Of course we can have differences with othercountries, but you deal with them in a respectful way. Australians are notnormally discourteous people and I don't think Senator Lambie's discourtesytowards China would be a reflection of the views of the majority of Australians.

FRAN KELLY:Minister thanks very much for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Mypleasure.

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