ABC RN Breakfast, interview with Fran Kelly

  • Transcript, E&OE
05 June 2017

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop joins us as I said on this very busy day. Minister, good morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Fran.

JOURNALIST: Seven dead, 48 injured including two Australians. Can you give us an update on their condition and whether any other Australians were caught up in this?

JULIE BISHOP: Fran, I have just spoken with our High Commissioner in London a short while ago and we can confirm that three Australians have been affected. One is currently in hospital but she is recovering and I have spoken to her father; another man who I understand received stitches is on his way back to Australia, I believe he's been speaking to the media; and there is a third Australian, we're still making enquiries with respect to the circumstances of the third Australian. Otherwise our consular officials have been busy, they have been in constant contact with Metropolitan Police, hospitals, NHS, all of the authorities than can give us information. I also spoke with their Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson last evening and expressed again to him our deepest condolences and sympathies for yet another attack on British soil, and he likewise extended his sympathies to those affected from Australia and other nations. We both observed how this mindless savagery is striking into communities, it's designed to shock, but the British are resolute in their determination to defeat Islamist terrorism and work towards the sources, the reasons for radicalisation of, in some instances, British-born citizens in the first place.

JOURNALIST: Has…do you understand yet that these were British-born citizens? Do you have that information?

JULIE BISHOP: Foreign Secretary Johnson said that they were still seeking to identify the nationality of the attackers, the perpetrators of this cruel and horrible attack, but those sorts of details are yet to be released. Obviously there's a significant investigation underway. The attack is an example of the new reality in which we live, but we must never accept it, this ever-present threat of Islamist terrorism, and the intent to harm our communities using vehicles and knives, everyday items to kill and to wound. It is designed to shock and it is designed to strike fear into communities and we must never give in.

JOURNALIST: And if this is the new reality, as you say, using everyday items, entirely legal, cars and trucks and knives, is it just a matter of time before we have an attack like this in this country? Is that the view of you and the agencies?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is not immune from this. Since we raised our threat level in September of 2014, we have arrested over 60 people in connection with terrorist-related crimes, we have seen about four attacks, we have thwarted 12 potential terrorist attacks, and so we are working night and day at our intelligence, security, law enforcement agencies to keep Australians safe. We need to cooperate with all elements of our community because we find that often the information that lead our police to disrupt these attacks comes from within communities, from parents, from schools, from religious leaders who are concerned that some people they know have been radicalised and are taking up this brutal and horrible narrative of perverse Islamic ideology.

JOURNALIST: British Prime Minister Theresa May has come out and said there's "far too much tolerance of extremism" in Britain. Would you make the same observation of this country? Are we too tolerant of Islamic extremism?

JULIE BISHOP: Clearly the British Prime Minister is expressing the views and the opinions of the British people, and they have been subjected to a number of brutal attacks – Manchester was only weeks ago, and that was a much more sophisticated attack that was designed to harm young children, particularly girls, it was particularly horrible savagery. So the British people have been living with this for some time and I think that Prime Minister May expressed the views of many British people. But likewise in Australia, we will continue to do everything we can to keep Australians safe and to stamp out terrorism. That's why we have Defence Forces in Iraq and Syria, that's why we're working so closely with other countries in our region so that if foreign fighters do return to South East Asia, to Australia then we can monitor them, we can detect them, we can arrest them.

JOURNALIST: Well there's plenty of people with ideas of things, more you can do. Tony Abbott and some key backbenchers want the Defence Act amended so military commanded units would take over from police in the event of what they call a 'complex terror incident'. Considering the experience of the Lindt Café siege, is the Army in your view better placed to be the primary responder or a quick responder?

JULIE BISHOP: The issue of Defence supporting national counter-terrorism arrangements is already being considered. The Turnbull Government initiated a review last year. We are being informed by what's happened in Manchester and obviously the London attack, but also the evolving nature of the terrorist threat as we saw in Paris in 2015, Brussels and Ankara and elsewhere around the world. And of course the coroner's report into the Lindt siege would also inform our thinking, so this matter is under review now.

JOURNALIST: And just very briefly on this matter before we leave it, Pauline Hanson was quick off the mark tweeting stop Islamic immigration before it's too late; Donald Trump was of a similar mind, he had similar tweets overnight. How concerned are you that every one of these attacks, these views could take hold of the broader community?

JULIE BISHOP: Well we have to remember that these attacks are being undertaken by people from very different walks of life. Some are British-born or home-grown as they say, some are lone wolf attacks, some of them are people who have no previous links with Muslim or Islam, some of them are obviously at the direction of ISIS, some are merely inspired, some could be copycat. So it's too simplistic to try and narrow it down to one cause, but we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that our counter-terrorism capability will thwart any attempted attacks and continue to work with communities to ensure that any people who are appearing to be radicalised or at risk or a threat can be identified and our authorities can be notified as soon as possible.

JOURNALIST: Seventeen minutes to seven, our guest is the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Minister, I know your time is tight but I'd like to go to the AUSMIN talks with you if I can. You're sitting down with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, Tillerson and Mattis. On the same day that our Prime Minister was in Singapore issuing advice to China to adhere to the rules based structure that's enabled the region to flourish, the US President was pulling America out of the global Paris Climate Accord which has potentially huge implications. Was the timing of Malcolm Turnbull's strong message to China undercut by the isolationist action of the US President?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't believe so. Australia makes its own decisions, we act in our national interest. We ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016, we entered into the Agreement, in fact I was in the Abbott Cabinet when we decided to sign up to the Paris Agreement. We've set targets for the reduction of our contribution to global emissions that are environmentally and economically sound and reasonable, and we believe we'll be able to achieve those targets. The United States can make its own decisions but of course I'll express our concern that the United States is pulling out of an agreement that it ratified, that has been ratified by about 147 countries…

JOURNALIST: But I guess the point is that as the US pulls out of an agreement like that, does it leave an inevitable vacuum that inevitably China will move in to fill?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I was at a meeting of European Union delegates to a leadership forum in Sydney last night and a number of the EU leaders believed that the EU will seek to fill the vacuum. Without doubt it's disappointing that the United States has pulled out of an agreement that it's ratified, and that's why AUSMIN, this Australia-US Ministerial Dialogue, is one of the most important meetings for many years. As the Trump Administration has changed US policy on a number of issues of great importance to Australia, we will be seeking to engage Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis, our US counterparts, to discuss these new policy directions and their implications for Australia and our region.

JOURNALIST: Minister I know you have other commitments so I'll let you go. Thank you very much for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Fran.

- Ends -

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