Doorstop interview

  • Transcript, E&OE
31 May 2017

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government can confirm that there was another brutal attack in Baghdad overnight. The latest death toll is about 15 with many more injured. ISIS has claimed responsibility for this vicious car bombing that killed so many people. With great sadness, I can confirm that a 12-year-old Australian girl, Zynab Al Harbiya, was killed during this car bombing. She's a young girl from Thomastown in Melbourne, she was visiting Baghdad with her family, particularly to see her grandfather during Ramadan. I extend our deepest sympathies to her family, her loved ones, her fellow students at Sirius College in Broadmeadows. This tragedy underscores the brutality of this terrorist organisation that shows no respect for religion, nationality, sovereignty, borders, no respect for humanity. And this is why the Australian Government has continued to commit our defence personnel to support the Iraqi Security Forces, so that they can fight to defeat this terrorist organisation within Iraq and to prevent its spread to other parts of the world including in our region.

I can also confirm that next Monday, the annual Australia-US Ministerial Dialogue will take place in Sydney and we will welcome for the first time under the new Trump Administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense General Mattis, for a dialogue with Senator Marise Payne and with me on challenges that face our region, on our bilateral alliance with the United States, and on ways that we can work together to improve the peace, stability and prosperity of our two nations and our region. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Minister, do we know if any of the girl's family were injured at all?

JULIE BISHOP: My understanding is that the young girl was killed, I have no reports that any other family members were injured. We are providing consular support to the family from our embassy in Baghdad. We do have limited resources in Baghdad, given the security environment, but we providing as much consular support as we can to her family.

JOURNALIST: At AUSMIN will you discuss freedom of navigation in the South China Sea?

JULIE BISHOP: I anticipate that our AUSMIN discussion will cover a whole range of challenges that we face including North Korea, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and also the tensions in the South China Sea. We will also discuss trade and investment opportunities because, of course, that is part of the peace, stability and prosperity that our two nations seek to enhance.

JOURNALIST: Is there any chance that Australia would change its stance towards freedom of navigation exercises within the 12 mile zone?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government will continue to access the international waters of the South China Sea. We have upheld our right to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight and we will continue to do so in accordance with international laws.

JOURNALIST: Minister, can I ask you briefly on another serious matter in the Middle East - the slaughter of Coptic Christians, particularly in Egypt. Labor's called for the Government to take a more humane approach towards Coptic Christians. It's pointed out a number have been refused asylum in Australia. Is the Government willing to re-examine their cases?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government, of course, supports the refugee applications of those who are persecuted or fear persecution, and we have condemned the brutal attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt and we have encouraged family members to contact us if there are circumstances where Coptic Christians should be seeking asylum. And there are many instances where Coptic Christians have met our requirements and have been granted asylum in Australia. There are are individual cases that I'm not in a position to comment upon but each case is considered on its merits.

JOURNALIST: Is it true, do you think, that the situation has materially worsened in the last few months though for Coptic Christians and should some of those cases be reconsidered in those circumstances?

JULIE BISHOP: There has been indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people of all religions, including Coptic Christians, in Egypt and we've called upon the Government of Egypt, we support President Sisi in his attempts to prevent this ongoing attack on Coptic Christians, but other religions in the Middle East. That's a matter for the Minister for Immigration to consider whether there are any cases that require review. They are considered on a case-by-case basis and I'm confident that Minister for Immigration will make the right decisions.

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