Doorstop interview - Brookings Institute, Washington DC
JOURNALIST Thank you very much for your timeMinister. Tanya Plibersek has asked if you could please explain whether the High Commission in London was used for Liberal Party or UK Conservative Party fundraising?
JULIE BISHOP I understand that this is the usual procedure when a private entity is able to use the embassy, they provide for the costs of doing so and I understand that this was the case. I don't have the details about it but the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has provided a response.
JOURNALIST You don't have any concerns about it being used for party political purposes?
JULIE BISHOP It was not used for party political purposes. Mr Alston has a number of roles, one of which is the Federal Liberal President, but he has a number of roles in the corporate world. And, like other corporations who have used embassies of the Australian Government, and other governments around the world, this is in their usual course as I understand it and the department has provided the detailed advice.
JOURNALIST And you are comfortable that advice – that this wasn't used for raising any money for the Australian Liberal Party or the UK Conservative Party?
JULIE BISHOP I understand that that is absolutely the case. It was not a party political function.
JOURNALIST What about the young man who's expected to be deported to Malaysia that's currently before the courts, do you have any concerns about him being extradited to face the death penalty?
JULIE BISHOP It is currently before the courts so therefore I don't propose to make any comments and it's a matter for the Immigration Department.
JOURNALIST Minister, in your meetings this afternoon do you anticipate being asked to make any more extra commitments to the fight against Islamic State in Iraq?
JULIE BISHOP I don't expect to be asked in relation to that matter. I've had a number of discussions already with the national security agencies here. I have had a number of discussions with Secretary Kerry in recent months. We are in Iraq at the request and invitation of the Iraqi Government and our Prime Minister was there recently. There has been no formal request made but we continue to monitor the situation to ensure that our forces are making an impact in terms of the role that they have, which is to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces - in tackling ISIL or D'aesh - this terrorist organisation that has claimed territory and is brutalising the lives of people in Iraq.
JOURNALIST In your speech here at Brookings you've noted that multinational organisations, through profit-shifting, developing countries are missing out on billions of dollars or hundreds of billions of dollars of tax revenue. Are you suggesting there needs to be a reform of the global corporate tax system that may in fact allow more tax revenue to replace foreign aid?
JULIE BISHOP I was reflecting the G20 agenda which focussed on tax reform in a global sense and one point that came out during the G20, and which has been discussed previously at various conferences around the world, is the notion that profits be paid in the place that they are derived.
JOURNALIST After your meeting with the heads of the US military and intelligence you suggested that you were even more terrified as a result. Can you give us any general details about what those briefings intonated?
JULIE BISHOP I'm even more troubled by the phenomena of foreign fighters, because of the way that they are organised, because of the way they are metastasising, that we are seeing Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claiming to have taken part in attacks. So it's not just ISIL. The focus has been on ISIL but there are many other terrorist organisations upon whom our focus is warranted. And so I had some very detailed discussions with the national security chiefs and I am grateful and pleased that Australia is so deeply engaged in sharing intelligence information and experiences with them.
JOURNALIST The suggestion, well the statement from the US military is that it's going to be at least three years before there's any turnaround in the situation in Iraq and Syria. Is Australia in for that long a haul?
JULIE BISHOP I haven't put a time frame on it but I do appreciate that it is going to take some time - first to provide the Iraqi Security Forces with the support that they will need so that they will be able to claim back territory. In that regard, we are assisting with air strikes – we have about 400 personnel involved in air strikes, we have about 200 personnel involved in advising and assisting the security forces. So that's a significant contribution that we've committed and we know it will take some time.
Whilst we've seen a disruption to ISIL's activities in that we're not seeing the columns forming and they're not taking more territory, we haven't yet made gains back. So, whilst the situation might have been stabilised in terms of territorial gains, there is a long way to go to ensure that the Iraqi Government is able to secure its citizens and its territory against these terrorist organisations.
JOURNALIST You made mention in your speech today of the links between international terrorism and narco terrorism – you mentioned Mexico, for example. Have you seen any examples, are you aware of any examples of the funding of terrorism by the drug trade in South East Asia?
JULIE BISHOP We are deeply concerned about narco-terrorism in our region. I attended a conference recently on Mauritius where the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime set out some pretty frightening statistics of the connections between terrorist organisations and drug trafficking. And that's another threat, another global threat, that nation states like Australia and the United States and others must combat. It's this connection between drug trafficking, illegal activity and funding terrorist activity that is so deeply concerning.
JOURNALIST Are you aware of any examples of that in the South East Asian region?
JULIE BISHOP There are statistics, there are instances that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has noted; I don't know whether they are public.