Doorstop interview, Parliament House

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Has anything changed since this morning in terms of Australia's stance on Iraq?

JULIE BISHOP: Well we continue to call for any Australians who are in Iraq to leave as soon as possible. We have a small consular staff there at the Embassy, so we can't provide the level of consular services that might otherwise be expected. So we call on any Australians who are in Iraq to leave immediately while the Baghdad airport is still open and commercial flights are still travelling.

JOURNALIST: Are there any Australians unaccounted for in Iraq?

JULIE BISHOP: Well there are only about 110 or so Australians registered with our Embassy but there are thousands of dual citizens or long term residents in Iraq and there are some hundreds working with oil and gas or other companies. The Australian Embassy has been in touch with a number of the companies.

The message that we're sending is that Australians in Iraq should leave immediately unless they have made other arrangements for their personal safety and security because we have limited consular capability now.

JOURNALIST: Under any circumstances will troops be sent in to get those consular staff out?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't envisage those circumstances. We have in place evacuation plans. We have put in place contingencies and we are working with like-minded countries, our friends and allies in the United States and the United Kingdom, to ensure that our staff are safe.

JOURNALIST: What is the latest you've heard from your counterpart in Egypt regarding the Peter Greste trial?

JULIE BISHOP: There was a change in Foreign Minister overnight, a new Foreign Minister was appointed, and I have put in place steps to make contact with him as soon as possible.

JOURNALIST: Regarding Iraq, the Ambassador to Australia denies that Iraq could turn into a terrorist state. Have you had any contact with him today regarding what help Australia might be able to provide to Baghdad?

JULIE BISHOP: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in contact with the Iraqi Embassy here in Canberra. Likewise we are in contact with representatives in Baghdad.

JOURNALIST: And finally, is there any final word on whether or not SAS troops will be sent over to Baghdad to protect the embassy, or is that a last resort for us?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't see that as necessary. We've put in place contingency plans. Our staff numbers are significantly reduced. We're not talking about the numbers the United States has in Baghdad and so I believe the plans we have in place will ensure the security of our staff.

JOURNALIST: Are they on standby though?

JULIE BISHOP: The SAS in Australia is always on standby if the Australian Government requests it to do something. That's not necessarily in relation to Iraq, they're always on standby, so of course we're not suggesting the SAS would be needed, I'm saying that we already have in place evacuation plans, contingency plans should they be required.

JOURNALIST: So at the moment they're not required? The Embassy is not being evacuated at the moment?

JULIE BISHOP: No, we have an embassy that's open, we've downsized the number of staff, we've got an operating embassy, we have security staff who've been with us for a long time that are still there and we have in place evacuation plans that would meet any contingency. So I'm satisfied that the security arrangements we have in place at present will ensure that our staff at the embassy in Baghdad will be safe.

JOURNALIST: Minister, did Coalition forces leave to early from Iraq?

JULIE BISHOP: The United States offered to remain in Iraq, it was a consultation with the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi Government did not want the US to remain - so in 2011 the United States left at the request of the Iraqi Government.

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