Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra

  • Transcript, E&OE
23 June 2015

JOURNALIST Is there any indication of the timeframe we might have until information is readily available?

JULIE BISHOP Security and intelligence agencies are working to verify the reports that Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf have been killed in either Iraq or Syria. The likelihood of verification in relation to Mr Elomar is probably imminent. However, in relation to Mr Sharrouf we are still seeking to verify the reports.

It is very difficult for us because we have an Embassy in Baghdad but we don't have one in Damascus but of course given the security situation in Iraq it is difficult for our authorities to gain the kind of information that would be required to verify these reports that these men have been killed.

But I do point out that both men have been listed as terrorists under the UN Security Council resolution dealing with foreign terrorist fighters. Both men have had their passports cancelled by the Australian Government on the grounds that they posed a security risk to Australia. And both men have had warrants for their arrests issued by Australian police for terrorist-related offences.

JOURNALIST Why couldn't you get intelligence on Elomar and Sharrouf?

JULIE BISHOP It is just the feedback that I've had, that Mr Elomar was said to be in Mosul. There have been a number of air strikes in Mosul in recent days. As we have been warning Australians for a long time now, it is a crime to be in Mosul, in Iraq or in Al-Raqqa province in Syria, without a legitimate purpose and we are aware that Mr Elomar has been in Mosul for some time.

JOURNALIST Was it a drone strike or air strike?

JULIE BISHOP They are fighting in the conflict in Iraq and in Syria and they are fighting on the side of Da'esh, a terrorist organisation. We don't have any further details.

JOURNALIST Once the information sharing agreement comes into place will these sort of incidents be easier to verify given that we'll have an agreement on the ground?

JULIE BISHOP We are working with a number of intelligence agencies in both Iraq and those who are in Syria to gain as much information as we can about Australians who are foreign terrorist fighters. So we are working with a range of countries. There are about 60 countries in the coalition supporting the Iraqi Government to build its capability to secure the nation and so we're exchanging intelligence and information with a number of other countries.

JOURNALIST Khaled Sharrouf's family, will the Government accept them home?

JULIE BISHOP These are details we will consider once the reports have been verified one way or another. The circumstances of the families will be considered once the reports have been verified.

JOURNALIST If they are confirmed do you think this is more likely to deter people from taking up arms with ISIL or likely to encourage others to join the cause?

JULIE BISHOP These two men are not martyrs. They are criminal thugs who have been carrying out brutal terrorist attacks, putting people's lives in danger. They boast of the brutality and violence they have been meting out to people, they boast of having sexual slaves. They are carrying out terrorist activities and that's why they've been listed as terrorists under the United Nations Security Council resolution.

JOURNALIST Such visible members of ISIL or Da'esh, do you think that this is a propaganda blow to that organisation to have two such visible characters..?

JULIE BISHOP Well until such time as the reports are verified I won't be making further comment on that. But I can say that their actions are crimes under Australian law, that there are warrants out for their arrest for terrorist-related activities and that they have been boasting of their violent, brutal terrorist acts that they've been carrying out in Iraq and Syria.

JOURNALIST How significant was their pull factor?

JULIE BISHOP Well, we've had feedback from our intelligence agencies that they were being used as part of a recruitment campaign.

Da'esh has been using quite sophisticated online media techniques to recruit people and my message to young people in particular in Australia is that it is a crime to support or take up arms or fight with Da'esh or other terrorist organisations and that you are putting your life in mortal danger if you travel to Iraq and Syria and you are also adding to the misery and the suffering of the people of Iraq and Syria if you support Da'esh and similar terrorist organisations.

JOURNALIST Has the Government had information [inaudible]?

JULIE BISHOP I won't go into the details of the family's circumstances. We are aware of the family. We are aware of the fact that Mr Sharrouf, for example, used his son to hold up the severed head of a Syrian fighter, so it is alleged, for the purposes of seeking to attract others to this brutal cause.

JOURNALIST What do you say to concerns from community leaders that the Government's de-radicalisation programs are piecemeal and that funding isn't reaching the front line?

JULIE BISHOP The Australian Government has provided significant funding, millions and millions of dollars, for the purposes of community outreach to counter violent extremism and to work against the radicalisation of young people in particular. We've provided funding to about 42 community based organisations, we are engaging with religious leaders, with community leaders, with schools, with parents, but this is not something that the Government can do alone. Families and schools and community organisations must be involved in helping the Government find the causes of this violent extremism, what is drawing people to it and working with us to counter it.

That's why we held the summit in Sydney recently on countering violent extremism because this is not an issue that Australia alone faces. There are many countries around the world that tragically have people taking up arms and supporting terrorist organisations. About 90 at last count. So we are working globally, regionally and domestically to counter violent extremism, to counter terrorism and to keep Australians safe from terrorist attacks.

JOURNALIST The citizenship laws, are you confident that the legislation that will be taken to the Party Room today will have the support of your colleagues and will allay some of their concerns?

JULIE BISHOP The draft legislation is yet to be presented to the Party Room but I'm confident that the Government has addressed the concerns that were raised in the last couple of weeks. We've considered a number of options and I believe we've come up with an appropriate draft piece of legislation.

JOURNALIST Have you seen it Minister?

JULIE BISHOP I've been involved in many detailed discussions about it and I'm satisfied.

JOURNALIST On climate change, what type of targets are we aiming for, better ones than you might have expected a year ago?

JULIE BISHOP The Australian Government will meet the targets we set for 2020 and not many other countries can claim that but Australia will meet those targets without a job-destroying carbon tax. We are now in the process of considering our targets post-2020 and I'm confident that they will be reasonable, achievable and ambitious for Australia but will not involve a carbon tax and will not involve the destruction of our economy.

JOURNALIST So - they will be enough to end our reputation as a pariah on the world stage on this issue?

JULIE BISHOP I don't accept we have such a reputation. I was in Lima at a Climate Change Conference last year when we committed $200 million to a Green Climate Fund. So I believe that internationally we are seen as responsible, we are seen as practical and we will put forward targets that are achievable.

JOURNALIST [Inaudible]

JULIE BISHOP I don't accept that and neither does the PM. We will be presenting targets that are achievable, that are sensible and that are in line with expectations.

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