Interview with Galey, Ross and Charli, SEAFM Gold Coast

  • Transcript, E&OE
20 March 2015

PRESENTER: Someone who is definitely in charge of that is our Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Good morning Julie.

JULIE BISHOP:Good morning Galey, Ross and Charli.

PRESENTER: It's nice to chat to you. The Gold Coast has dug so deep this morning, I wish you could see, we had two ladies who together brought a hundred boxes worth of things that are so needed like batteries and tools and things for Vanuatu. What, as far as our Government goes, are we passing on to this beautiful island?

JULIE BISHOP:Well first thank you for conducting this appeal. Australia is a very generous nation and we are grateful for offers of assistance. The people of Vanuatu are doing it very tough, the cyclone has destroyed or damaged a large number of houses and transport infrastructure and public buildings and crops. Sadly some people have died, we anticipate the death toll may even be higher than the confirmed 11.

But what we are doing is focussing now on making all possible efforts to contact and confirm the safety and welfare of those in the outlying islands of Vanuatu – these are the ones that are more difficult to reach by plane. Communications are still down.

Yesterday we were able to evacuate by helicopter, five young volunteers from Pentecost Island – two Australians, one New Zealand citizen and two from the United Kingdom – and we hope to evacuate the remaining eight volunteers off Pentecost Island today. There are also six young volunteers – including three Australians – on another island, we will be able to evacuate them today. So we are working to confirm the safety and welfare of about 50 Australians and Canadians who currently remain unaccounted for.

We have sent eleven loads of emergency relief supplies and personnel to Vanuatu. There are almost 200 Australians who have been deployed in response to Tropical Cyclone Pam, medical teams, urban search and rescue teams, humanitarian workers, consular workers. We are also sending HMAS Tobruk, one of our large vessels, that will be heading off to Vanuatu with 335 personnel and a helicopter for search and rescue. Our response has been rapid, it has been substantial, but we stand ready to continue to work with the Government of Vanuatu as to their ongoing needs.

We also provided support to Tuvalu – I spoke to their Prime Minister yesterday and conveyed our support for Tuvalu – we have released about $50,000 of humanitarian supplies but we have offered up to $1 million for humanitarian needs, working closely with the Government of Tuvalu. And we have also sent two of our Australian civilian corp to Tuvalu to provide essential support, water, sanitation and hygiene advice.

PRESENTER: Julie, being the lucky country here in Australia, any of these things that happen to the Pacific Islands and Vanuatu, there is a sense of responsibility being a very well-resourced country. Is that the feeling of the Government at any given time that we should just always be ready to help out? It seems that we do it a lot as Australian people, we feel that our Government should always help other countries.

JULIE BISHOP:That's absolutely our position. This is our neighbourhood, this our region – the Indian Ocean Asia-Pacific is our area of influence, our area of support and we will always help out our friends and neighbours in the Pacific. Naturally they turn to us when this occurred but we were already offering our support, that we would stand by them in this time of need.

We are working very closely with the Government of Vanuatu to respond to what they require but also to make our own assessments. We have been carrying out aerial surveillance and reconnaissance missions over the outlying islands to ensure that we are checking on every person that is unaccounted for and providing the lifesaving – in many instances – supplies that are required as well as overall humanitarian relief. And of course, we will stand by them as their longer term recovery needs become more apparent.

PRESENTER: Thank you so much for chatting to us. It is just so inspiring to hear what we are doing as a country and we hope that you are proud of the Gold Coast as well because we are really digging deep today.

JULIE BISHOP:I am very proud of the Gold Coast and I know that the people of the Pacific will be very grateful. I am hoping to head to Vanuatu shortly so I will be able to pass on your good wishes to all the people of Vanuatu and the Pacific personally.

PRESENTER: Good on you Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and feel free to drop by here with your donations for our 'Give to Vanuatu' at Kurrawa Surf Club. Thank you so much and have a good day.

JULIE BISHOP:Thank you, goodbye.

- Ends -

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