Interview with Sylvia Jeffreys, Today Show
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Well, the delicate mission to free those young boys involved some of the best in the world, and among them was Australian doctor Richard Harris, who was sent in to give the boys the all-clear to be rescued. We understand there are also eight Australian divers - from the AFP, some of them - involved in that operation. There are rescue crews from all over the world, around 90 divers all up involved in this operation, but clearly Australians are playing a key role. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins me now. Foreign Minister, good morning to you and thank you for your time.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Brilliant news this morning, isn't it, that four of those boys have made it out safely?
JULIE BISHOP: It's wonderful news and we're very relieved that the four boys have been evacuated, but the fact that it took so many hours underscores how precarious this whole mission is. The Australian Diving Team was involved along the way - we're an integral part of this rescue - but I am so pleased that we've seen the first of the boys evacuated from this cave.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: What is the latest information you've received from your counterparts over there in Thailand on the operation?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, the first stage has been successful. Many didn't think that they'd be able to achieve this, so a lot of planning has gone into it. They will obviously learn lessons from this first evacuation and apply those to the next couple of evacuations. I think they're going to bring the boys out in groups of four, so there'll be two more groups plus the soccer coach, of course. It's highly dangerous, it's very precarious, and our thoughts are not only with the boys but also with the diving and rescue teams that are assisting.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: How many Australians are assisting in the operation?
JULIE BISHOP: There are currently 19. We have six Australian Federal Police divers, several Defence Force divers - they're our Navy Clearance Divers - we have other support from the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police, plus we have members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade response team, plus of course we have our Embassy in Bangkok standing ready to assist at any time. So, there are about 19, and of course our Crisis Response Team in Canberra are helping coordinate the planning.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Is it likely that we will send more reinforcements in from Australia?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, we sent the doctor from South Australia, who is an anaesthetist and an expert cave diver, and his qualifications and experience were certainly in demand, and he has a diving support partner with him as well. And the Australian doctor was in the cave, he was part of the medical assessment to determine that the boys were fit enough to dive and swim to freedom, but if we are asked to send more, of course we will. We're part of a whole international response group working under the guidance of the Thai Government and the Thai Navy.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Well, there is certainly a long way to go still in the operation, but that first stage has certainly buoyed the rescue crews over there this morning, so we do look forward to hearing hopefully some more good news in the coming hours and days from Thailand. In the meantime, while we've got you, if we could touch on some other topics in the news this morning: firstly the latest poll analysis in Fairfax this morning - it does spell trouble for the Government - shows you've slipped further behind Labor in several states, and of course this is all ahead of the Super Saturday by-elections. Are you worried about those numbers this morning?
JULIE BISHOP: I'm in Brisbane at present and yesterday I was out and about and the support for the Prime Minister and the Coalition couldn't have been stronger. People were very positive about our tax cuts, they were very positive about the GST - the fact that the Coalition, the Turnbull Government has had the courage to tackle the GST distribution and here in Queensland it means an extra $517 million. So, people were very pleased with the economic management of the Turnbull Government.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: The poll numbers, though, would suggest that since the election, you've dropped several points in Queensland and if that poll is reflected at the next election, you'll lose 18 seats all up. You must be a little concerned?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, I'm focusing on the policies that we're delivering for the people of Queensland and in fact across the country. We have achieved tax cuts that people said we wouldn't be able to achieve; that's going to drive economic growth and that will mean more jobs. We are hoping to achieve the state and territories' support for the GST reform, which will mean greater stability, more certainty for businesses and for our economy generally. So, there is good economic news. We're focusing on more jobs and more economic growth.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: On another topic this morning, Brazilian police have arrested Mario Santoro over the murder of Sydney business woman Cecilia Haddad. Do you still want him to be tried here in Australia, where the alleged crime was committed?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is working very closely with the Brazilian Government. We're in discussions with them. So, we are just hoping for the best outcome where justice can be achieved and so we will work closely with other authorities to ensure that the right outcome is achieved.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: So, you're happy for the Brazilians to take the matter further from here?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, this is a matter of discussion between the Australian Government and the Brazilian Government. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to go into the details of that. The Attorney-General Christian Porter has carriage of the matter, but we just want to see justice achieved.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Okay. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, we appreciate your time this morning and we're glad we could share some of that good news out of Thailand with you this morning. Thank you so much.
JULIE BISHOP: It's wonderful news. Thank you.
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