Press conference

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP The Australian Government is deeply shocked by this latest horrific attack and we condemn what appears to be a terrorist attack that took place on Bastille Day in Nice in France on the 15th of July - the Bastille Day celebrations had been going on for a couple of days - and we understand that at least 80 people have been killed and others injured, many more injured. Once again, we stand resolutely with the people of France at this time, and extend our deepest sympathies to the victims, the families and friends and the people of France.

Our Embassy in Paris is in very close contact with the French authorities and is working closely with the French Crisis Centre. Our Canberra Crisis Centre is in direct contact with the French Crisis Centre. I have just spoken with our Ambassador in Paris, Stephen Brady, and we understand that three Australians have been injured. They have suffered minor injuries, seeking to flee the scene, to get away from the scene. We are working to provide consular assistance to all three. The reports are that a truck deliberately drove into a crowd gathered for Bastille Day celebrations around 11:00pm on the 14th of July.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has reissued our travel advice for France in light of this incident, but the overall level of advice for France hasn't changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution. In France, local authorities are advising people to stay indoors while the facts are being established.

Australians in Nice and elsewhere in France should monitor the media, follow the directions of local authorities, and advise friends and family in Australia that they are safe. If anyone has any concerns about the welfare of family and friends in the region, please try to contact them directly and if you are unable to contact them directly and still hold concerns for their welfare, call the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 or if you're calling from overseas, +61 2 6261 3305.

The Minister for the Interior in France has now appointed an investigator, a prosecutor, who will take over the management of the matter to determine the nature and cause of this attack, but I understand that the French Government believes it has all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack. We will await the formal investigation to take its course and I understand that the investigator will be making a statement later on today, French time.

Our Ambassador has given me some insight into how this has been received in France. It has shocked France; it has rocked it to its core. This should have been a time of great national pride and celebration. Bastille Day is a day of great national pride in France. Indeed, Australian and New Zealand soldiers had led the Bastille Day parade down the Champs Elysees about 12 hours earlier in the presence of the French President, French Prime Minister, other ministers, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Prime Minister John Key and our Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove. There were celebrations in Paris and across France, indeed, the Euro '16 football season had concluded on the Sunday with the game between France and Portugal, where about 80,000 people had gathered in a stadium in Paris for that game. So there had been a sense that the Euro '16 and Bastille Day celebrations were proceeding without incident.

The state of emergency that had been put in place in France as a result of the 13 November 2015 attacks was to come to an end on 31 July, but that state of emergency has now been extended. This means that an additional 10,000 police and army personnel will continue to be on the highest level of alert in Paris and across France.

We condemn this attack. We support our friends and partners in France and we join with others around the world in hoping that this will be the end of this type of horrific incident that is targeted at unarmed civilians.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Can you say which states those Australians, three Australians come from?

JULIE BISHOP: At this stage we are working with the family members and so until such time as we're in a position to give details, we will respect their privacy while we work with them, but we are providing consular assistance. I understand that they were fleeing the scene and sustained minor injuries in that process.

JOURNALIST In terms of Australians, warnings to Australians overseas, are you saying that Australians should still go about doing what they want to do? That we don't want these forms of terrorism to prevail?

JULIE BISHOP: Australians should continue to go about their business, but they should be mindful of the travel advice. We have reissued the travel advice, we have obviously included reference to this incident. We call on Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in France, and of course, abide by the directions of the local authorities. And I have provided the consular numbers should any Australians in the region feel the need to contact our Embassy. We will certainly have consular teams available.

JOURNALIST: In terms of injuries, you say they are minor. Can you elaborate any more on their injuries?

JULIE BISHOP: No, I'm not able to do this at stage. I'm obviously in constant contact with our Crisis Centre in Canberra and we will bring any updates to the attention of the public as soon as we're able.

JOURNALIST: Do you expect these attacks to continue this regularly, even more so and do you think such an attack is likely in Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: We will most certainly await the findings of the investigator, the French prosecutor who has been appointed by the Minister of the Interior to look into this matter. I expect that there will be a statement later today in European time, but every indication is that this has the hallmarks of a terrorist attack. But the details are still to be made clear and at this stage, I'm not aware that any group or individual has claimed responsibility for it.

JOURNALIST: Minister, while you can't explain the nature of the injuries, you can confirm that they're minor?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, that's what I've been informed.

This latest attack reminds us that no city, no country is immune from terrorist attacks, that's why the Australian Government will do all in our power to keep Australians as safe as possible, both at home and abroad.

JOURNALIST: Can you say are they men, women, ages?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand there is an Australian woman, but the details of the other two are yet to be released.

JOURNALIST: Could I ask your thoughts on Boris Johnson getting the equivalent of yourself in the UK?

JULIE BISHOP: I have sent my very warmest congratulations to Boris Johnson. I met him when he was the Lord Mayor of London, and he has a deep affection for Australia, and spent some time here, and we had a very delightful conversation about his time in Australia. I look forward to working closely with him. The counterpart Foreign Secretaries with whom I've worked over the years, including William Hague and Philip Hammond, have been an absolute delight to work with and I have no doubt that Boris Johnson will be an equally positive and constructive partner for Australia and I certainly look forward to meeting with him at the earliest available opportunity.

JOURNALIST: Notwithstanding some negative views of him taking such an international role?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe that Boris Johnson will make a significant contribution to British relations with countries around the world and I'm particularly pleased that he has such a personal connection with Australia, and I certainly look forward to working with him as closely and constructively as I have with his predecessors.

JOURNALIST: Minister, with the MH17 investigative panel wrapping up today, will the Australian Government pursue anyone named or implicated in that report, for example, Russia if that were the case?

JULIE BISHOP: As the second anniversary of the downing of the MH17 will occur this Sunday on the 17th July, I am very aware of the poignancy of this date and the grief that it will continue to bring for the families of those who were killed in this incident. The Australian Government will continue to do all we can to hold those responsible for this atrocity to account. We have said that we will await the findings of the Investigative Taskforce - Australia was one of the five members of the Joint Investigation Taskforce. And it has been thorough, it has been done with integrity, and I look forward to reading the detail of it so that we can then determine what steps, what action we can take in the interests of finding justice for those who were killed and for their families.

JOURNALIST: Is there a memorial or something else planned for this Sunday on Australia's behalf?

JULIE BISHOP: These are matters that are in the hands of the families and we will respect the families' views on this. We're this constant contact with the families of those who were killed aboard MH17.

JOURNALIST: On another topic, the passing of Lady Susan Renouf. She's obviously a popular personality in the Liberal Party. Do you have any thoughts for her family today?

JULIE BISHOP: Lady Susan Renouf was an extraordinary and gracious lady. She made a significant contribution to public life. Her good deeds and works were appreciated by many, and she touched many lives, and it's a sad day. She will be fondly remembered as a very elegant and beautiful lady who had a very good heart, and did many good deeds for others.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the article on the front page of 'The Australian' today regarding a personal donation of $1 million by the Prime Minister to the Liberal Party, what are your comments on that?

JULIE BISHOP: All matters regarding political donations are reported by the AEC in the usual way.

JOURNALIST: So there's no denying this donation happened?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm not in a position to talk about donations to the Liberal Party. It's a matter for the Liberal Party administration, and donations are publicly reported in the usual way following an election.

JOURNALIST: The article did further go on to state that the Liberal Party is now either in debt or broke. Is there any truth to this at all?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that the Federal Director has denied that report. OK. Thank you.

- Ends -

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