Radio National Drive - Interview with Patricia Karvelis
PATRICIA KARVELIS Julie Bishop welcome to RN Drive.
JULIE BISHOP Thank you Patricia, good to be with you.
PATRICIA KARVELIS The US President Barack Obama raised the importance of confronting warped ideologies, addressing the economic and political grievances terrorists exploit. Has Australia been doing enough in these areas?
JULIE BISHOP It is our greatest risk to national security and we treat it as our national security priority. I believe that the Australian Government has responded and has indeed been proactive in seeking to counter violent extremism and to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and financing and support from Australia to the terrorist organisations operating in the Middle East.
PATRICIA KARVELIS Tony Abbott will make his statement on national security on Monday. Are we about to see a significant national security crackdown? How far will this go?
JULIE BISHOP Over time we have been adjusting our laws or introducing new laws to deal with the threat as it emerges and there have been gaps in the laws that have needed to be filled and there have been new offences that have had to be created as we deal with this phenomenon of Australian citizens going overseas to take up with terrorist organisations and becoming, potentially, battle hardened terrorists, experienced in terrorist ways and attempting to come back to Australia to carry out terrorist activities here. So I believe that we have made a significant start in changing our laws to respond to this situation. We provided $630 million in new funding for our law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies and we've put funding toward counter-radicalisation programs, particularly working with communities, schools and law enforcement agencies.
PATRICIA KARVELIS Where are the holes? Given home-grown terror is such a big concern according to security agencies, isn't that where the focus should be?
JULIE BISHOP That's where the focus is. In fact our Attorney-General who is responsible for these issues in our Cabinet has been in Washington attending this conference, this summit where President Obama spoke about this matter so Senator Brandis has been in Washington attending this summit, learning from others, sharing our experiences.
The Prime Minister will make a statement on Monday. I don't intend to pre-empt it but we are continually reviewing our laws and continually working with our agencies to ensure we are doing everything we possibly can to keep Australia safe, to keep our nation safe and to reduce the risk of a terrorist attack occurring here.
PATRICIA KARVELIS If I can ask you a specific question – would you be in favour of banning the Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir which has been on the agenda for some time but it hasn't happened yet?
JULIE BISHOP Well we act on advice from our intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies and if they provide us with evidence and advice of course we would act.
PATRICIA KARVELIS And what is the evidence and advice on this group?
JULIE BISHOP Well obviously because we haven't proscribed them as a terrorist organisation, we haven't received that advice. As soon as we receive that advice we will act.
PATRICIA KARVELIS So it hasn't changed? There's no indication that you've been given different advice at this point?
JULIE BISHOP I'm not going into the details of what the Prime Minister intends to announce on Monday but I can assure you that we take the advice and the expert assistance and recommendations of our intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies very seriously.
PATRICIA KARVELIS Let's move to the Bali 9 Julie Bishop. There are suggestions, reported by Fairfax newspapers this morning, that Tony Abbott's tough talk with Indonesia may have undermined your softly, softly approach to save the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Has his tough talk done damage?
JULIE BISHOP The Prime Minister didn't link the issue of the two Australians with our assistance to Indonesia. What he was seeking to do was show that Australia has been and remains a close supporter and a close friend of Indonesia. I'm continuing to work at every level within the Indonesian Government. Our diplomats in Jakarta and in Bali are working with the families and also working with the Indonesian authorities to continue to press our case that there should be a stay of execution and their clemency pleas should be reconsidered.
I understand that the legal avenue is being pursued, that there will be an appeal in the State Administrative Courts on the 24th of February so that their clemency bids can be reviewed. In the meantime we're continuing to advocate for a stay of execution.
PATRICIA KARVELIS Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry labelled Tony Abbott's comments as threats and added that no one responds well to threats. You say that's not what he was saying but that's how Indonesia has interpreted it.
JULIE BISHOP Well I have clarified that with the Vice President of Indonesia. I have made it quite clear that the Prime Minister was simply illustrating the point that Australia has been and remains a close supporter, a close friend of Indonesia. Certainly these comments were not any attempt to threaten Indonesia and that certainly was not the sentiment or the intention of our Prime Minister.
PATRICIA KARVELIS So was it badly worded, or do you think he was misunderstood?
JULIE BISHOP There's no point in me going over this. The Prime Minister has made it quite clear that he wasn't linking the two, that he was emphasising that Australia is a close friend and supporter of Indonesia and will continue to be so. What we need to do is focus our efforts on securing a stay of execution for Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan and that's what I'm doing.
PATRICIA KARVELIS And what are your thoughts on the link between aid to Indonesia in relation to these two men. Should it be completely delinked? Is there any case?
JULIE BISHOP The issues that are taken into account in determining our aid budget are separate from what is occurring in Indonesia now and I'm going through the process of determining our aid budget for 2015-16. There will have to be cuts to our aid budget because the Budget is in such a state of disrepair that we have to find savings across Government. Indeed Labor's own savings of $5 billion that they put forward, that they said were necessary, are now not being supported by Labor. So that means we have to find cuts across Government, that includes in the aid budget. So I'm going through that process now.
PATRICIA KARVELIS And are you looking at Indonesia with more scrutiny?
JULIE BISHOP I'm looking at every country that receives aid from Australia. Australia deals with all of our aid partners on a continuing basis and we talk to them but we're certainly not talking to them in relation to the aid budget in the same discussions that we're talking in relation to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. They are separate issues.