Richo + Jones Show, Canberra - interview with Graham Richardson and Alan Jones

  • Transcript, E&OE

ALAN JONESMany of the peopleout there say, well there is the Foreign Minister, but who is Julie Bishop? Letme just say to you by way of what we ought to know about her, and I'vesaid before, I said it earlier on, I'm happy to be able to say in front of herand to her, Australians feel a great sense of pride that they are representedon the international stage by a woman of such presentational class andcapacity, Julie Bishop.

She is of course, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. In my viewthat ought to mean she is the Deputy Prime Minister but she's not, that goes tothe minor party the Nationals.

She is a graduate in law from Adelaide University. A lot of peoplearen't aware of all of this. She became a partner at an Adelaide law firm atthe age of 26. She went to Perth and worked as a lawyer at Clayton Utz,specialising in commercial litigation, and was selected in 1994 as the ManagingPartner of the Perth office of Clayton Utz which had 27 partners at the timeand about 200 employees.

She won the seat of Curtin at the general election in 1998. She wasnamed by Harpers Bazaar as their Woman of the Year last year, receiving praisein the article from people like Gina Rhinehart, the Australian Attorney-GeneralGeorge Brandis, who described Julie Bishop as "the complete political product.Someone who has mastered her portfolio, who has proven she can be among thebest".

But it is not only in Australia that she has been acknowledged. Lastyear in September, Julie Bishop, our Foreign Minister, was awarded a rare honourfrom the Dutch Government for her work in procuring access to the MalaysianAirlines flight MH17 crash site. She was presented a Dutch order of merit medalby her Dutch counterpart Franz Timmermans during a meeting on the sidelines ofa NATO Summit meeting in Wales last September. It was only the eleventh timethe order had been granted and Julie Bishop is only the third woman to receiveit. It's what the Dutch Foreign Minister Franz Timmermans said that matters. Hesaid that "Julie Bishop did a marvellous job this summer. She helped theNetherlands, she helped Europe, she helped me personally to tackle one of themost difficult situations the Netherlands has ever faced". He said thattogether the pair, Timmermans and Julie Bishop, through the UN SecurityCouncil, convinced the world "that we should be allowed to repatriate thevictims and their belongings". He said without Julie Bishop's "brilliantinterventions" the countries would not have succeeded.

Well I suppose Julie Bishop as I know her would say 'enough of all ofthis backscratching'. We welcome here and thank you for being on the programbut you come to us at some very difficult times, don't you?

JULIEBISHOP Good evening Alan. Good eveningGraham. Thank you for that very kind introduction. You are two very gallantgentlemen and I'm delighted to be on your program.

ALAN JONES Difficulttimes though aren't they?

JULIEBISHOP Yes Alan they are. I've just come froma National Security Committee meeting where we had a briefing viateleconference from our Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who has been inParis, meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, MrGuterres. He is now in Geneva, meeting with other UN officials and Red Cross,the International Organisation of Migration, as we determine what Australia cando to be part of an international response to this appalling humanitariancrisis that is unfolding in Syria.

Of course,this civil war has been going on in earnest since about 2011 and Australia hasresponded appropriately over time but now it has reached a situation whereliterally millions and millions of people are displaced in Syria, millions arecrossing the borders into Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey. There are millions inIraq so it is on unprecedented humanitarian scale. Australia will play its partof what has to be an international response because it is beyond the capacityof any one country, or any one region to deal with this issue. So we've had avery serious discussion tonight and I believe the Prime Minister will take theproposal to Cabinet tomorrow, will speak to our Party Room and then make apublic announcement about Australia's response.

ALANJONES Andwhat are the options?

JULIEBISHOP Alan, obviously what we need to do isestablish peace and stability in Syria, to take away the reason for peoplefleeing from the Assad regime or from the terrorist organisations that havetaken hold of territory inside Syria and are committing atrocious acts againstcivilian populations. But that is the ultimate aim. In the meantime we have todeal with the immediacy of these millions of people leaving Syria and lookingfor refuge in bordering nations and further beyond into Europe.

Australia canassist the countries that are bearing the burden of the displaced people, therefugees, mainly Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. We can support them because theyhave people in camps, people in their communities. We can take permanentresettlement numbers into Australia. We can look at temporary safe haven visas.So these are a range of options we are looking at. I won't pre-empt the Cabinetdiscussion, nor should I, nor the Party Room discussion tomorrow, but I canassure you that Australia will respond in a considered and measured way toensure that we play our part in this international response.

GRAHAMRICHARDSON Julie I think youheard the discussion that Alan and I had in the first 20 minutes of the showand there is a concern, and there has to be I think, that this current crisisisn't going to have any easy ending because there are millions more who want toget to Europe. And of course once Germany hung out a sign that said 'come' thenI'm sure that a lot of people saw the sign and they are already coming. And soI just have a feeling that whatever you decide to do – whether it's 5000, or10,000 or 20,000 or 100,000, it doesn't matter. You are going to have to makeanother decision next year and the year after that because these people willkeep on coming. There are millions of displaced people looking for a home.

JULIEBISHOP Well Graham there are millions ofdisplaced people around the world. The Middle East is not the only location ofconflict. There are millions of displaced people in Africa, through the Horn ofAfrica, up into Libya, Somalia, South Sudan. There are people on the movethroughout the world. What Australia must do is respond to a particular crisisin Syria and we will do that. We have been assisting for some time now but ithas to be an international response. The European Union are looking at takingmandated numbers. There are 28 countries in the EU. There are countries in theMiddle East, in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Thereare countries that traditionally take refugees under humanitarian programs, theUnited States, Canada and Australia but this is not an issue that one countrycan solve.

We will playour part but there must be a political solution in Syria.There must be amilitary solution to the rise of these barbaric terrorist organisations andthere must be a security solution for the longer term. But we are talking aboutin Syria - a Sunni/Shia conflict; we are talking about the rise of thesebarbaric terrorist organisations and ISIL or Da'esh is not the only one; thereis also al Nusra that is also an Al Qaeda offshoot, there is also the KhorosanGroup, so within Syria there are a number of players; the Kurds are alsoinvolved; there are persecuted minorities; there is the Sunni/Shia conflictbecause of course you have a Shia minority governing a Sunni majority. Whereasin Iraq you have a Sunni minority being governed by a Shia majority. So this isan age old issue and we can only play our part as best we can.

GRAHAMRICHARDSON Julie when it comes to Syria on the ground, the difficulty is therearen't any good guys. Who do you back?

JULIEBISHOP Well we will be considering also arequest from the United States to take part in Coalition air strikes overSyrian territory but targeting the ISIL/Da'esh military bases and supply lines.This is not to assist the Assad regime. This is to get rid of a terroristorganisation that is beheading civilians, persecuting Christians and carryingout atrocious terrorist acts. They are operating between Syria and Iraqterrorising not only civilians in Syria, but also in Iraq.

We are alreadypart of the air strikes against Da'esh in Iraq and there is a logical argumentthat we should also support the air strikes over Syria. But this is not tosupport the Assad regime, that has to be the subject of a separate process.It's called the Geneva Communique at present and that is calling for atransitional government, a unity government in Syria post-Assad, but firstthings first. We have to deal with the humanitarian crisis. We are consideringtaking part in the air strikes.

You will havenoted that overnight the United Kingdom carried out some drone strikes inSyria, the Canadians are also involved in Syria and we are considering whetherAustralia should become involved by extending our operations beyond Iraq intoSyria.

ALANJONES Minister you mentioned you had comefrom a meeting of the National Security Committee and I know until this refugeecrisis emerged in the last 48 hours, of the dimension that we now see, therewas to be a report from Kevin Andrews as to whether or not, or how you respondto the American request to increase the presence of RAAF hornets in Iraq andwhether in fact that would take you across the border into Syria. There wassome talk as to whether or not that would be illegal because the border now hasbeen obliterated now by ISIS. When will you be able to tell Australia what theresponse to the Obama request is because there is the other issue isn't therethat these strategic experts say that we may not be able to succeed in the airunless we can actually put more bodies on the ground and there is no will forthat it seems amongst the international Coalition?

JULIEBISHOP We've been asked to consider a requestby the United States and the Coalition partners to extend our air strikes from,not only the Iraqi air space, but over Syria. Now the United States have reliedupon what is called the principle of 'collective self-defence' in other wordsthe Iraqi Government has requested the support of the United States and otherpartners to protect them from ISIL or Da'esh. And because the attacks againstIraq are coming from ISIL held territory in Syria, under the principle ofcollective self-defence the United States can attack ISIL, their bases, theirsupply lines in Syria because it is an attack on the people of Iraq. So theprinciple of collective self-defence would apply.

Turkey isalso involved in these air strikes into Syria. They are using the principle ofindividual self-defence because they see ISIL attacking Turkey directly. So itis a complex legal situation. We are seeking, and have received, our own legaladvice on the issue but the United States legal position was set out in aletter they sent to the UN Security Council last year. It is the same principlethat Britain relied upon, just a night ago, to carry out drone attacks intoSyria.

ALANJONES What about the argument, the strategicargument that with all of that can you succeed because after all the refugeeproblem is the symptom, it's not the disease, the disease is what you said inyour opening remarks - the problems and the lack of safety for citizens inSyria. Can you succeed in the air without people on the ground?

JULIEBISHOP We take the advice of our militaryexperts and we have been working in Iraq to build the capacity of the IraqiSecurity Forces so that they can go out and protect the Iraqi people and takeback territory that has been claimed by the terrorists. In the case of Syriathe Assad regime has an army, a depleted army, that is fighting ISIL as well becauseISIL has taken their territory. [inaudible] so there is another conflict goingon between the Assad regime and ISIL.

What we mustdo is focus on taking out the military bases, the supply lines, the logisticsthat are supporting ISIL so that they can't launch these attacks into Iraq. Idon't envisage Australia being asked to put troops on the ground in Syria. Thatwould be a completely different scenario.

What we aredoing in Iraq is working with the Iraqi Government, at the invitation of, andwith the consent of the Iraqi Government to build the capacity of their forces.Russia and Iran are working with Assad in relation to building the capacity ofhis forces against ISIL. The common enemy is the terrorist organisation. Thiscreates a multi-layered, complex, diabolical situation but Australia will playits part. Whether we join the air strikes into Syria will be a matter forfurther consideration and discussion in Cabinet.

GRAHAMRICHARDSON Julie it is hard toimagine that the nation that you and I are now talking about, Syria, ever beingSyria again. I don't see how that will happen. I mean it has got to break up,presumably Assad hangs on to a slither, but you talked about the GenevaCommunique. Isn't this sort of stuff just a bit of a sick joke - a unitygovernment in Syria? I mean who the hell would be in it?

JULIEBISHOP The Alawite minority which is a Shiaoffshoot is governing a Sunni majority. That was always going to be a fragilesituation. You also have the Kurds who are seeking territory and now theseterrorist groups have filled the vacuum that has been left by the Assad regime.And the Assad regime? They are not angels. I mean back in 2011 they wereattacking their own people. You recall all the reports about the use ofchemical weapons against the Sunni majority and the action that was taken inthe UN Security Council at that time to call on the Assad regime to ceaseattacking their own people. I think the Assad regime lost all legitimacy atthat time but in the meantime we saw what was Al Qaeda in Iraq move into Syria,then declare itself to be Islamic State and claim a caliphate – territory -over Syria and Iraq. So it is a multi-layered and very complex situation. Wecan only deal with the requests that have been made to us and currently we arelooking at the humanitarian crisis and the question of whether we will join airstrikes into Syria.

ALANJONES I got in a taxi the other day inSydney and it was a Syrian taxi driver. Now he has been here for 27 years buthe's got family in Damascus and so I asked him this question about Assadbecause there was the chemical weapons and so on and he said well, there is twoprongs to our support for this man. One, he is the only bloke supporting theChristians and secondly, he is totally opposed to the people you're opposed to,namely Da'esh or ISIS or ISIL and so on. Aren't there some elephants in theroom here? See we had the Spring Offensive didn't we and we demonised Mubarakand we demonised Gaddafi and we got rid of them. Well this is now the messwe've got in place. Is Assad, for all his previous convictions, nonetheless onthe same sheet of music as you in fighting this terrible mob that was seekingto rebuild the boundaries of Europe?

JULIEBISHOP Well first there are persecutedminorities within Syria and they do include the Christians. I'm not sayingAssad is persecuting them but they are being persecuted by other groups withinSyria. So Christians are fleeing but there are also Kurds and Assyrians and inIraq you've got Mandeans and Yazidis, Maronites, a whole range of ethnic andreligious minorities that are being persecuted by various groups in both Syriaand Iraq and they are fleeing and they literally have nowhere to go home.

Now a numberof Syrians, if peace were able to be achieved, they would go back home.Anumber of people want to remain in the region so that they can go home when itis safe to do so but there are many in the persecuted minority who will have nohome to return to. In the case of Assad, clearly if there were to be a vacuumin Damascus that would be disastrous because it would provide an opportunityfor the terrorist organisations to fill the vacuum. So that's why there has tobe a very staged approach to the political transition. You cannot leave avacuum. It will be filled by an even more diabolical grouping as we've seen inother places in the past so this has to be a very measured approach by theCoalition. It has got to be a very measured approach by Australia and that iswhat we've been discussing over the last few hours in the National SecurityCommittee.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON Following on fromwhat Alan says, Julie I understand the diplomatic words about the approachyou've got to take but when the crunch comes the only person on the groundfighting Islamic State is Assad and so don't we have to come to somearrangement with him?

JULIEBISHOP And the Kurds.

GRAHAMRICHARDSON And the Kurds, butthe Kurds don't want to take over the whole of Syria they are trying to hang onto what they've got and especially in Iraq they basically have a chunk of Iraqand they just want to keep it and they are the only ones successful in fightingthe Islamic State. But I mean seriously it is such a big effort that is goingto be required to beat them, you need the Kurds, but don't you need Assad? Don'tyou actually need him to actually keep fighting?

JULIEBISHOP Well you have the Russians and theIranians supporting the Assad regime and that is what is occurring at present.Now, this is why the UN Security Council will be so vexed by these issues,Russia and Iran backing the Assad regime, the Coalition backing the IraqiGovernment in Iraq but Iran also supporting the Iraqi Government, so it's verycomplicated.

We willrespond to the request made of us and I believe in the case of Assad he willremain for some time. I can't predict how long but if the reports are true thatRussia is providing support then let's hope that the attacks are directedagainst the terrorist organisations because one thing of which I'm sure is wemust defeat this terrorist organisation, unprecedented in its level ofbrutality and violence. These beheadings and crucifixions, their use of socialmedia to not only terrorise but to recruit people, the fact that we haveAustralian citizens travelling to Syria and Iraq to support this terroristorganisation brings this conflict back home here to Australia which is why wemust act to defeat this terrorist organisation.

ALANJONES Well done, just coming back to homeand then to the [inaudible] which is the issue you are addressing tonightobviously in that meeting that you've just come from, namely about refugees.The people watching you tonight would say I think, as they've said to me todayon air overwhelmingly, the first obligation of government really is to thesecurity of its own people. They are worried about the kind of people that comein in the people smuggler movement which you've managed to terminate. How canyou guarantee, if you do increase the refugee intake from 13,750, if you doincrease it, how can you guarantee to the people that you're talking to herethat we are not importing more trouble?

JULIEBISHOP Because Alan we will be in charge ofthe process. What happened under the previous government is they essentiallysubcontracted out our immigration program to the people smugglers. The peoplesmugglers determined who they would take money from and who they would put onboats and send to Australia and if they didn't drown on the way and they madeit to Australia well then we had no choice in that. Having stopped the boats,having dismantled the people smuggling trade we are now in a position todetermine the people who will come to Australia. So if we were to take a numberof refugees, a number of displaced people, we are able to work with the UNHCR,with the International Organisation of Migration and choose the people that wewill take. We partner with them, we provide them funding and then we say wewill focus on women and children and families of the persecuted minorities forexample. Australia can say that, we can determine who will come, and that isthe difference. When you are in control of your borders, when you are notsubjected to the people smuggling trade, you make the decisions, you put theintegrity into the system.

GRAHAMRICHARDSON Julie, we'll have toleave it there. That was actually, I've got to say I wish I didn't talk to youas often because when the crunch comes you're enough to make me vote Liberal.I've got to think seriously about ever interviewing you again.

JULIEBISHOP Okay Graham, challenge accepted!

ALANJONES Just one final thing, when do youbelieve Cabinet and the Prime Minister and you will be in a position to tellthe Australian people what the response is to a. the American request to putmore planes in the air over Syria, not over Iraq and b. the response to the"refugee issue"?

JULIEBISHOP Alan, we don't want to delay on thehumanitarian issue. I believe that the decision will be imminent. Likewise withthe request to extend air strikes into Syria, a decision will be imminent. Wewill let the Australian people know as soon as possible.

GRAHAMRICHARDSON Julie Bishop, thankyou very much. I hope to see you soon.

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