Sky News AM Agenda, Canberra - interview with Kieran Gilbert
KIERAN GILBERT Minister thanks for your time. What is the latest advice you've got?
JULIE BISHOP Our security and intelligence agencies are still working to verify these reports that Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf have been killed either in Syria or in Iraq. The reports are that they were in Mosul. As you would know, Mosul is a proclaimed area, that is it's a no go zone for Australians, so any Australian who is in Mosul at present without a legitimate purpose is already committing a crime against Australian law.
Both Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf are already listed as terrorists under the United Nations Security Council resolution on foreign terrorist fighters, both have had their passports cancelled by this Government and both are subject to a warrant from Australian police.
KIERAN GILBERT Is it fair to say that reports are accurate in the sense that the agencies are more certain of the death of one of these terrorists, as opposed to the other, that there is still some doubt about Sharrouf?
JULIE BISHOP Well I'm still seeking absolute verification from our security and intelligence agencies. There have been drone strikes, there have been air attacks in Mosul. They were reportedly in that area, that is an offence against Australian law in any event, and of course they have been boasting of their terrorist activities on social media for quite some time now and both are subject to a warrant for arrest by Australian police.
KIERAN GILBERT It wouldn't be surprising if they were killed given where they are and you know, it is hard to say there would be much sympathy either within the Government on this news?
JULIE BISHOP The Australian Government has been warning for some time that it is a crime for people to support Da'esh, this terrorist organisation. It is a crime for people to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight with them or support them and it is a crime for people to be in Mosul in Iraq or Al-Raqqa province in Syria. We've also been warning that people are putting their lives in mortal danger if they do travel to these places, that they are also adding to the misery and suffering of the people of Iraq and Syria.
KIERAN GILBERT They sure are. I've got one question before we move on. What's the latest advice you have on how the fighting is going against Islamic State? Are they being held on the gains that they've made, has any progress been made?
JULIE BISHOP There are gains being made, the air strikes, and Australia's taking part in the Coalition air strikes. They are having some impact, but also on the ground the Iraqi Security Forces are making some ground.
That's why Australia is part of the Coalition of countries prepared to support the Iraqi Government build the capacity and capability of their own security forces so that they can take back the territory that Da'esh has claimed and they can protect their citizens who have been brutalised and terrorised by foreign terrorist fighters, including Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf.
KIERAN GILBERT When you look at Afghanistan though and the events there over the last 24 hours, it is a reminder of just what is at stake here and even when you are there for a decade or more in that region there is no guarantee of success, the Taliban still clearly with a lot of power in Kabul.
JULIE BISHOP We are facing a global threat of terrorism in a number of forms, in an unprecedented way and what happened in Afghanistan yesterday is shocking. There was an attack on the Parliament. We are supporting Afghanistan rebuild its country after the brutality of the Taliban and having Al-Qaeda headquartered in Afghanistan and we will continue to support Afghanistan so it doesn't again become a haven for terrorists.
KIERAN GILBERT Is it on the edge now given those images yesterday that were shocking of the Parliament while the Speaker was at his feet with that blast taking place.
JULIE BISHOP I extend our sympathy to the people and the government of Afghanistan. These were shocking scenes, an attack on the Parliament while the Lower House was in session, but this just means we should redouble our efforts to stamp out terrorism wherever and however it occurs.
KIERAN GILBERT What about the deradicalisation agenda here in Australia? There is a suggestion this morning that only in the last couple of weeks has some of the funding that the Government has put to help community leaders stop the radicalisation process in the first place, that the money has only started flowing in the last two weeks.
JULIE BISHOP We have been taking significant action for some time. About 42 community-based organisations have received grant funding from the Australian Government to work on countering violent extremism, on deradicalisation programs. For some time, we've been reaching out to communities, religious leaders, schools, parents. We've been taking action to take down terrorist related materials from online media. So we've been taking action for quite some time, significant funding has been set aside for these grants programs and for the effort that we are putting in with communities to try and understand why young people in particular would be attracted to this brutal terrorist organisation that is inhumane and uncivilised in its behaviour.
We also held a summit here in Sydney – a countering violence extremism summit – where we invited leaders, community representatives from across our region so that we can share experiences, share ideas, share information.
This is not a situation that Australia alone faces. About 90 countries around the world claim that they have citizens who have taken up with terrorist organisations including Da'esh. So we are working globally, regionally and domestically to fight terrorism.
KIERAN GILBERT Jamal Rifi, a very well respected Islamic figure in Sydney, he said that the Government has done more to antagonise the community than to engage with the community. That's not a good endorsement though from someone who is well respected by this Government.
JULIE BISHOP Well I'm very sorry that he would say that because our intention of course is to keep all Australians safe from terrorism and we are working with communities. If he has ideas on how we can do that we would welcome them. We are reaching out to these communities, we are reaching out to religious centres, to community organisations generally, to the schools, the parents. We all need to work together, the Government alone cannot resolve this problem. We need to understand why young people are being radicalised, young people who have no past religious affiliation, who come from well-educated, middle-class families who are taking up with Da'esh. So the Australian Government is doing all we can to understand this phenomenon and to act in the interests of all Australians to protect Australians from terrorism.
KIERAN GILBERT On the citizenship changes, they are going to go to the Party Room today, introduced to Parliament tomorrow. As a lawyer, are you satisfied these are going to stack up in terms of the Constitution?
JULIE BISHOP Yes I am. I believe that the proposed legislation meets a number of the concerns that have been raised in the past. What we are seeking to do is amend an existing law – section 35 of the Citizenship Act – which has been in existence for almost seven decades and we are seeking to amend that to reflect the contemporary challenge of terrorism. Just as in the past it was an offence to take up arms with a foreign army to fight against Australia and that would automatically revoke your citizenship, we are extending that to the current circumstances where terrorist organisations have declared war on Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT Can you effectively then, I guess, treating those that fight offshore with foreign armies, with terrorist groups, in a different way under the law, to those who are here as terrorist supporters, that under section 35 that would apply to those fighting internationally?
JULIE BISHOP Well it applies to dual citizens, we are not rendering anyone stateless. It will apply to dual citizens but the detail of it will be presented to the Party Room this morning and then be introduced into the Parliament.
KIERAN GILBERT Are you confident that the Cabinet concerns have been placated?
JULIE BISHOP I believe that the issues that we've been discussing in the last few weeks have been met under this revised legislation.
KIERAN GILBERT Okay. Steve Ciobo last night on the ABC was confronted with a question of a man who was accused of, and cleared of, terrorism offences back in the early 2000s and Steve Ciobo said he would be happy to be part of a Government that got rid of this individual who was subsequently cleared by the courts. Was that the right thing to say?
JULIE BISHOP Well under our new legislation, conviction of a terrorist offence will of course still also trigger a response under the Citizenship Act, as well as, under section 35 where if somebody takes up with a terrorist organisation. I believe the changes we are proposing are appropriate, they will be well-received I believe by the Australian public who do not want to see Australians taking up with terrorist organisations that have already declared that there should be terrorist attacks on Australia and Australians. So we are unrelenting in our focus on protecting Australians from the threat of terrorism.
KIERAN GILBERT So are you suggesting that this individual might have been caught up in the laws, had they been in place then?
JULIE BISHOP Well I'm not going to go into the circumstances of a particular individual and how that would apply in the case of the new laws. That would obviously be a very complex discussion for us to have. I would have to know all of the circumstances of his case and I don't, but I do know that the changes that we are making to the Citizenship Act are designed to keep Australians safe from terrorists.
KIERAN GILBERT One final question on the Emissions Reduction Target post-2020, reports this morning that they are going to be more ambitious than many people have suggested. That's in the Fairfax press this morning, that you've been in talks with Greg Hunt along those lines. Is the Prime Minister going to get on board with some more credible targets than many had thought the Government might put up?
JULIE BISHOP Well the first point is that Australia is on track to meet its targets by 2020. Not all countries can claim that. Australia will meet its targets, we are on track to do that and I think that is a very positive message. We are doing that without a job destroying carbon tax.
Secondly, Australia will present its post-2020 targets well in time for the discussion at the meeting in Paris at the end of the year. They will be sensible, practical, achievable and will not destroy our economy and will be responsible, as Australia has been in the past.
KIERAN GILBERT And ambitious as well?
JULIE BISHOP I believe that they will be appropriately ambitious for Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT Okay. Foreign Minister, thanks for your time.
JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.