Sky News AM Agenda, Melbourne - interview with David Lipson

  • Transcript, E&OE
02 November 2015

DAVID LIPSON: For more now, we're joined live by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Melbourne. Thank you very much for your time this morning. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for this but that has been ruled out. Can you explain how authorities are so sure that this was not caused by Islamic State?

JULIE BISHOP: Well first David, the Australian Government extends its deepest condolences to the people of Russia, the families and friends of those aboard this flight. The Australian Embassy in Cairo and the Australian Embassy in Moscow have been in contact with local authorities. We have confirmed that there are no Australians on board.

The investigation will obviously take quite some time but I note that both the Egyptian authorities and the Russian authorities have ruled out this speculation that Islamic State or Daesh was responsible for the downing of this plane. The flight recorders have been located - the black boxes - and they are in Cairo being assessed now. So it could take some time for the authorities to rule in or rule out causes of this crash.

DAVID LIPSON: Are there any early indications as to what could have caused the crash?

JULIE BISHOP: Information is coming through slowly. We understand that it did break up mid-air. There could be a number of causes for that. There are also commentators who say that ISIL does not have access to the kind of military equipment that would be required to bring down a plane. So it's speculation at this stage and I think we're best to await the formal investigations before we can determine the actual cause.

DAVID LIPSON: We've also seen an election result in Turkey this morning with the long dominant AKP party - the incumbents seizing power in their own right. What are the implications of that election result? Particularly, well for Turkey, yes but for neighbouring Syria?

JULIE BISHOP: Well President Erdogan's party has won a majority. What we want in Australia is to ensure that there is greater stability in the Middle East, North Africa, and in this part of the world Turkey is an important stakeholder.

Turkey is obviously on the border with the conflict areas of Syria, there's conflict in Iraq and so we want to see greater political stability in Turkey. The Vienna talks that have taken place recently with a view to finding a political solution to the civil war in Syria involved Turkey. So we want to see stability and a greater sense of security in that part of the world and we hope that this election result will add to that.

DAVID LIPSON: And your relationship - the Government's relationship - with Turkey remains pretty good. Will there be further cooperation in particular trying to stop foreign fighters entering Syria and neighbouring Iraq through the border from Turkey?

JULIE BISHOP: We have a very close relationship with Turkey as you know. This year was the 100th anniversary of ANZAC and so the government-to-government relationships are very strong. I meet with the Turkish foreign minister on a regular basis. We're part of a group called MIKTA - Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Australia. Indeed I'll be meeting with the foreign minister again during November so we maintain very strong connections but also on the issue of foreign terrorist fighters, Australia and Turkey are cooperating. We are sharing information, we are working with Turkey to ensure that Australians do not pass through Turkey and head to the conflict areas in Syria or indeed in Iraq. So there is close cooperation between our two countries.

DAVID LIPSON: The US last week announced that Special Forces troops will be joining the fight on the ground in Syria, now Australia says there are no plans for Australian Special Forces to do similar work. Where is that at now and will consideration be given to that in the future?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that the United States has announced that a very limited number of Special Forces will be operating in Syria. Our mission is very clear - we are in Iraq at the invitation of, and with the consent of the Iraqi Government. Our troops are training and advising and assisting, they are not on the ground. They are not in combat zones. So ours is a training role. We are also taking part in air strikes. The air strikes are over Iraq, but also over parts of Syria from where ISIL or Daesh are launching attacks back on Iraq. So our mission is very defined and we don't have any plans to put combat troops into either Syria or Iraq.

DAVID LIPSON: Okay, and you're in Melbourne this morning, in Federation Square, to launch a new website by the Government, the Smartraveller website. What's different, and what is this going to mean for Australians who want to go overseas.

JULIE BISHOP: It's a new advertising campaign for Smartraveller, that's one "t". We have a refreshed website, which we encourage Australians travelling overseas to visit to do their research. There are an increasing number of Australians travelling overseas. In fact last year there were 10 million overseas visits by Australians, about 55 per cent of Australians now have a passport, but this also means that there are more consular cases, in other words Australians getting into trouble overseas. This can be ill health, it can be a lost passport, it can be an arrest. There's a whole range of things that can go wrong. So our message to Australians is while we care very much about their safety and security overseas there's a limit to what the Government can do. So Australians travelling overseas should be well informed of the risks, be very well prepared, and take out comprehensive travel insurance, because otherwise they can end up with some pretty hefty bills - out of pocket expenses - unless they're covered by insurance.

DAVID LIPSON: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, great to speak to you this morning, thank you so much for that.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you David.

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