Sky News Early Edition, Perth - Interview with Tom Connell

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Well, joining us now for more on this is the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Minister, thanks a lot for your time, I know a very busy morning for you. Can I just start by asking your very latest advice on any Australians caught up in this attack?

JULIE BISHOP: First, I am shocked and saddened by this horrific incident in Las Vegas. Our deepest sympathies are with the families of the victims, at least 58 have been killed, and our thoughts are with those injured, at least 515, and with the American people who are suffering through the deadliest mass shooting in US history. I've been in contact with the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to offer our deep condolences. I've been in contact with our Consul-General in Los Angeles throughout the night, and our staff are making urgent enquiries to ascertain whether any Australians were directly affected. At this stage, we have no information to suggest that any Australians were among those killed or injured, but the investigation is ongoing. There are so many people involved that this situation may change. We've had about 150 calls from people wanting to ascertain the whereabouts of their friends, family, loved ones in the Las Vegas vicinity, but at this stage, although we know a number of Australians are there, we know that through social media and other contact, we have no information to suggest any Australians have been killed or injured.

JOURNALIST: That element, I suppose, of good news at least for Australia so far. Just on any travel advice, I know all the things we've been hearing from authorities says this appears to be a lone wolf attack, if you like. Is there any travel advice for Australians in the US or closer to this area?

JULIE BISHOP: Our travel advice will reflect the fact that this incident has occurred, that an investigation is ongoing. The authorities say that the perpetrator was a lone gunman, he was acting alone. There's no known motive at this stage, but the investigation is underway. So we urge all Australians who are concerned about their loved ones to contact them directly, and if they are unable to do so, to contact our hotline on 1300 555 135. Obviously, if you are in the vicinity, exercise a very high degree of caution, listen and follow the advice of the local authorities and ensure that the Australian Government, through our Smartraveller website or through contact with our representatives in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, know where you are. We are concerned about the whereabouts of all Australians. It's estimated that about 365,000 Australians visited Las Vegas last year, so there could well be many people in the area and we just want to make sure they're safe.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, obviously a very popular area. One Australian involved in all of this in a very broad sense is Marilou Danley. Now, we understand she's actually in the Philippines and perhaps the killer used her identity card in some way. Can you confirm if she is talking to police at this stage and whether or not, there have been two reports, whether she was a partner or just a housemate of the killer?

JULIE BISHOP: The US authorities were in contact with us about Marilou Danley. I understand that they have ruled her out as a person of interest at this stage, that she was not in the United States when this horrific incident occurred, but that there are reports her ID was used for booking the hotel or some such detail. But an investigation is ongoing and of course Australia will support the US authorities in their investigation in whatever way we can, but we've not had contact with Marilou Danley directly.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the attack being carried out, clearly automatic weapons used to manage an attack of this horrific scale. It must give pause for thought of our own gun laws, and presumably there's going to be a big conversation, you'd imagine, going on in the US again about their own gun laws as well.

JULIE BISHOP: I believe that debate, that discussion has already started about US gun laws. Each state has different laws in the United States. All we can do is offer our experience. You will recall back in the late 1990s, the shocking massacre at Port Arthur by a lone gunman, 35 people were killed, and then John Howard established the National Firearm Agreement that dealt with semi-automatic and automatic weapons. There was the national gun buyback scheme under which about I think it was 700,000 weapons were brought in and destroyed. So we can share our experience, but it would be a matter for the US legislators and policymakers and lawmakers to deal with yet another horrific incident which, as they say, is the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

JOURNALIST: See how that plays out. Just briefly turning to North Korea, sanctions are ramping up in terms of sanctions against the North Korean regime. Do you have genuine hope these ones will actually bite and mean that Kim Jong Un comes back to the negotiation table?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe that we have to continue with this collective strategy of imposing maximum political, diplomatic, and economic pressure on North Korea to compel it back to the negotiating table. The alternative could be catastrophic if North Korea continues with its illegal weapons programs. We believe that its last nuclear weapons test was a thermonuclear device. They are continuing with their ballistic missile tests. All of these are illegal. They are against UN Security Council resolutions and in defiance of the permanent five, including China. So we believe that sanctions must be given time to work. The toughest, most comprehensive set of sanctions have been imposed on North Korea, and China, as its major economic partner, is applying the sanctions in a way we've not seen before. You will have seen that the Chinese Central Bank has confirmed that it will be applying the sanctions insofar as financial transactions with North Korea are concerned. The sanctions involve the prohibition of commodities to and from North Korea, whether it be textiles, oil, the import of oil has been reduced, a prohibition on LNG, all joint ventures with North Korean individuals and entities prohibited, and North Korean workers will be prohibited from getting jobs and visas overseas and sending the remittances back to North Korea so that they can use it to fund these illegal programs. So the sanctions must be given time to work and we're part of that collective strategy.

JOURNALIST: The unfortunate reality, they have some capability already, and reports today our Future Frigates might be able to be tailored to shoot down missiles. What's our main form of defence in the interim? Because they're a few years away.

JULIE BISHOP: We are of course an ally of the United States. We are under the US deterrence umbrella. We also keep our own security under review on a constant basis, and that's why the Prime Minister will be announcing the Future Frigates' capability, using technology to protect Australia from medium to long-range ballistic missiles. But in the meantime, we work very closely with our partners - the United States, Japan, South Korea - and with China to seek to deter North Korea from any future illegal tests, but to compel it back to the negotiating table. It has broken agreements in the past, it has failed to honour previous negotiations, but that doesn't mean that we should give up trying to make the Korean Peninsula a safer place.

JOURNALIST: And just finally on that, because Donald Trump has said that previous presidents failed in this area. Is he right in the sense that North Korea has got to the point where it's at now?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, the previous administration had a policy of strategic patience, but unfortunately that gave North Korea the opportunity to increase its capability. They've now carried out about 88 ballistic missile tests and six nuclear tests, and each time, even if they fail, each time they learn a little bit more. Our fear of course is that North Korea will develop the capability to attach a miniaturised nuclear device to an intercontinental ballistic missile that's capable of reaching the United States, for example. So that's why we are stepping up our efforts to apply maximum economic pressure on North Korea, to bring it back to the negotiating table and change its course of conduct.

JOURNALIST: But that strategic patience you were talking about, in one sense is it a fail?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, it enabled North Korea to continue to develop its capability, and that of course is something that we have to deal with now. We've seen the toughest, most comprehensive set of sanctions imposed on North Korea. The sanctions, by resolution of the Security Council on 5 August and again on 11 September, will make a difference, and I believe that North Korea can be deterred from its current behaviour, but the sanctions will have to be given some time to work.

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, a busy morning. Appreciate your time today on Sky News.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

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