Sky News First Edition, interview with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke with the British Foreign Secretary overnight. What's the latest advice you have in relation to that weekend attack?

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Kieran. I have also spoken to our High Commissioner, Alexander Downer a short while ago and I can confirm that three Australians have been affected by the brutal terrorist attack in London on the weekend. One Australian is recovering in hospital and I've spoken with the family of that Australian; another young man I believe has been on the media, he was injured but he's heading home, he's on his way back to Australia; and in relation to a third Australian, we're currently seeking to determine the circumstances and we're making enquiries. But our consular staff and officials in London are continuing to help Australian parents and families and friends who are checking on loved ones, so we will continue to provide consular advice.

JOURNALIST: Minister this attack comes just days out from the British election. Theresa May in a very powerful speech at Number 10 said, "While we've made significant progress in recent years, there is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country," she said. Do you agree with her assessment? Do you think that there's a similar view in this country?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe that Prime Minister May is reflecting the view of the British public. This was most certainly what our High Commissioner expressed to me, that the British public have had enough of these attacks after Manchester which was a sickening attack designed to harm young girls in particular, and now another attack in London. These kind of terrorist attacks are designed to strike fear into the hearts of communities, to divide communities and the British Prime Minister was essentially saying that that will not happen, that Britain will double down its efforts to prevent the spread of terrorism, to prevent the extremist narrative taking hold. I believe she's calling on the voices of moderate Islam to be far louder than the voices of extremism, and we most certainly need to see that in our country as well.

JOURNALIST: So can you elaborate on that for us then? If you think that moderate voices need to be louder, what do you want to see and from who?

JULIE BISHOP: We need all Australians to condemn terrorism in all its forms; we need all Australians to unite in our condemnation of the brutality and the savagery behind these attacks. As you know after September in 2014 when we raised our threat level to 'Probable', there have been four attacks, there have been over 60 people arrested for terrorist-related offences, there have been 12 thwarted attacks. We must work around the clock to keep Australians safe and that's not just the Government and security and law enforcement and intelligence agencies, but the whole community must work together to stamp out radicalisation. Often the Islamic leaders will hear or know more, they can pass it on to the Australian police and law enforcement agencies; parents, family, friends, schools can detect signs of someone being radicalised and pass that information on so that we can prevent attacks before they occur.

JOURNALIST: In relation to the response of the Muslim community though as you've alluded to there, there needs to be cooperation with them. You are saying there needs to be louder voices from moderate Islam, what's your view on the contribution of Pauline Hanson at the weekend where she used that London terror alert from the Metropolitan Police to run her own message on stopping Muslim migration just hours after the attack in London?

JULIE BISHOP: Well that is far too simplistic. These are very complex situations. Each terrorist attack has its own circumstances. Sure, there are some patterns emerging and now the use of everyday items like motor vehicles and knives gives another element to it, but some as we've seen, some people have been born in the country that they are now seeking to attack; some were immigrants, some are second, third generation immigrants; some have no connection to Islam at all. And so you can't put a cookie cutter over it and say 'well that's the response to terrorism'. This has to be an ever-evolving, changing response to an ever-evolving, changing threat that has many different elements to it. That's why the Australian Government has our laws under constant review, we're providing resources to our security and law enforcement and intelligence agencies so that they can get on with their job of keeping Australians safe. And it's why we're working with other countries in our region, why we have Defence Force personnel in Iraq and Syria to stamp out terrorism at its source. This is a whole of government approach, a whole of community approach that is needed.

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott, the former Prime Minister and Andrew Hastie, a former SAS soldier himself now Liberal Member in WA, they've both called for greater military role in fighting terrorism in our country. Where there's a terrorist incident, heaven forbid, their argument is that it should be the commandos and the SAS that take control. Do you think that that's a worthwhile contribution?

JULIE BISHOP: The Turnbull Government has already initiated a review into Defence support in national counter-terrorism arrangements and so subsequent to the Lindt Café siege and some of the attacks in Paris, in Brussels, in Ankara, in Manchester and now in London again, we have been reviewing Defence support in our national counter-terrorism arrangements and that review is underway and we expect to be able to consider the recommendations shortly. But obviously each terrorist attack has different aspects to it and we're learning from each one and we have to be ahead of the evolving nature of this threat. Our law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies have to get it right every single time, the terrorists only have to get lucky once.

JOURNALIST: While obviously this is a tragedy and seven lives lost at least, this was also an extremely effective response from the Metropolitan Police – within eight minutes the three attackers were shot dead.

JULIE BISHOP: I think this is an indication of the resolve of the British Government to stamp out terrorism and prevent these attacks occurring. This comes just weeks after the appalling attack in Manchester and clearly the British Government have provided their police with the resources and the legislative power to act quickly, as we have in Australia. We are providing our law enforcement, our police, our security, our intelligence with the resources that they need to be able to coordinate quickly and respond quickly. As I said we have already thwarted about 12 attacks since 2014 and we'll continue to do all we can to keep Australians safe at home and abroad.

JOURNALIST: You're holding talks today with Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, and your Defence counterpart and also Jim Mattis, the Defense Secretary. Will these issues be on the agenda or is it more a focus on fighting Islamic State in Syria and what looks like it's going to be an imminent assault on the IS stronghold of the city of Raqqa?

JULIE BISHOP: Marise Payne, our Defence Minister, and I will be meeting our counterparts Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis today for AUSMIN. This is the annual Australia-US Ministerial talks, and this will be one of the most important that we have had in some time. It's the first with the new Trump Administration, but it's also at a time when there is so much volatility and uncertainty not only in our region but also globally. Of course in the light of what's happened in London, the issue of counter-terrorism and our fight against terrorism will be top of the agenda, but we also have a wide range of issues to discuss – regional security, what's happening in the South China Sea, North Korea, we'll discuss our bilateral relationship. The Trump Administration has a number of its foreign policy positions under review so this will be a significant opportunity for Australia to provide our perspectives, our insights and share ideas and hopefully help shape and influence outcomes working with our close friend and ally, the United States.

JOURNALIST: The Global Times in Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, has been critical of the Prime Minister's speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue at the weekend, where Mr Turnbull was critical of the coercive approach of Beijing in the South China Sea, hasn't gone down well with the Chinese apparently. They've said that the speech displayed a bias in values created by the US-Australia Alliance, an absurdity that has mistaken strategic selfishness with a moral high ground.

JULIE BISHOP: I'm not surprised that Beijing newspapers react that way, they always do, that's not unexpected. The Prime Minister spoke realistically, pragmatically about the way things are and the fact is in the South China Sea, China has unilaterally reclaimed features, have built military features on islands and it's in direct disregard to the international rules based order. The Prime Minister has set that out, I mean there was an arbitration ruling on behalf of the Philippines in recent times about China's actions in the South China Sea, and we're not a claimant, we don't take sides in territorial disputes but we certainly urge countries not to take unilateral action to change the status quo. That's why the Prime Minister spoke as he did in the Shangri-La speech, urging countries to resolve their differences peacefully, not impose their will on smaller and countries less able to respond.

JOURNALIST: Minister, as always appreciate your time, thanks.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

- Ends -

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