Sky News, Sydney - Interview with Laura Jayes
JOURNALIST Minister, thanks so much for your time this morning. This is the worst terror attack across Indonesia in six years and the first one inspired by ISIS. How worried should we be?
JULIE BISHOP The Australian Government utterly condemns the horrific and deadly attacks in Jakarta yesterday. We are deeply concerned about the threat of terrorism and the rise of Islamic extremism in our region and that's why we're working so closely with Indonesia and with other regional governments to combat terrorism, to counter terrorism in all its forms wherever it may occur. We certainly extend our condolences to the family and friends of the police officer and the foreign national, we believe Canadian, who was killed in the attack and we have offered to support Indonesia in whatever way we can or they need to thoroughly investigate this incident.
JOURNALIST Minister, is there a fear that this could have been a lot worse? Only two people were killed, one from Indonesia as you say and one from Canada, the other five were the militants themselves. Was this a view – is there a view amongst authorities that this is a failed attempt or was somehow bungled by these wannabe terrorists?
JULIE BISHOP Well, clearly there will be a full investigation, a thorough investigation into this incident. But the fact that five terrorists or suspected terrorists were killed would indicate that the Indonesian police efforts were very effective. Otherwise it could have been a lot worse, given that these attacks took place in central Jakarta in a very busy hub in the middle of a teeming city, and five terrorists, it would seem, were killed. So I think this is a tribute to the Indonesian police and the competent manner in which they responded.
JOURNALIST Indonesia estimates there's some 700 of its nationals fighting with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the concern is that this could get – well a threat in Indonesia could become much worse in the years to come on return of those foreign fighters. I understand you've spoken to Minister Marsudi, the Attorney-General George Brandis has also offered Australia's assistance in the way of law enforcement and also intelligence. What more can Australia offer and is Indonesia asking for more at this point?
JULIE BISHOP That is certainly our concern, as well with the number of Indonesians and indeed people from the region who are either travelling to or currently fighting in Syria and Iraq and then seeking to return home. There are a significant number of Indonesians – we are concerned about Australians – but there are also people from Malaysia, the Philippines and the like. So, we are working in coordination with other governments in the region. I did speak with my Foreign Minister counterpart Retno Marsudi yesterday. I offered Australia's condolences, I offered our support, I said that we stood with Indonesia in seeking to combat terrorism and offered her whatever support or assistance Indonesia may require. She thanked me for it.
My colleague, George Brandis, contacted his counterpart minister and offered specifically law enforcement, security intelligence advice and we already have an Australian Federal Police team in Jakarta. Our embassy is in constant touch, constant communication with the local Indonesian authorities and so we will work closely with them and provide whatever assistance they require. We do have a very high level of shared cooperation with Indonesia. In fact, last month here in Sydney I signed a counter-terrorism memorandum of understanding with Retno Marsudi.
JOURNALIST What is the travel advice to Australians not only going to Jakarta but Indonesia and indeed the region?
JULIE BISHOP We changed our travel advice yesterday to reflect the fact that these deadly attacks had occurred. Our advice remains that Australians should exercise a high degree of caution when in Indonesia and that includes in Jakarta. We do ask that if anyone has concerns about friends or loved ones in Indonesia they should try and make contact with them. I stress that there are no reports and we have no information that any Australians have been affected, but if people have concerns about their loved ones they should try and contact them or our 24 hour consular hotline which is 1300 555 135.
JOURNALIST We have many analysts and experts at the moment Minister saying that attacks like the one we've seen in Jakarta, the one in Paris are really ISIS using foreign countries because they're losing ground in Iraq and Syria in establishing the so-called caliphate. In light of this, Australia has denied a request from the United States to bolster the number of troops being sent to the Middle East. Why did we deny that request?
JULIE BISHOP Well, let me put this in context. The United States sent a request to over 40 countries to contribute more to the effort in Syria and Iraq. Australia is already the second largest military contributor to the Coalition efforts on the ground in Iraq. We're also a substantial contributor to the air campaign over Syria and Iraq. So we've confirmed that we will continue that high level of support. We have about 780 defence personal deployed. We have about six F/A-18 planes and two other aircraft already deployed and we will continue to provide that level of support. We encourage other countries, other like-minded countries to increase their contribution and I believe that given our size, our proximity and the fact that we're already the second largest military contributor to the effort in Iraq, that our contribution is appropriate.
We've also made a significant contribution to the humanitarian effort in Syria, about $190 million and so Australia will continue to make that contribution. Of course it's always under review, under continual review, but we're satisfied that we are contributing a significant amount at this point.
JOURNALIST As you say it is under review so if a request came, the circumstances changed in Iraq and Syria, this is not a blanket no, this is something that would be reconsidered down the track if that request came again.
JULIE BISHOP The United States is continually making requests of countries around the world to bolster the coalition against ISIL, against Daesh. Australia has responded. Other countries are yet to respond. Some countries could increase their contribution and we certainly encourage them to do so.
JOURNALIST And just finally Foreign Minister, if I can ask you a question about some domestic issues, there's a story on the front page of The Australian newspaper this morning; supporters of Liberal MP Angus Taylor suggesting that he could defect to the Nationals to protect his seat if there is a moderate back plan to topple him, and if that goes ahead.
JULIE BISHOP Well I haven't spoken to Angus Taylor about it. I'm the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and it's certainly not a conversation we have had. There has been a redistribution in New South Wales and obviously that will have an impact on some seats, but I'm confident that our Liberal Party will work in co-operation with the National Party in New South Wales to ensure that we have the best candidates in seats and that we are able to present to the people of New South Wales a credible policy position for the next election.
JOURNALIST Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, thanks for your time.
JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.