Sunrise, Canberra - interview with David Koch

  • Transcript, E&OE
08 September 2015

DAVID KOCHForeign Minister JulieBishop joins me from Canberra. Minister thanks for joining me. Is thegovernment going to increase the number of humanitarian refugees weaccept?

JULIEBISHOPThat's precisely whyour Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is in Paris and Geneva thisweek. He is meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres.He is meeting with officials from the UNHCR as well as from theInternational Organisation of Migration. We are in a position to takepersecuted ethnic and religious minorities, families from the campsin probably Lebanon, Jordan, possibly Turkey and so we are discussingwhat we can do to be part of an international solution.

No onecountry can do this alone, no one region can do this alone. So I'm talkingto my counterpart Foreign Ministers in Europe, our friends in theUnited States but also our counterparts in the Persian Gulf and theMiddle East, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and other countries in theregion to see what more they can do as well.

DAVID KOCHWhat are they saying? The Germanshave already announced what they are going to be doing which is justsensational. What are you recommending to the Prime Minister? Howmany can we handle? Malcolm Fraser helped, what, 50,000 Vietnameserefugees. Bob Hawke did 42,000 Chinese students.

JULIEBISHOPYou have to look at what thepeople are looking for. There are some who are wanting just a safehaven temporarily to return home after the conflict is over. So wealso have to play our part in trying to resolve the conflict in Syriawhich will need a military and a political solution. So there aresome people who are, for example, living with friends and relativesin Lebanon but will be going back when they feel it's safe. There areothers who it wouldn't matter whether the conflict was over or not,they would be persecuted because they are ethnic or religiousminorities and so that is the group that we are focussing on.

Australia ofcourse does resettlement very well. It's not just a question of takingpeople temporarily. We are looking at resettling people permanently so wehave to consider what facilities - education, health, accommodation -is available to take the kind of numbers that people are talking about. Wehave to do what is sensible, what is right, play our part but there is nopoint in just plucking figures out of theair. We have to do thisin coordination with the UNHCR and the International Organisation ofMigration.

DAVID KOCHI totally agree. We do do it well andwe have thriving Vietnamese communities here in Australia now as alegacy of Malcolm Fraser's decision, the same with Chinesecommunities. So it's not unreasonable to think in terms of thosenumbers though is it - 50,000 and 40,000?

JULIEBISHOPThis situation is completelydifferent. This is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. There aremillions of displaced people. What we have to do is ensure that weare able to make contact with those who are coming to resettle inAustralia permanently as opposed to those who are looking for temporarysafe haven. In the case of Kosovo we took thousands of Kosovars, but most ofthem went home after a number of years because the conflict subsided.There was a solution to the conflict. This is a very complicated,diabolical situation in Syria. You have the Assad regimeā€¦

DAVID KOCHWhich we are causing too, aren'twe?

JULIEBISHOPNo. The Assad regimestarted attacking their own people some time ago and Australia ledthe debate in the UN Security Council during 2013 and2014 calling for a ceasefire, calling for the Assad regime to notuse chemical weapons against their own people but of course thenwe saw these terrorist organisations fill a vacuum and the Al NusraFront, the Khorosan Group, ISIL or Da'esh, as it is known, have taken overSyrian territory so people are fleeing from the terroristorganisations.

DAVID KOCHWe have had Phillip Ruddock lastnight, I think he was speaking on the ABC, saying we have aresponsibility because we are part of the problem in Syria too. Weare backing one side, if you like, the civil war there.

JULIEBISHOPWe are part of the solution. Weare trying to prevent these terrorist organisations from carrying outthese brutal, violent attacks on civilians. We are not backing theAssad regime. We are trying to prevent the terrorist organisationsfrom carrying out these crucifixions and beheadings and positivelymedieval acts against civilian populations.

DAVID KOCHYep, look, you see all thishappening. I reckon you would have the worst job in the Governmentbecause you are at the coal face of all these disasters that yousee around the world. Take your Minister's hat off,your politician's hat off, how does it affect you, just the sheerweight of numbers of these refugees? It's just extraordinary.

JULIEBISHOPWe do what we can to be a goodglobal citizen, we lead where we can, we assist, we are part ofsolutions, we are trying to be friends with others in the region whoare also working to solve these challenges. Australia always steps upto the mark. We always do our part. We led the debates in theUN Security Council. We will take refugees. We are working withCoalition partners to defeat and destroy this terrorist organisation.

DAVID KOCHSo we are going to be generous?

JULIEBISHOPAustralia is always generous.

DAVID KOCHGood.

JULIEBISHOPWhen I talk about ourresettlement program, it is one of the most generous in the world.This is permanent resettlement, providing people with the opportunity tolive in Australia permanently, become Australian citizens.Other countries are agreeing to take in people for the purposesof processing their application to be a refugee but they are notactually going to resettle them. Australia does play its part and wewill continue to do so.

DAVID KOCHGood, we have got to be a goodglobal citizen.

Julie Bishopthanks for joining us. Good luck with that.

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