Sunrise, interview with Samantha Armytage
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins me now in the studio, Minister, good morning. Have you heard any warnings that ISIS is planning to target more Easter services, more Christian services?
JULIE BISHOP: Tragically, ISIS is a barbaric organisation. They have no regard for religion, humanity, morality, ethics and they are a brutal terrorist organisation. We are aware that they are targeting Coptic Christians in Egypt but likewise, we have seen attacks elsewhere and we are concerned about Easter, but also any other places of mass gathering, even tourist sites are being subjected to attacks by ISIS and similar terrorist organisations.
JOURNALIST: It feels like the world, America, has jumped a bit in the last week or so. North Korea is using the American strikes on Syria last week to justify its investment in nuclear weapons. As a result, US warships are heading towards North Korea. They were meant to be heading towards Australia. Are we facing war on our doorstep?
JULIE BISHOP: I hope that diplomacy will overcome all of the issues that we are faced with at present. Last night I spoke to the Britain's Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and he will be going to a G7 meeting to rally support amongst the G7 countries that includes France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, and also the EU, UK, US, to talk about how they can counter some of th appalling acts that we are seeing in the Middle East, especially Syria. This brings us back to ISIS – that's where ISIS base is, Iraq and Syria - they must be defeated there. Likewise, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, will be going back to Moscow to try and talk to Russia about not overreacting to the United States targeting of the Syrian airfield from which the chemical weapons were released recently. So we are at a very significant and difficult point in time, but I am hoping that the world's diplomats will be able to find a place where we can negotiate peace in many corners of the world.
JOURNALIST: Let's hope so. Have you spoken to Rex Tillerson? Will we be prepared to send troops if things escalate in Syria with the Russians… between America and the Russians?
JULIE BISHOP: We are hoping that the United States will convince Russia to walk away from the Assad regime. The Assad regime was losing ground in the six year civil war in Syria until 2015 when Russia backed the Assad regime. It has always been our position that Assad lost any legitimacy as a leader when he first unleashed chemical weapons on his own people back in 2013. There have been repeated chemical weapons attacks and this last one brought about a calibrated and targeted, proportionate response by the United States, but essentially, sending a message - enough is enough. It is time for Russia to withdraw their support from Assad so we can work out a political solution to bring some kind of peace to the troubled land.
JOURNALIST: Does it surprise you that Trump has moved so quickly, so far away from his spruiking of isolationism in the election campaign and that America was not going to be the one policeman anymore, and now he seems to have attacked Syria, sending warships towards North Korea. He really has done about-turn on his foreign policy hasn't he?
JULIE BISHOP: At the same time, he was increasing the US spending on military capability, so clearly President Trump saw a role for the United States in using its military power. It is the world's only military superpower and I think the attack on the Syrian airbase was designed to send a strong message that the use of chemical weapons will not tolerated. But not just words, he backed it up by a demonstration of US power. Likewise with North Korea, North Korea has been testing its nuclear program, the ballistic missile program - enough is enough. The United States, again, is sending a message that the world will not tolerate these kind of rogue acts from nations like North Korea.
JOURNALIST: While we have you here, we have to talk about domestic politics. Reports in the paper this morning that an internal Liberal Party report has demanded Malcolm Turnbull step up attacks on Bill Shorten's weaknesses. Are we going to see a different Malcolm Turnbull, do you think?
JULIE BISHOP: I believe in the last few weeks we have seen Malcolm Turnbull expose Bill Shorten's weaknesses. Mind you, Bill Shorten does a good job of exposing his own weaknesses. I believe the Australian people will see that Bill Shorten is merely a puppet of very left-wing, very militant unions and his actions are always designed to look after the interests of the unions, rather than the interests of the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, we know you are busy at the moment. Thank you for your time today.
JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Sam.
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