Today, Channel Nine - interview with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE
23 October 2014

KARL STEFANOVIC: Joining us is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop live from Canberra. Good morning to you. A terrible situation for Canada this morning in Ottawa?

JULIE BISHOP: This is very grim news. It's shocking indeed that Canadian armed forces have been under attack in Canada. This is the second shooting of defence personnel in the last couple of days. This one occurred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where a Canadian armed forces guard was standing and then later there was a gunman shot in Parliament House, indeed in the Hall of Honour where Prime Minister Abbott met Prime Minister Harper not so long agoduring his visit in June.

I did contact Foreign Minister John Baird about 4am Canberra time this morning and he was inside Parliament House. It was still in lockdown. He said that he had been about 50 feet away from the shooting of the gunman and we don't know whether the gunman is the same one that killed the soldier at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but nevertheless he was close by. They were in lockdown, they were safe but very shaken by this violent incident.

KARL STEFANOVIC: The pictures emerging from inside there are truly frightening. Also of the parliamentarians, as you say, who have ended up barricading themselves inside the hall therewith chairs to try to stop anybody from getting inside. Any further dialogue with him this morning – that's the photo there – any further dialogue with Canada at this point? Is there anything to indicate it is terror related?

JULIE BISHOP: It has the hallmarks of a terrorist attack because the attacks have been on the War Memorial and on Parliament House and these are both targets that terrorist organisations have indicated in the past would be the subject of attack, but it is too early to say. It's too early to make any connection with the previous attacks in Quebec, but I know that the authorities are investigating this very closely.

I have just spoken to our High Commissioner in Ottawa, indeed our High Commission is just two blocks away from Parliament Hill, you canactually see Parliament House from our embassy. All our staff are safe. They have been inside the cordoned-off area but in the last few minutes they have been allowed to leave on foot. There is no traffic in the area, the police and the security agencies took control of the area very quickly and as you say Parliament was in lockdown but I understand that all Australian Embassy staff are safe.

KARL STEFANOVIC: That is some good news coming out of there this morning. Just back home, interms of patrols around Parliament House in Canberra and also around the Canadian High Commission in Canberra, have there been increased patrols? Can you give any more information on that?

JULIE BISHOP: You will be aware that on advice from the security agencies we have recently raised the general threat level from medium to high in Australia. There have been increased security measures around Parliament House and we have taken steps to ensure that our institutions are protected. The highest priority for this Government is the protection of Australian citizens and we are doing all we can to ensure that Australians are safe in this country.

KARL STEFANOVIC: This is another reminder too about security. Ottawa as you know is a small capital, tranquil, a beautiful place where you don't expect heavy security but it is another reminder of how far and wide this is stretching and the need to be so vigilant at home. Are we prepared, or as prepared as we can be, for this style of attack?

JULIE BISHOP: We of course must always be vigilant. We put out warnings in our travel advices aboutthe risks of travelling overseas and about heightened terrorist alerts in various parts of the worldand we do urge Australians travelling overseas to take care. In fact we have a Smartravellerwebsite, which provides the details of the threat and security situation in any country at any particular time. Of course on our Canadian Smartraveller website, on ourtravel advice we have indicated that there has been this incident and for people to take care in Ottawa.

But as you say, Canada is a wonderful peace-loving country. We are great friendswith Canada, we share a political and economic and historic relationship and we are great mates withour friends in Canada and our thoughts are with all of the parliamentarians and all of the people of Ottawaat this time.

KARL STEFANOVIC: We certainly stand by them this morning as we alwayshave done so. I just wonder further to all of this, how are we going to stopteens looking at this, what has happened in Canada, like this Abdullah Elmir, the 17-year-oldfrom Sydney. It's hard to keepyour eye on every wayward teenager, isn't it, and this is obviously going to get very real for himat some point you would think but how we stop that from happening?

JULIE BISHOP: We must reach out to community groups, to religious leaders,to parents, to schools to ensure that young people understand that this is not only against the law, theyare putting their lives at risk, this is an appalling path upon which they might embark and thatthey should not join these terrorist organisations, they must not join them. We are doing all we canto prevent people from travelling overseas to take up arms with these brutal terrorist organisationslike ISIL or Da'esh as it's called in Iraq and a number of Australians have been killed fighting for these terrorist organisations. We are doing all we can to cancel passports, from people who are planning to go overseas, so that we can work with them back here in Australia. We are cancelling passports of people who are overseas wanting to come back to Australia.

I have just returned from Baghdad where a number of bombs went off overnight inBaghdad city, itself killing about 25 or 30people while I was there. So this is a very dangerous situationboth in Iraq and Syria. Terrorism does pose a threat not only in the region but globally and theevents in Canada over the last couple of days remind us that violence can take place at anytime and anywhere.

KARL STEFANOVIC: You are one hundred per cent right about that. A coupleof quick ones before you go, I know you are very busy this morning, weappreciate your time again. When will our 200 military personnel be deployed to help theIraqi Government?

JULIE BISHOP: I reached an agreement with the Iraqi Government toprovide the legal framework so our Special Forces can be deployed to Iraq to advise and train andassist the Iraqi Defence Forces. I won't be going into details as to when they will be deployed,that's obviously an operational matter and one doesn't highlight this kind ofdetail, given that they are going into a very dangerous conflict situation.

But we have some of the most professional special forces, if not the best in the world,and they are very much in demand for their expertise and the Iraqi Government is verygrateful, expressed deep gratitude to the Australian people for sending ourSpecial Forces to provide them with the assistance that they need so that they can take backtheir territory and combat these brutal medieval murderous terrorist organisations that have takenhold of part of their country.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Finally, have you got any more information on this Australian lightaircraft that was forced to land after it entered Indonesian air space without permission? Anyfurther information as to what might happen to the pair?

JULIE BISHOP: No, we are getting details from our mission in Jakarta.It was a civilian aircraft, we have details but no specific details as to what the Indonesianauthorities intend to do. I understand it was an incursion into Indonesian airspace and they were takeninto detention. But we haven't got any further details at this time and I will be getting a briefing fromour mission.

KARL STEFANOVIC: You were coming on this morning to talk about a launchoaf new travel insurance guide too – things obviously overtaking that this morning, that's yourportfolio, that's the world at the moment – but it is worth a reminder to people?

JULIE BISHOP: Well it is indeed. We are launching the Choice Travel InsuranceBuyer's Guide. It will be on our website – – andthe message is if you can't afford travel insurance you can't afford to travel overseas. We urgeall Australians travelling overseas to take out comprehensive travel insurance otherwise you mightfind yourself with significant medical bills or hospital bills if something should happen to you,and when you take out travel insurance make sure you take out the rightinsurance that covers the activities you're likely to be undertaking. That's the messagefor the day.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Vladimir Putin will need that travel insurance whenthey come to Australia isn't he, if he confronts you?

JULIE BISHOP: I had a very constructive conversation with President Putin in Milan recently and I did make quite clear tohim that we had concerns about Russia's involvement in Ukraine and concerns that we have access to the MH17crash site as soon as possibleso that we can ensure that we have gathered all the remains and belongings that may be there.With winter coming on, it is urgent we do that. We also seek Russia's fullest cooperation forthe independent investigation into the causes of the MH17 shooting down and helping us findthose responsible for it.

KARL STEFANOVIC: There was a lotto get through today. Foreign Minister, weappreciate your time as always. Thank you.

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