Today Show, Canberra - interview with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE

KARLSTEFANOVICA huge show of Aussie supportlast night for Syrian refugees across Australia. Thousands turneddark into light. Vigils calling for more action to help those caught upin Europe's growing humanitarian crisis. For more we are joined nowby Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

ForeignMinister, good morning to you.

JULIEBISHOPGood morning Karl.

KARLSTEFANOVICAs you saw last night there is aclear appetite for us to do more. Have you made a decision yet?

JULIEBISHOPI have been in contact withour Immigration Minister Peter Dutton overnight. He is in Paris atpresent, meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres andhe is also meeting with UN officials and the InternationalOrganisation for Migration today and discussing the internationalresponse and what part Australia can play in that response.

No onecountry can do this alone. It will require many countries, not only in theregion but also around the world, to assist because we are dealingwith people who are seeking temporary safe haven, who want to returnhome when the conflict is over, but also those who would be persecutedeven if the conflict were over, so we are focusing on women andchildren and families of persecuted minorities who are currentlyin camps on the borders between Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

KARLSTEFANOVICSo we will raise our aggregate refugee intakethough?

JULIEBISHOPThese are details we will workthrough with Peter Dutton as part of an international response but weare taking this issue very seriously. Australia has been leadingthe international debate on this through the Security Councilin 2013 and again in 2014 when we were a temporary member. Weco-authored and led the debate on three resolutions to do withhumanitarian access and the humanitarian disaster in Syria. So wehave been very much involved in this issue for many years and we willcontinue to play our part. We have provided funding of about $156million in relation to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and we areconsidering what more we can do.

KARLSTEFANOVICIt is a pretty simple question,we will raise our aggregate refugee intake, won't we?

JULIEBISHOPThese are matters for thePrime Minister to announce not me on morning TV. This is obviouslysomething that has to be discussed.

KARLSTEFANOVICWith respect Foreign Minister,you are on our program and people have an appetite to find out whatis going on. How long is it going to take him to make up his mind?

JULIEBISHOPThere are a number of issues thatneed to be determined. When you resettle people permanently you haveto ensure that you have the services in place, the housing, thefacilities, the education, the health facilities and so theseare matters we are working through.

Somecountries have just made announcements. We had made an announcementpreviously that we would increase the intake by 4400 last financialyear and again that would have been announced this year. But now,because of this crisis, we are reconsidering those figures and we willdo what we can but the Prime Minister will announce this once PeterDutton reports back to him on the detail.

KARLSTEFANOVICThere would be an announcementtoday, wouldn't there? You'd have to think, if Peter Dutton isworking hard over there surely there would be an announcement today.

JULIEBISHOPIn the next few days at least.

KARLSTEFANOVICAlright, so what we are looking athere is, and I get that logistics are not easy, relocating that manypeople from Europe is not going to be an easy thing to do justlogistically, and then all those other issues that you mentioned but this ismore than just a Kosovo solution isn't it? These people, some of them will behere permanently.

JULIEBISHOPThat's why we have been talkingabout the persecuted minorities. In the case of Kosovo, people wantedto escape Kosovo because of the conflict but wanted to return home.Now, there are many people in the camps in Lebanon and Jordan. I wasin Lebanon and Jordan last year, I went to the registration centre, I talkedto the people there, I talked to officials. Many want to go back to Syriawhen the conflict is over but this is a very complex conflict given thereis the Assad regime and people are fleeing the Assad regime. ISIL has takenover swathes of land in Syria, the al-Raqqa Province, so there arepeople fleeing from ISIL. When this conflict is over people willwant to return but there are some, some persecuted ethnic and religiousminorities, who will not want to go home and so they are the ones weare focusing on as are other countries as well.

KARLSTEFANOVICAre you ruling 10,000 more out?

JULIEBISHOPWell, people can pluckfigures out of the air. I have heard many figures over the last fewdays but we will do what is appropriate, what we can do, well. Thatis, resettle people permanently as opposed to just takingpeople temporarily. But there is also this idea of a Kosovosolution. That's why I am in contact with my counterpart ForeignMinisters from the UK and US but also from the Gulf countries - theSaudi Arabians and the United Arab Emirates, other countries in the regionwho we believe could be part of this international solution.

KARLSTEFANOVICSo they should be. They have beendropping the ball for a long time, haven't they?

JULIEBISHOPThey can do more. That's why I'min discussion with my counterpart Foreign Ministers.

KARLSTEFANOVICOkay, so what you are saying thismorning is it could well be more than 10,000, you just haven't madeup your mind yet?

JULIEBISHOPIt is not a question of me making upmy mind, it is a question of being able to assess what Australia cando as part of this international response. We must considerthe resettlement process and we are taking the advice of the UNHCRand the International Organisation of Migration and othercountries working with the other European countries who are takingsome as temporary safe haven refugees, others permanently, and in thecase of Germany, Germany has agreed to process the applications.Germany hasn't agreed to resettle 800,000 people. Germany has agreedto process the applications for resettlement in other parts ofthe world.

KARLSTEFANOVICThey have agreed to takein 20,000 though, haven't they, just on the weekend?

JULIEBISHOPThat's right, that's forpermanent resettlement.


JULIEBISHOP20,000 is a lot. Germany is acountry of about 80 million people, of course it is a lot. Britainhas also offered to take a number over a few years, France as well,so Belgium about 300 people, I think.

KARLSTEFANOVICIf they can agree to take in 20,000just like that, maybe more over the next few weeks, why can't weagree just to a number that is significantly more than what we aredoing now?

JULIEBISHOPKarl, a number of these ForeignMinisters have been at a meeting over the weekend to discussprecisely their response. We sent our Immigration Minister to Paris,to Geneva, to be part of the discussions and when we are ready tomake an announcement we will.

KARLSTEFANOVICWhat about the regime itself?When will attacks resume, air strikes resume?

JULIEBISHOPThe Coalition is already carryingout air strikes over Syria targeting the terrorist organisation'smilitary bases and their supply lines. It is very focussed, very targeted.Great Britain took part in the air strikes. I understand theCanadians are taking part in these air strikes and ourNational Security Committee will consider that during the course ofthis week.

KARLSTEFANOVICOkay so we could be making decisionson that this week as well?

JULIEBISHOPThese are all part of theone issue because of course people are fleeing a conflict. If we canattack the root cause of the refugee problem, which is the conflictin Syria between the Assad regime and civilians and the minorities thatare being persecuted by that regime, the terrorist organisationswhich include, not only ISILor Da'esh, but also Al Nusra Front - itis a very diabolical, complex situation in Syria - but we will play our part toensure that the conflict ends. There must not only be a military butpolitical solution. We are backing what is called the Geneva Communiquewhich is looking at a solution, a transnational government in Syriaso the country can return to some sort of peace and stability.

KARLSTEFANOVICOne final question, do you feelfor these people?

JULIEBISHOPAbsolutely. It is heart-breaking.I have been there, I have been in Lebanon, I've been in Jordan, I'vemet with people in these camps, people who were registering forasylum, some who were registering for temporary safe haven. A number ofpeople in Lebanon are staying with family and friends. Lebanon has about1.2 million people claiming refugee status, many of them are livingin the communities. So it is an ever-present problem in both Lebanonand Jordan and we are very conscious of doing our part.

KARLSTEFANOVICForeign Minister, it is a bigissue, big problem.

Thanks foryour time today, really appreciate it.


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