Today Show, Canberra - Interview with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE
23 June 2015

KARL STEFANOVIC Two of Australia's most notorious terrorists have reportedly been killed while fighting for ISIL in Iraq. Security sources say that Mohamed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf died during fierce fighting in the city of Mosul sometime in the past week. For more on this developing story we are joined by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Foreign Minister, good morning to you.

JULIE BISHOP Good morning.

KARL STEFANOVIC Can you confirm these cases?

JULIE BISHOP Our security and intelligence agencies are still working to verify the reports that Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf have been killed. You will appreciate that this is a war zone, there is a significant conflict going on in both Iraq and Syria and it is very difficult for us to verify such reports, but we are working to do so.

Both men have been in Syria and Iraq for some time now. Both men have had their passports cancelled. Both men have been listed under the United Nations Security Council resolution relating to foreign terrorist fighters and so both have been committing crimes by supporting Da'esh, this brutal terrorist organisation that is operating in both Syria and Iraq.

KARL STEFANOVIC The fact you are coming and talking on our show about it this morning is an indication you are pretty positive?

JULIE BISHOP We are very aware of these reports that have identified both Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf as having been killed in Iraq, but it is very difficult for us to confirm that because Mosul, the area that has been reported as being the place of their death, is already proclaimed a no-go zone for Australian citizens. It is a crime for an Australian citizen to be in Mosul without a legitimate purpose.

Both men are notorious for their brutality and for the terrorist acts that they have been committing, that they have been boasting about on social media for some time. Indeed I recall last August when US Secretary of State John Kerry was visiting Australia for a Ministerial meeting the images of Mr Sharrouf's child holding up the severed head of allegedly a Syrian fighter was in the media here, and Secretary Kerry spoke about how shocking it was that these Australian citizens would be involved in such barbarity and these photographs went around the world.

KARL STEFANOVIC I take it you won't be mourning their loss then?

JULIE BISHOP These men were carrying out terrorist activities with a terrorist organisation that has essentially declared war of Australia and so both of them have been declared terrorists by the Australian Government under the UN Security Council resolution, and both have been boasting of the vile and barbaric acts that they have been carrying out, including treating women as sexual slaves.

KARL STEFANOVIC Will you allow Khaled Sharrouf's family, and his children in particular, to come home if they desire?

JULIE BISHOP I won't go into the circumstances of the family for a number of very good reasons.


JULIE BISHOP But these are issues that we will consider once the reports of Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf's death, if they are true, have been verified or not.

KARL STEFANOVIC If they wanted to could they come back right now?

JULIE BISHOP These are issues that we would consider, depending upon the fate of Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf.

KARL STEFANOVIC Given the photos of the kids and everything, and what she has said in the past, and given what is about to transpire in the Australian Parliament, there is lots of context there?

JULIE BISHOP These are shocking circumstances. It is a crime for any Australian citizen to support or fight with a terrorist organisation such as Da'esh. It is a crime for any Australian citizen to go to Mosul in Iraq or Al-Raqqa province in Syria, without a legitimate purpose and the brutality and the violence for which Da'esh is renowned is also not to be abided by in Australia.

These are crimes against the Australian people. They are crimes against the people of Syria and Iraq and not only are people putting their own lives in mortal danger, they are adding to the misery and the suffering of the people of Iraq and Syria if they take up arms with Da'esh.

KARL STEFANOVIC Could there be any blow-back here? There must be some level of concern that these guys will be seen as martyrs in some sectors, including in some sectors right here in our country?

JULIE BISHOP These men are not martyrs. They are criminal thugs. They are terrorists. There is nothing about their activities that can be appreciated in any way, they should be utterly and absolutely condemned for the terrorist activities that they have been carrying out.

KARL STEFANOVIC Well said. There is some criticism this morning in The Australian newspaper on the front page over funding of deradicalisation programs filtering through the community, with some community leaders this morning saying little has made it through to the frontline services. Is it difficult to assess how the funding has made it through out there on the front lines?

JULIE BISHOP We are working very hard to ensure that all communities affected are engaged with the Government to seek to find the causes for the radicalisation of young people, to work with schools and parents and communities and religious groups.

Indeed, Australia hosted a Countering Violent Extremism Summit in Sydney recently and invited the leaders of our region to come and discuss and share experiences on how we can work to deradicalise young people. It is not a problem that is confined to Australia. This is happening across the world and so we are part of a global and regional effort to seek to find the causes and prevent young people, in particular, being radicalised.

KARL STEFANOVIC Okay Jamal Rifi, a community leader, tells The Australian this Government has done more to antagonise the community than engage with them.

JULIE BISHOP I don't accept that. We are confronted with a global interest list threat. Australia is not immune. We are one of about 90 countries where young people in particular have left to fight with Da'esh in Iraq and Syria.

So we are working globally and regionally and domestically to keep Australians safe and to prevent young people taking up with a terrorist organisation and committing crimes against Australian laws.

KARL STEFANOVIC Julie, always good to talk to you. I know you are a busy woman, thanks for your time again.


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