Today Show, Interview with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE
23 March 2017

JOURNALIST: Let'sgo to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. She joins us now from the US.Foreign Minister, thank you for your time. Firstly, your reaction to theattacks in London.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning,Karl. The Australian Government sends its condolences to the Britishpeople and the British Government on yet another terrible attack. Wecertainly feel for those who have been killed in this attack and we haveoffered to do all we can to assist the British Government if there isanything we can do to assist. I have been in contact with our HighCommissioner and at this stage he confirmed that no Australians areinvolved, but of course an investigation is under way and that willcontinue for some time. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the BritishForeign Secretary, is actually here in Washington, and I spoke to him ashort time ago and extended our condolences to him and the Governmentof Great Britain and he said it was a shocking incident, but they wereinvestigating it.

JOURNALIST: Just in terms ofAustralians, I know that you have pointed out there is no reference atthis stage to any Australians being involved and to avoid swampingDFAT with calls. For those who do want to make a call, that numberis 1300 555 135, but you are saying at this point to be careful withthat or as careful as you can be.

JULIE BISHOP: Well, Ihave spoken with our High Commissioner, I have been in contact withour High Commissioner. We don't have any information that wouldsuggest any Australians are involved, I certainly know that our HighCommission staff are safe, they have all been accounted for, but we're not awareof any involvement of any Australian. But if people are concerned about aloved one or a family or friends, then, of course, they can call that number,but I stress that we have no information, no evidence at this stageto suggest any Australians are involved.

JOURNALIST: I have spoken toyou unfortunately so many times in the aftermath of some of theseattacks overseas. This one as well, there are a lot of Australians wholive in London. Your advice to anyone who may be going, who may bethere?

JULIE BISHOP: Well,most certainly people must continue to go about their business, butin the Westminster area to abide by the instructions and directionsof the local police, to avoid the area obviously at this stagebecause there is an investigation under way, but we must continue on withour lives. We can't let these isolated incidents or, indeed, attacksof this kind prevent us from continuing on with our lives. We have tobe careful. We have to be aware of what can happen in public places.We have seen too many of these attacks around the world not to beaware of it and the Australian Government has certainly reviewed ourapproach to law enforcement and to ensuring that our public places andhigh profile tourist places are as safe as possible, but until we knowthe reason why this attack occur, it would just be speculation as towho is behind it.

JOURNALIST: Itobviously at this time looks like a lone wolf style of attack. Theyare incredibly difficult to prevent.

JULIE BISHOP: Itis very difficult to detect a person who wants to carry out this kindof attack and hasn't been in touch with others. I mean, if it isa group or it is inspired by ISIS or a terrorist attack, then theremay well be intelligence that we can draw upon, but if it is somebody who,for some unknown reason, or a reason yet to be determined,has carried out an attack, it is very hard to detect them. But wehave provided significant resources, new laws, enhanced laws, toensure that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies andour authorities are placed as well as they can be to ensurethat Australians are safe from this kind of they attack. We don'tknow if it is a terrorist attack. The British police are treating itas such until evidence indicates otherwise, but these lone wolf typeattacks can occur anywhere at any time.

JOURNALIST: ASIOhas been busy, that is for certain. Do you have any information or can youconfirm this morning that 500 Iraqi and Syrian refugees have been refusedentry in Australia, at least 30 of whom are on ASIO's terror watchlist?

JULIE BISHOP: That wouldbe a matter for the Immigration Minister to determine, but it wouldcertainly be consistent with the approach that we take to ourimmigration processes. We have very strong border protection laws andthe people that we bring into this country are vetted for healthchecks, but also security checks and if people were on an ASIO or an internationalwatch list, well then of course, that would raise a concern and we woulddo what we can to vet them and check out their status from a securityperspective as closely and carefully as possible.

JOURNALIST: Theworry here and the interesting thing is that they've moved away from theselone males, the detection of lone males. It has moved into a lot of thesepeople found among priority family groups which makes it even moreimportant to be vigilant on behalf of our authorities, doesn't it?

JULIE BISHOP: Well,that is absolutely right. We do take quite some time to check thehealth and security status of those seeking visas as we have done withthe 12,000 Syrian refugees bringing to Australia. We were criticisedfor taking time to vet the applications, but it's important from anational security point of view that we do so, that we check the details,the backgrounds as thoroughly and closely as possible to ensure wecan keep Australians as safe as possible.

JOURNALIST: This alldovetails to where you are right now and in the aftermath of Londonit's all the more important, isn't it another reminder of how vigilant weall need to be?

JULIE BISHOP: Weare certainly seeking to defeat ISIS the terrorism organisation atits cause, at its source in Syria and Iraq and the nationsrepresented here today reaffirmed their commitment to do seriousdamage to defeat ISIS, to also take back the territory, the caliphate thatit declared in Iraq and in Syria and do what we can to preventforeign terrorist fighters returning to Australia, to our region, andpotentially carry out the attacks in our part of the world. It's beena very productive couple of meetings here, with like-minded countrieswho are determined to defeat this terrorist organisation.

JOURNALIST: Asthe pressure on them intensifies, as they continue to bepressured, and to be on the run, are you expecting much more of afight back?

JULIE BISHOP: Asthe pressure increases on the ISIS organisation, particularly inIraq, as the Iraqi security forces that have been trained by Australiaand others are successful in taking back territory and defeating theterrorist organisation, we expect that terrorists will seek to leave. Ifthey survive they will seek to leave, and they may well seek to come backto our part of the world. That's why we are monitoring them, trackingthem, exchanging intelligence, real-time information to ensure we can keeppeople as safe as possible. Once we are successful in taking backMosul and driving ISIS from Iraq then the focus will be back on Syriathe attention will be on Raqqa and the same will occur there. People,if they survive the taking back of Raqqa, they may seek to comeback to Southeast Asia, Australia, and we will do all we can tomonitor them and track them and prosecute them if they are found guilty ofor if we have evidence to prove they are guilty of terrorism offences.

JOURNALIST: One finalquestion. London is a city you have been to and run around many, manytimes, your personal reaction?

JULIE BISHOP: Iwas shocked and saddened. I know that area well, as many Australianswould, that we work in that area, we are tourists there, Australiansknow London well. I was very shocked and saddened by it. If I were toreturn to London I would continue to go about my business in Londonbut I would certainly take care to avoid being in places that mightattract this kind of occurrence. It's so hard to know where and when alone wolf attack will take place. We have updated our travel advice toadvise Australian travellers of this incident, but all we can say isto be careful, be vigilant and follow the directions of the localauthorities.

JOURNALIST: ForeignMinister, really good to talk to you. Thank you for your time today.

JULIE BISHOP: Thankyou Karl.

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