Today Show, interview with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE

KARL STEFANOVIC We begin with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who joins us from the APEC summit in Manila. Thank you for your time. There is a growing sense of unease certainly across Europe, European leaders saying another attack is imminent. Do you share their concerns?

JULIE BISHOP I do believe that Daesh, ISIL, this terrorist organisation, will seek to repeat its attacks that we have seen in Paris, and elsewhere recently, and that is why there is a huge international effort underway to disrupt and defeat terrorism, particularly this organisation.

President Hollande made a very powerful speech to a joint sitting of the French Parliament where he said that France was at war and that the Republic would not be defeated by terrorism. The Republic of France would defeat terrorism and Australia is part of that international effort.

I'm pleased to hear that President Putin and President Obama have spent some time together talking about a united effort to defeat Daesh in Syria and Iraq and hopefully form a single coalition so that all efforts can be directed at this horrific terrorist organisation, so that we can foil any repeat attacks. Indeed, as you've seen, there have been numerous raids overnight. Arrests have been made, weapons have been seized. And in Australia, our security and law enforcement agencies are likewise reviewing our situation to ensure that we can foil any attempt at an attack in Australia.

KARL STEFANOVIC I'll get on to Australia in just a second, but let's stay with France for the moment. As you know, the French government has targeted those ISIL targets in air strikes. Is Australia, in any way, shape or form, going to increase its military presence?

JULIE BISHOP Karl, this is a coalition led by the United States. There has to be a legal basis for our presence in Iraq and Syria, which we currently have in relation to air strikes. We have a significant presence. We have about 780 defence personnel deployed to the Middle East. At least 300 of them are in Iraq training the Iraqi security forces and the balance are involved in air strikes. We have six of our FA-18 Hornets there plus backup planes. So we are already making a significant contribution, I believe, second largest to the United States. Of course, given that the US and Russia hopefully are forming a single coalition, we will continue to work closely with them to ensure that Australia continues to play its part in seeking to disrupt and destroy Daesh, this horrific terrorist organisation.

KARL STEFANOVIC US President Barack Obama has been at pains to point out there will be no boots on the ground. Given what's happened and given the fluid nature of what's happening, and given the fact that we are at war here, are you still open to that or is that option closed?

JULIE BISHOP Well, we are part of a Coalition. Australia doesn't act unilaterally obviously in this regard, and with the United States and Russia hopefully forming a single coalition against Daesh, obviously the military operations will intensify. Air strikes are effective in taking out the bases from which Daesh seeks to launch its attacks, either from Syria into Iraq or elsewhere and the United States has made it clear that they are targeting the leadership and seeking to take out the structure so that this terrorist organisation can't launch the kind of attacks that it has in recent times, including the horrific attacks in Paris.

KARL STEFANOVIC If the US asks us to go in on the ground, would we?

JULIE BISHOP We would always consider a request in a measured and collaborative way, working with our allies. We are part of an effort with New Zealand, so obviously we would consider any requests, as we have done in the past, in a measured way to ensure that we had the capacity and that it was in our interests to do so. But of course this would need to await a formal request. We have to have a legal basis for being in Iraq and Syria. It's not just a question of sending our troops over there. We are part of a Coalition and we would need to work in a strategic and security sense in cooperation with them.

KARL STEFANOVIC I don't want to press you on it, but it does sound like you're keeping the option open. If they did ask, we may respond in that way in whatever capacity they ask us to do.

JULIE BISHOP Well Karl, of course, given what has occurred in Paris, given that the threat remains, given that France is in a state of emergency for the next three months and that clearly they anticipate more attacks, there will have to be an intensification of the military effort in Syria and Iraq, but what form that takes is obviously a matter for discussion between the leaders of the major armed forces and that's the United States and Russia, but it also includes Iran and other countries.

Australia always stands ready to do our part, but I do point out that we are already the second largest contributor to the United States in the US-led Coalition. There are a number of other countries - at least 30 countries - that have military resources in this Coalition, so there are a number of other countries that will also be considering their position should they be asked, but Australia is making a significant contribution with our 780 personnel already deployed to the Middle East.

KARL STEFANOVIC I think it's fair to say that a number of people inside France, where we are, have raised serious concerns about what is happening in Belgium and the fact that it has become a real hot bed for extremism. There may be other parts of Europe that are likewise. How concerning is that?

JULIE BISHOP Of course, it's deeply concerning and I note that France, Belgium and other countries are reviewing their legislative framework. Australia has taken very swift action over the last 15 months or so to change our legislative framework so that our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies have the powers they need. We have created new terrorism offences in Australia. We have passed four tranches of legislation through our Parliament already and a fifth tranche is ready to be passed this year. So we have put in place a very strong framework to enable our security and law enforcement agencies to respond and I note that other European countries are considering similar legislation. In fact, in the case of France and citizenship laws, I think they're going even further than Australia has contemplated. So there has been a very swift reaction, it's been a very swift reaction.

I've been in touch with our Ambassador overnight. No doubt you will be speaking to correspondents who are in Paris, but the situation remains very tense in France. These raids that have been going on, obviously they're unnerving the French people. I know that Ambassador Brady has noted the sense of insecurity in France, so it's important that the leaders globally show that strength, that resilience, that courage, to take on this terrorist organisation. At the G20 overnight, a very powerful statement was released by the leadership of the G20, including Prime Minister Turnbull, and I'll be meeting with the Prime Minister later today here in Manila where the discussion about terrorism has also dominated these talks which are otherwise economic and trade and investment discussions.

KARL STEFANOVIC I know also that you mentioned a review about ongoing policies and procedures and protocols in Australia in terms of our security there. What might be increased? How might it change? How will those changes make us safer? What can you do?

JULIE BISHOP Our intelligence agencies, our law enforcement agencies, have a number of people of interest under surveillance. That will obviously intensify. We will continue to collaborate very closely with countries across the globe, countries that we might not otherwise have had an intelligence or security relationship with. The globe is forming a coalition against terrorism and we have to prevent these senseless brutal murders of unarmed civilians. The use of military weapons by these terrorists is also a matter of deep concern and so the global cooperation is at a heightened level and Australia will certainly play its part.

KARL STEFANOVIC Julie Bishop, we appreciate your time, thank you.

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