Today Show, Sydney - interview with Sylvia Jeffreys
JOURNALIST Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke to her Indonesian counterpart yesterday and Ms Bishop joins us live now. Minister, good morning to you. Have you been able to confirm whether or not any Australians were injured?
JULIE BISHOP Good morning. I did speak to my foreign minister counterpart Retno Marsudi last night. I confirmed that the Australian Government condemns these horrific attacks and that we stand with Indonesia in countering terrorism and we'll do what we can to support them in the investigation as to how this occurred and who is responsible. I have been able to confirm that at this point no Australians have been affected by this attack, and our embassy in Jakarta – I've spoken to our ambassador – has confirmed that all Australian and locally-based staff attached to the embassy are safe, as are their families, but we have no reports of any Australians being involved at this point.
JOURNALIST What exactly is the nature of the assistance that Australia has offered Indonesia at this time?
JULIE BISHOP My colleague, the Attorney-General George Brandis, also spoke to his counterpart. We have offered law enforcement, intelligence and security support should they need it. Australia and Indonesia already cooperate to a great degree on counterterrorism. In fact, I signed a further counterterrorism Memorandum of Understanding with Retno Marsudi in Sydney last month. We also have an Australian police team based in Jakarta and we have offered whatever support Indonesia may need in relation to these attacks.
JOURNALIST Ms Bishop, Indonesia is now on the highest possible threat alert level. Given our proximity to Indonesia and our relationship with the country, will Australia consider - or the Government consider lifting Australia's threat level?
JULIE BISHOP We have changed our advice to Indonesia for those travelling there to reflect these attacks. We urge Australians to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling in Indonesia and that includes in Jakarta. As for Australia's threat level, it is already on high and it has been for some time, but we take advice from our security experts as to the threat level in Australia.
JOURNALIST So, for now, we'll stay at the third - the third level, the medium level?
JULIE BISHOP My understanding is that it will remain as is, but should that advice change, we will of course change the threat level.
JOURNALIST You mentioned the advice for Australians travelling to Indonesia. What about residents at home here trying to get in contact with people in Indonesia at the moment?
JULIE BISHOP Well, certainly if people are trying to contact friends or relatives in Indonesia, they should try to contact them directly, obviously. If they still have concerns and are unable to do so, we do have a 24 hour consular number, 1300555135 and people can call that if they have any concerns about friends, relatives or family in Indonesia. There are about 6,500 Australians registered in Indonesia, but the number is obviously higher than that. There are about 800 Australians registered in Jakarta. But, as I say, if anyone has concerns, please try and contact the person or, if having difficulty doing that and still have concerns, then contact the consular number.
JOURNALIST Ms Bishop, IS has now declared a caliphate in the Philippines and Indonesia. Surely that changes the terror landscape for the entire region, including Australia?
JULIE BISHOP The Australian Government has been concerned for quite some time about the increasing threat of terrorism in our region, the connections between the terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq and in our region, and, as you say, ISIL or Daesh has already declared a caliphate over Mindanao in the southern Philippines. That's why we are working with regional governments across the region sharing intelligence, sharing experiences, law enforcement capabilities and the like to ensure that Australia and our region can be as safe as possible. But these terrorist attacks can occur anywhere at any time and that's why we are continuing to ensure that our law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies have the resources and the support that they need to keep Australians safe.
JOURNALIST We heard news yesterday that the Prime Minister had rejected a request from the US for more troops to be sent to the Middle East to help the fight against Islamic State. Given the events of yesterday in Jakarta, is the Prime Minister likely to reconsider that decision?
JULIE BISHOP The United States sent a request to over 40 countries, and Australia is already the second largest military contributor to the coalition effort on the ground in Iraq and in the air campaigns over Syria. So we encourage like-minded countries to increase their contribution to the effort. Given our size and our proximity, Australia is making a substantial contribution, but of course we keep our contribution under continual review.
JOURNALIST All right. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, we will leave it there. We appreciate your time this morning, thank you.
JULIE BISHOP Thank you.