Transcript - ABC 7.30 Report

  • Transcript, E&OE
23 March 2016

LEIGH SALES: With me live from Bali where she's chairing a regional forum is Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Minister, thank you very much for your time.

Earlier today, the Prime Minister said that one of the problems for Europe is that its security and intelligence systems have some room for improvement. What's your assessment of their capability and performance?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I agree with the Prime Minister's statement. It is a statement of fact and over many months I have been meeting with European ministers, attending conferences, meeting with security agencies throughout Europe, and they have acknowledged that they are facing a dire terrorist threat environment. There have been failings in the past that have led to the current situation, but there is a renewed sense of cooperation across Europe and sharing of intelligence which is absolutely fundamental to seeking to disrupt these planned terrorist attacks.

LEIGH SALES: And why hasn't there been a sufficient sharing of intelligence between European countries?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, this is a matter of history, and thankfully, there is now a much greater level of cooperation, but it stemmed from the past. There are multiple agencies, multiple provinces, States, countries, that all have intelligence of one form or another, and it's a question of ensuring that there's cooperation across-the-board. And that's what we are now seeing with a number of high-profile conferences that have been held, where countries have pledged to share their intelligence. Australia has been preparing to thwart terrorist attacks for some years now and our agencies have been resourced, have been provided with not only the funding but also the powers that are needed and often it is a legislative base that is required to be altered in order for intelligence to be shared amongst agencies, amongst countries.

LEIGH SALES: Do you think that the counter-terrorism legal framework that currently exists in European countries is inadequate for the contemporary challenge?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, it's a question of focusing on what we do in the future. The countries that have been subjected to attacks are assessing their laws, their resourcing. Those countries that have not, recognise that they are not immune, and I believe that there is a renewed focus on ensuring cooperation and collaboration across-the-board. This is what's absolutely necessary - border controls, high levels of screening, the legal basis to ensure that authorities have the powers and as well as the funding that is required to address what is a severe terrorist threat, not only in Europe but around the globe.

LEIGH SALES: Given the number of individuals in Europe who've travelled to Syria and Iraq and back again, how could even the best intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the world keep on top of every potential threat?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, there can be no guarantees. It's impossible. All we can do is devote what resources and energy and effort we can to sharing intelligence, to seeking to thwart the planning and of course any attack and that's why the Australian Government has been focusing so intently on ensuring that we have the framework in place that gives us the best possible chance of keeping Australians safe from a terrorist attack. But we've seen attacks across the world, not just in Paris and Brussels but San Bernadino, in Jakarta, in Sydney. We must all work as closely as we can to share information to ensure that we can prevent attacks and however they may occur, but of course we can't provide guarantees. We can only work as closely and thoroughly as we can with other countries.

LEIGH SALES: Given that the greatest threat to western countries is home-grown attacks carried out by people sympathetic to IS, what is the point of continuing with the military campaign in Iraq and Syria? Is there not a case that those resources would be better deployed at home?

JULIE BISHOP: We have to attack terrorism at its source. ISIL, the terrorist organisation, is brutalising civilians in Syria and in Iraq. They are exporting their model of terrorism around the world, and so we have to disrupt their headquarters. Currently that's in al-Raqqa in Syria but they're also organised in Iraq. That is why we are part of a coalition with many other countries to disrupt ISIL or Daesh at its headquarters in the Middle East.

LEIGH SALES: If we can turn to domestic matters - Malcolm Turnbull has said that his decision to recall the Senate and to bring forward the Budget was done in consultation with a very small circle. Were you part of that circle?

JULIE BISHOP: I certainly was aware that the Prime Minister had been considering this course of action. It was a matter that we had discussed in leadership, and the bringing forward of the Budget was also a matter that we discussed. It was always an option available to us.

LEIGH SALES: And when did Mr Turnbull actually tell thaw he was going to make an announcement that he was going to do those two things?

JULIE BISHOP: I was in discussions with the Prime Minister over the weekend.

LEIGH SALES: And so did you know for certain, say, by Sunday night that it was going to happen?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, anyone who's a member of Cabinet knows that until Cabinet makes a decision, it hasn't made a decision and that decision was taken on Monday morning.

LEIGH SALES: The Prime Minister, I understand, made his decision on the Sunday evening and then Cabinet discussed it on Monday morning. And did you know that he was going to bring it to Cabinet on the Sunday evening as well?

JULIE BISHOP: Look, I'm not going into the details of the confidential conversations that I had with the Prime Minister. The fact is the Prime Minister is recalling the Senate, recalling the Parliament, so that the Senators can get on with their job of supporting the Government's legislation. We have a mandate to present this legislation to the Parliament, and the senators are required to do their job and the Prime Minister has given them plenty of time to do just that.

LEIGH SALES: Does it strike you as odd that the Treasurer Scott Morrison found out that the Budget was coming forward by a week in the Cabinet meeting? Wouldn't you expect the Treasurer to get some advance notice of that?

JULIE BISHOP: Everybody had advance notice that this was a proposition. Indeed, I recall reading it in the media about the 22nd of February that the Prime Minister may well bring forward the Budget by a week. So I don't think it was a secret.

LEIGH SALES: I don't think you'd expect the Treasurer though to get his intelligence on the Budget timing from the media?

JULIE BISHOP: No, my point was that it was publicly known as well as being a matter of discussion within the leadership group and I can assure you the Treasurer is part of the leadership group.

LEIGH SALES: Just finally, how helpful do you think Tony Abbott's interjections into the political debate are for the Liberals' re-election chances?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, that's a matter for others to judge. Tony, as a former Prime Minister, and now a backbencher, is free to express his views and he has a contribution to make.

We are focused on ensuring that we can bring our reforms through the Parliament. The workplace relations reforms to clean up corrupt unions is a very vital piece of legislation for the purposes of ensuring greater productivity, international competitiveness, and a stronger economy and that means more jobs. So that is the focus of all of the members of the Coalition as we head into an election phase - whether it be in July, August, September or later.

LEIGH SALES: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, thank you very much for your time.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure, Leigh.

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