Weekend Today, New York - interview with Cameron Williams

  • Transcript, E&OE

CAMERON WILLIAMS The globe seems to be teetering on the brink of something and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is front and centre of all of this. She has addressed the United Nations Council in New York saying the international community can't stand by and do nothing and I'm pleased to say that Julie Bishop now joins us from New York.

Good morning to you Minister. What is Australia actually committing to with troops and air forces going to this conflict?

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Cam.

Australia is responding to an international call for support for the Iraqi Government in its fight against ISIL, this brutal terrorist organisation. There was a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council called yesterday and about 40 nations were there to pledge support for the Iraqi Government as it seeks to combat ISIL from taking over towns, taking over territory and leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Australia has specifically said we would be prepared to support operations in Iraq, with the consent and at the invitation of the Iraqi Government, if there is a US-led intervention. We are prepared to provide aeroplanes and prepared to provide Special Forces, and we have pre-deployed to the United Arab Emirates in the event that such a mission would go ahead. I stress this is at the invitation and with the consent of the Iraqi Government who is battling ISIL in its territory but ISIL is spreading beyond Iraq. So it is important that the international community respond to this very serious threat now and there was universal condemnation of ISIL and its activities.

CAMERON WILLIAMS Look, that condemnation is widespread throughout the civilian population back here at home. I think that there is also a growing nervousness here Julie, that being at the forefront of this attack on ISIL may expose people here to extremist activities that they would not have otherwise been exposed to. Seeing that the army are being encouraged to not wear their uniforms when they're off duty and there are extensive changes to the laws back here. Do you feel that there's a genuine threat to our community?

JULIE BISHOP This is one of the largest domestic threats in terms of security that Australia has faced in some time. It's real but it is also a threat faced by countries across the world. Indeed, yesterday we learned that about 80 countries believe that they have foreign fighters in their midst or who are leaving those countries to fight with ISIL or its ilk in the Middle East.

There is a heightened security risk in Australia but the Government is taking action. We have provided more funding to build the capability and capacity of our law enforcement and security in border protection agencies. We have seen raids take place in recent days to foil potential terrorist plots in our country. We have a new package of laws that will be passing our Parliament with the support of the Labor Party to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have all the powers that they need to keep Australians safe.

So this is an issue that many countries around the globe are struggling with, but the Australian Government is determined to do all we can to keep Australians safe.

CAMERON WILLIAMS The Prime Minister has said it is believed there are at least 60 Australians known to be fighting with ISIL and other terrorist groups in the Middle East, at least 100 Australians known to be supporting these known organisations. It is becoming a very widespread thing. You say that 80 countries around the world have their residents now involved in this kind of conflict. What is the world community saying to you that can be done about this? Is it a containment policy or an eradication policy?

JULIE BISHOP It is both. Indeed yesterday, at this special meeting of the UN Security Council, a number of representatives of countries spoke of what they would do within their own countries, but what they would do as part of an international effort to support in the first instance the Iraqi Government as it seeks to fight back against ISIL. This is the most barbaric terrorist organisation that we have seen. They focus particularly on women and children and minorities, their conduct is inhuman. There was universal condemnation of its activities and a desire on the part of the international community to respond.

A number of countries pledged military support, indeed France has already begun air strikes on ISIL activities in Iraq. Other countries spoke of humanitarian support for those that are displaced, whose lives have been destroyed by ISIL. Others spoke of starving ISIL of funds, and fighters and weapons. The whole idea of this meeting was to discuss what countries can do together or individually to respond to ISIL as this growing international terrorist threat.

CAMERON WILLIAMS If I could just ask you a question about the G20 Julie as we move on. Australia has been very vocal in its criticism of Russia. Your feeling about Vladimir Putin coming to Australia?

JULIE BISHOP Australia as the host country doesn't have the right to rescind an invitation to any of the leaders who are attending the G20 or who have been invited to attend the G20.

In recent months Australia has taken soundings from the other members and there is a desire to keep the G20 focused on being an economic forum rather than a political forum. There is a belief that the G20 must continue to be the premier global economic forum. Australia is a member of it, we are hosting it in Brisbane in November. So the invitation to President Putin stands. Whether or not he turns up and faces the level of condemnation over Russia's conduct in Ukraine is still to be seen.

CAMERON WILLIAMS All right, some doubt about his attendance.

Thank you very much Foreign Minister, we do thank you for your time.

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