Weekend Today Show, interview with Cameron Williams and Deborah Knight

  • Transcript, E&OE

DEBORAH KNIGHT Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins us now from Perth. Good morning to you.

We know that there is one Australian, as Cam mentioned, injured, this 19-year-old woman from Tasmania. Do you have any updated info on other Australians who might have been caught up in these attacks?

JULIE BISHOP Good morning.

At this stage, the consular officials in Paris are reporting the one Australian citizen, Emma Parkinson, has been injured and is receiving treatment. In fact, I spoke to Emma from her hospital bed last night. Ambassador Brady, our ambassador in Paris, had visited her and she was out of surgery and she was recovering. We expect a full recovery and I took the opportunity to speak with her, and she relayed to me the circumstances of the attack that she suffered and the injuries that she suffered, but thankfully her family are on the way to Paris to see her now.

Other than Emma, we have answered a number of consular calls, but there are still no reports of any Australians having been killed in any of the terrorist incidents that occurred in Paris. I understand the situation is still very tense, very sombre, but as you indicated on your news report, there was an incident just an hour or so ago where about 100 police turned up at a hotel just next to the Australian Embassy, and I was on the phone to Ambassador Brady at the time and he was giving me an update as to what was happening. It does show that the French authorities are hyper-vigilant and are responding very quickly to any particular incident, and so security operations are still ongoing around the Eiffel Tower and around our Embassy area.

CAMERON WILLIAMS Given that tension in Paris and beyond, in France, what is your advice to people who are considering their travel to France and to broader Europe?

JULIE BISHOP We have asked all Australians who are intending to travel to Paris to rethink the need for that travel at this time. We have a departmental website -smartraveller.gov.au and that will provide up-to-date advice, but given the horrendous security situation in Paris, the fact that it is a state of emergency, there are border controls, and it is an ongoing security situation, we advise Australians to rethink the need for them to be in Paris. Also they should contact their airlines, their travel agents, to seek advice.

DEBORAH KNIGHT We know the French President Francois Hollande has been very strong in his language, calling this an act of war and declaring that there will be a swift response to it with the help of allies. What do you think we can offer - Australia and our Government - in concrete terms to the French, apart from our thoughts and solidarity with them? What can we offer in concrete terms?

JULIE BISHOP Thisis yet another terrorist attack on innocent victims. These are abhorrent affronts to civilised people, and not only in Paris but elsewhere, ISIL or Da'esh, is claiming responsibility for horrific, devastating attacks on innocent people. This is why the terrorist organisation ISIL or Da'esh must be confronted. That's what we are doing in Iraq and Syria. We have significant Defence personnel working with security forces in Iraq and Syria to support the capacity of these security forces to take on the terrorist organisation. Our security agencies are working closely with French authorities, indeed with allies and like-minded countries around the world, and of course at home, we are taking every step that we can to ensure the Australian people are safe.

The Prime Minister and relevant ministerial colleagues from the National Security Committee are speaking regularly with our security and law enforcement officers and officials, and we are ensuring we are doing everything we can in Australia to keep our people safe, and we are supporting countries in Europe through our support in Iraq and Syria and through intelligence and law enforcement cooperation.

CAMERON WILLIAMS Will Australia be prepared to increase its presence in those theatres of combat?

JULIE BISHOP Our position in relation to Syria and Iraq is constantly under review. We have not been asked to provide further support at this stage, but of course we would consider it if we were asked. Our mission is very clear: it is to build up the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces so that we can confront Da'esh through these security forces, they can protect their own people and take back the territory that has been claimed.

CAMERON WILLIAMS What about America's position relevant to this? It seems that President Obama has been very considered in his language and has stopped short of identifying groups. He's certainly making no guarantees about giving France any support other than a type of logistical support in France.

JULIE BISHOP The President has offered support, as has Australia. The French authorities, obviously, are taking stock of the situation. There's still an ongoing security situation in Paris, as I described. Only an hour ago, about 100 police attended at a hotel that was just down the road from the Australian Embassy, just three doors down, and we had reports of other ongoing security operations around the Eiffel Tower. So clearly the French authorities are focusing on Paris and the scene of these most recent attacks.

But this is the subject of ongoing discussions. There was a meeting in Vienna on the 14th of November as countries, about 20 countries, came together to discuss how they could get a cease-fire and a political solution in Syria, which is the home to ISIL or Da'esh.

So countries are discussing ways that we can confront this terrorist organisation and try to ensure that the world is a safer place for people, and that's what is occupying our minds, that is what we are reviewing every moment, and these attacks in Paris just remind us of how we must be ever vigilant against terrorism and terrorist attacks.

DEBORAH KNIGHT These attacks were strategic and very coordinated and very concerning that they did fly under the radar of intelligence forces in France not able to get any real chatter that these attacks were likely to occur. Are we, in light of that, going to be reviewing security arrangements here in Australia?

JULIE BISHOP Our security arrangements are always under review. The advice from our security agencies is that the threat alert level in Australia remains at high. This is constantly under review.

CAMERON WILLIAMS Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, thank you very much for your time this morning, we do appreciate it.


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