Interview with Kim Landers, ABC Radio Canberra, AM

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Current situation in Iran and Iraq; Ukrainian plane crashing in Iran; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping back as senior royals.
09 January 2020

Kim Landers:

The Federal Government’s national security committee will meet again today to discuss the situation with Iran and Iraq. The Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne spoke to me earlier.

[Excerpt]

Minister, good morning.

Marise Payne:

Good morning Kim.

Kim Landers:

Both the US President and Iran appear to be shying away from further military action. Instead, President Trump says he’s going to impose more economic sanctions on Iran. Will Australia follow?

Marise Payne:

Well, Australia constantly reviews our sanctions regime and we have a number of relevant sanctions in place. We’re closely monitoring the events in Iraq and with Iran. Our first priority, of course, is the safety and security of Australian citizens, of personnel and officials and that is something on which we are coordinating closely with the US and with other partners.

Kim Landers:

So if that’s the first priority, why has the government decided not to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq?

Marise Payne:

Well, we have a long-term interest in the efforts we’ve been making within the coalition in Iraq over quite an extended period of time now and that is in the interest of defeating Daesh and that has been our focus. It continues to be our focus and I think that that is an important reminder for all of us that it takes constant vigilance to work against extreme terrorist organisations. Although we have defeated, if you like, the physical entity, the caliphate so-called of Daesh, we know that their efforts to continue their actions are unabated and they will try to emerge in other places. And so our focus has been very much in that context.

Kim Landers:

The Australian frigate HMAS Toowoomba is about to head to the Strait of Hormuz to protect shipping from Iranian attacks. Will the government reassess that deployment while it’s en route to the region?

Marise Payne:

Well we always monitor situations such as this in the light of circumstances as they arise. We will continue to do that. As you say, the deployment is imminent on Monday but the Prime Minister, leading the national security committee of the Cabinet, will monitor the situation in conjunction with the Defence Minister and make decisions accordingly.

Kim Landers:

There’s an Australian academic, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who’s in jail in Iran on an espionage charge. Is that at all influencing the government’s decisions when it comes to deciding what to do about Iran?

Marise Payne:

The government has been working extremely hard in relation to the ongoing detention of Kylie Moore-Gilbert. As I’ve said publicly before, we don’t accept the charges on which she has been held and are concerned for her protection and the conditions under which she is held. It is always a focus for us in terms of important consular matters such as this, but we make every decision that we make in Australia’s national interests.

Kim Landers:

This dramatic escalation began with President Trump’s decision to kill the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. Does Australia endorse that decision?

Marise Payne:

Kim, I think what the Prime Minister and other ministers, including myself, have observed is that the United States has the right to defend its national security interests and its personnel abroad, and Australia along with a number of other countries- a number of other international partners has long been concerned by the destabilising behaviour that Iran has displayed on a number of occasions in the Middle East …

Kim Landers:

[Talks over] But my specific question was do you support the decision to kill him?

Marise Payne:

It’s a matter for the United States, Kim. It’s their defence of their national security interests and their personnel abroad, but what we have been very clear in saying is that we do urge all parties to avoid escalation and so what we have seen in the last short period, including with remarks both from the Iranian government and from president overnight we hope is an indication that we are able to move forward from here. We have a shared interest, as I said, in defeating Daesh and in Daesh remaining defeated and that’s our focus.

Kim Landers:

Can you confirm that there were no Australians on board the jet that was- that crashed near Tehran Airport?

Marise Payne:

Well, we have made significant endeavours overnight to ensure that that is the case and we believe that to be the case. May I express our sincere condolences to so many countries and families who have lost lives in this Ukrainian flight, from the Ukraine itself, from Iran, from Canada, from Britain and other countries. But as far as we have been able to ascertain, there have been no Australians involved. At the same time, we know what it feels like to be a country that is searching for lost loved ones and our sympathies and our thoughts are with all of those nations.

Kim Landers:

On another matter, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have announced that they’re stepping back as senior members of the royal family. What’s your response?

Marise Payne:

I’ve seen those reports this morning and I regard that as a matter for them, if that is something they wish to pursue and they think that they can be productive, effective, do what they want to do in their own lives in that way, then of course that’s a decision I would respect and we would respect.

Kim Landers:

Minister, thank you very much for speaking with AM.

Marise Payne:

Thanks very much, Kim.

[End of excerpt]

Kim Landers:

That’s the Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne.

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