JOURNALIST: Is the Government seeking emergency powers to potentially kill Australians fighting with ISIS?
JULIE BISHOP: I certainly wouldn’t put it that way but what we are seeking to do is to ensure that we prevent young people in particular from leaving Australia and going overseas to fight with terrorist organisations. It is against the Australian law, it is adding to the suffering of the people of Iraq and Syria and they are putting their own lives in mortal danger.
Should they become battle hardened terrorists and come back to Australia, we intend to have laws that will allow us to detain them and if the circumstances are appropriate, to prosecute and jail them. So our legislation is urgent, it is necessary and as far as I’m away it has bipartisan support.
JOURNALIST: So you might not put it that way, how would you put it? Would you like to prevent them from ever returning to Australia?
JULIE BISHOP: The tragedy is that a number of them will be killed and in fact a number of them have been killed in Iraq and Syria. We urge young Australians in particular not to be radicalised, do not succumb to the false ideology of these poisonous organisations and we urge them not to break Australian laws by leaving this country to take up arms with ISIL or Da’esh as it is called.
I’m not going to go into intelligence matters, I will not go into the details of what our intelligence agencies do overseas, that would put lives at risk. But we are seeking appropriate level of power and authority for our security and intelligence agencies so that we can keep Australians safe – that is the primary responsibility of a Federal Government and that is what we intend to do.
JOURNALIST: Will the consequences of the changes you are proposing mean that information from ISIS could then be given to the ADF who could then theoretically target Australians in the Middle East for instance?
JULIE BISHOP: We are urging young Australians not to go to the Middle East because there is a conflict going on, there is a war going on. ISIL is murdering people, there are mass executions, crucifixions, beheadings, rape, torture, Australians should not be supporting or promoting this in any way and we will do what is necessary to stop them from leaving.
JOURNALIST: There are reports some Australians were killed, do we have numbers on how many have been killed in Syria or Iraq – we believe there were 60 fighting – so how many were killed?
JULIE BISHOP: There are about 70 fighting – I updated the House of Representatives the other day – the actual detail of those killed would be a guestimate. We are aware there are around 185 people in total who are known to us to be supporting terrorist activities in this way.
What we are determined to do is to ensure that Australian citizens do not add to the misery and suffering in Iraq and Syria nor do they leave those countries as hardened terrorists to go to other countries or to come back to Australia to carry out terrorist activities here. Now terrorist offences attract very harsh prison sentences and what this legislation does is cover any gaps in our framework so that we have all the necessary powers in order to deal with this new and emerging threat of foreign fighters and support our counter terrorism activities.
JOURNALIST: Minister on a quick step aside, there are reports in Japanese press today that Australia and the US and Japan have their first trilateral meeting in seven years on the sideline of the G20 to discuss submarine cooperation – are you able to add or confirm that that meeting will take place?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia, Japan and the United States hold trilateral meetings from time to time – I have partaken in a number – so we do have trilateral meetings and discuss matters of common interest such as we have similar meetings with combinations of other countries. I’m not privy to all the details of trilateral arrangements but I know a lot of proposed meetings are currently under review.
JOURNALIST: Minister what is your reaction to the committee chaired by Dean Smith who has found the foreign fighters was likely to breach Australian human rights?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m concerned about the human rights of Australian citizens who are threatened by the prospect of hardened terrorists coming back to this country and being able to carry out a terrorist attack here. I’m concerned about the human rights of the minorities in Iraq and Syria.
I was in Baghdad recently and I met with the leaders of ethnic and religious minorities, the Christians, the Yazidis, Shabaks, Mandaeans and they told me of the grotesque acts that have been perpetrated against their communities, they are the human rights issues that feature most prominently in my mind. There will be a number of reports by a number of committees and I will take them all seriously. But my focus and the focus of the government at present is to keep Australians safe.
JOURNALIST: What is your reaction to Nova Peris – reports that she has potentially misused taxpayers funds to continue a sexual relationship with an overseas athlete?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m aware of these allegations that is a matter for Senator Nova Peris to respond to as she sees fit. I do not intend to comment on it. Thank you.
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