EDDIE MCGUIRE Australia is nearing the end of its two-year term on the Security Council at the United Nations. It’s a very prestigious position which has given Australia the front row seat to be involved in the fight in the MH17 flight crash that was brought to ground, of course, with devastating effect, but also the ISIS issue that is very much front and centre in all of our lives at the moment.
The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke overnight at the United Nations. A quote she said was “ISIL and its ilk are an affront to Islam. All of us, including Muslim communities themselves, must do more to negate the violent extremist narratives of terrorists and denounce radical preachers of hate in our midst.”
The Foreign Minister joins us this morning, Julie Bishop, from the United Nations in New York.
Good morning Julie.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning Eddie, Luke, Mick. Good morning from freezing New York!
EDDIE MCGUIRE It is, it’s been hit by a massive cold snap over there, New York, hasn’t it?
JULIE BISHOP It has. It was minus 4 this morning and I think it’s even colder now. But I did have a busy day at the United Nations presiding over a Security Council meeting which identified some pretty practical steps that countries can take to broaden cooperation in our efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL, or Da’esh, or Al Nusrah, or any of the Al Qaeda affiliates and I heard from other member nations what steps they’re taking in this international cooperation to combat terrorism and violent extremism.
EDDIE MCGUIRE Well Julie, Australia’s had a front row position in this because of the Security Council but also the G20 Meeting last week. Do you feel that there is now a bit of a coordinated approach to tackling ISIS and these issues amongst the member states of the United Nations?
JULIE BISHOP I think that our efforts to increase and accelerate international cooperation are beginning to gain more momentum. Australia drafted a statement today, and all of the Security Council members supported it, to improve information sharing between countries, to particularly prevent the travel of foreign terrorist fighters to Iraq and Syria, to identify sources of financing so that we can starve these terrorist organisations of fighters and funds. And we also recognise that the United Nations could take a stronger leadership role in helping countries build capacity to fight extremism within their own borders. And we need to fight the legitimacy of ISIL and these terrorist organisations, to expose their hateful ideology and today’s unanimous support for our Presidential statement on this issue shows that countries take it very seriously; that it is a global threat, not just a regional threat, and that as far as Australia is concerned it is thenumber one priority when it comes to national and international security.
LUKE DARCY Julie congratulations to you doing an amazing job for Australia on the world stage and I think that is a unanimous opinion from Australians back here at home. How many Australians, have you got an accurate number, have left and are now fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
JULIE BISHOP We still believe that it’s at least 80, between 70 and 80, known Australians have left our country and are fighting in Syria and Iraq. We think there are about another hundred in Australia who are supporting, facilitating, funding but this is the number that is known to us.
I have cancelled quite a number of passports, indeed over 70 passports have been cancelled, but under our new laws we’ll have greater capacity to suspend passports from those who are suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. It’s a lower threshold of proof than having to prove enough to be able to cancel a passport. We want to be able to suspend them while our intelligence and security agencies can make more enquiries so the more power that our intelligence and security agencies have, the more likely we are able to identify those who are involved in supporting ISIL.
And for the life of me I cannot understand why young Australians would want to leave our country that is so free and tolerant and supportive, where there are so many opportunities for those who look for them, and go over to Iraq or Syria, put their own lives at risk, but even as tragically - adding to the suffering of the people of Iraq and Syria who have been subjected to the brutally of these terrorist organisations.
MICK MOLLOY Minister what would you like to happen? What happens to those who’ve gone over to fight? What will happen to them, they’re not going to be allowed back into the country?
JULIE BISHOP Well for a start they run a very high risk of being killed. Already we’ve got cases of known Australian suicide bombers, people who’ve deliberately taken their lives and tragically the lives of others by blowing themselves up in Syria and trying to kill people in Iraq, in market places and military checkpoints, but also they are taking part in a bloody brutal conflict so the chances of them surviving are very slim.
If they do seek to come back to Australia, well we want to be able to detain them at the airport and question them as to where they’ve been, who they’re in contact with, what connections they’ve made. The challenge of course is to prevent them going in the first place because if they go overseas they are then going to link up with these terrorist organisations, learn their tactics, learn the skills and strategies of these terrorist organisations and become battle hardened terrorists and come back to Australia. And we know from past history that people who are battle-hardened terrorists overseas and come back to Australia, do try to carry out terrorist acts in Australia. We’ve got to prevent that at all costs.
EDDIE MCGUIRE Julie does it get to a stage where these people are then seen to be at war with Australia and therefore are taken care of as if they were at war with Australia?
JULIE BISHOP Well ISIL has declared war on the rest of the world, there’s no question. They hate us for our values, who we are, what we represent. They can’t tolerate freedom, they are against the values that make Australia the country it is, and many other countries. So people who are going over to fight with ISIL are actually fighting against their own country, they’re fighting against Australia because ISIL has declared war on countries like Australia and our values and they are seeking to harm us.
This is a very serious situation and one that we don’t take lightly. In fact, as I said to the Security Council today for Australia there is no more pressing matter of national and international security than reducing the threat from terrorism and particularly that barbaric terrorism practised by ISIL or Da’esh as it is called in the Middle East.
EDDIE MAGUIRE Well good luck with that Julie because at some stage it gets close to being treason I suppose and there are sanctions involved in treasonous activities in all countries. But it’s a serious matter and one of the points that you’ve brought up in the United Nations I thought was very significant and that is that the terrorists were “the masters of social media” and that’s the way they’re getting to the younger people, “they communicate their propaganda directly to our homes. There is no more pressing matter of national and international security than reducing that threat of terrorism”. And more strength to [inaudible] over there and well done for representing Australia on the world stage so well Julie. We appreciate you coming on our show this morning on Triple M.
JULIE BISHOP Thanks Eddie, appreciate you giving me the opportunity to talk about what we’re doing here at the Security Council. Cheers.
EDDIE MCGUIRE Stay warm!
JULIE BISHOP I’ll try. I’ll go running in the morning and see if I can get some blood flowing though my veins somewhere along the line!
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