JOURNALIST Julie Bishop a member of the National Security Committee joins me now from Adelaide. Good morning.
How concerned should the Australian public be at this point Ms Bishop? How concerned should they be that an attack is likely?
JULIE BISHOP Kochie, on the advice of our security and intelligence agencies, the threat level is at high. It's there for a reason. That means that on their assessment, a terrorist attack is likely. Not imminent but likely. So we have to be alert to that possibility. That's why the government and our law enforcement agencies, our security and intelligence agencies, are doing what they can to disrupt the activities of those who could or would be likely to carry out such an attack.
JOURNALIST Can you just explain, because we are all probably a bit confused about the definitions used here, I know you have to be careful, the difference between likely and imminent and should we change our behaviour? Should we avoid public areas? Should we avoid public transport if it's likely?
JULIE BISHOP No, the threat level is high which means that our security and intelligence agencies have assessed an attack is likely. It's not at the next level, extreme, which means imminent - in other words they have details of an attack that is likely to take place and where it will take place. We are just warning people to be careful, be alert but of course go about your everyday business, andof course over the Christmas break we want people to be relaxed. This is Australia, we are an open, tolerant, free society and we celebrate our Christmas and our holiday breaks, but just to be alert.
JOURNALIST But maybe we shouldn't be as tolerant in this situation. You know, if you talk about terrorist chatter and we know potential terrorists who are talking to each other, why can't we just move in and lock them up?
JULIE BISHOP Well, Kochie, you have seen in the past that that's precisely what our law enforcement agencies have been doing. The government is also acting to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from going overseas and becoming battle hardened terrorists. I have been cancelling passports or suspending or refusing to issue passports. We have beefed up the resources for our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, an extra $630 million to give them the capability and capacity to disrupt the activities of those who would do us harm.
JOURNALIST Do we have the laws? If you've got people chatting about a likely event and they are based in Australia can you just go in and lock them up, based on that chatter between them?
JULIE BISHOP Kochie, what we did do in the last Parliament before the break is change the laws in a number of ways. That included making some new offences such as inciting or promoting terrorism and also declaring areas overseas to be out of bounds for Australians unless they have got a very good reason for being there. So we have created new offences and that does include inciting or promoting terrorism.
JOURNALIST Would you put troops on the streets? In France, they announced the deployment of an extra 300 troops after recent lone wolf attacks like we have had here.
JULIE BISHOP Well, I think the situation in France is a little bit different...[Loud plane noise] I am sorry, I think I'm under Santa's flight path!
JOURNALIST That's the 6.45am from Melbourne coming into Adelaide airport. We know it well.
JULIE BISHOP I think it's Santa! I actually do think I'm in Santa's flight path!
JOURNALIST Hopefully that's a commercial airline and nothing out of the usual. We can hear you.
JULIE BISHOP In France there have been a number of attacks and they are obviously assessing that situation very carefully but I just want to stress, in Australia, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are working very hard to ensure that we are able to disrupt the activities of people who might be planning this kind of activity.
JOURNALIST Okay. Still overseas, Australian journalist Peter Greste was arrested in Egypt almost a year ago now. Jailed for 7 years, just an appalling decision. Any update on his situation?
JULIE BISHOP Well, Kochie, we have been making representations at the highest levels within the Egyptian government and recently, the President made a comment that he was considering a new policy regarding people in detention - international people in detention - and we hoped that applied to Peter Greste.
I spoke to Foreign Minister Shoukry two days ago. I urged him to consider releasing Peter Greste for Christmas. We wanted him out, home as soon as possible. He said it was under consideration so we are hoping that our representations will result in a release for Peter Greste. We have got our fingers crossed but we don't know yet whether we have secured this but I'm hopeful, I am optimistic. His appeal against that sentence is listed for 1 January. So it would be very exciting if there were some steps taken before then, but we will continue to make representations at the very highest level to make sure that Peter Greste can get home as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST You are sounding a bit confident there which is wonderful news, which is terrific.
JULIE BISHOP I'm just mildly optimistic.
JOURNALIST Excellent. All right. Back home in Adelaide for Christmas? We wish you a terrific festival period.
JULIE BISHOP Thank you very much, and Merry Christmas to all your viewers.
JOURNALIST Good on you.
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