EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW Australia's Foreign Minister is in the studio. Good morning to you. Should we be raising our terror threat level now, too? We’re currently on High – Extreme is the next level – which means an attack is imminent.
JULIE BISHOP We take advice from our security and intelligence agencies. They determine the appropriate threat level. It's currently at High. This compares with France, where they have now raised it in Paris to the highest threat level ‘Alert: Attack’. They have raised it in two areas, in Paris and in Picardy, a place about 70 kilometres north-east of Paris. I do note this is an area where there are many Australian war graves from World War I, so there is an expectation that Australian tourists may be going to Picardy as part of their visit to France. We again warn all Australians who are travelling to France, or who are in France, to be aware of the high terror alert and to take the advice of French authorities, and also register on the Australian Government Smartraveller website, so that they can be safe.
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW The Prime Minister warned yesterday that it's only a matter of time before Australia experiences a terrorist attack. How do you control or monitor people like these lone wolves, who are acting on their own?
JULIE BISHOP The Australian Government stands in solidarity with the French Government in our commitment to keep our respective countries safe from this kind of attack. Our security agencies, our intelligence agencies work closely together and with other countries around the world. We share information, we share experiences. But we do have to accept the fact that these attacks can take place at anytime, anywhere. That's why we have to work so strongly and closely with other countries to ensure that we can share as much information as we can about those who would seek to do harm to open liberal democracies like Australia and like France.
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW Does it concern you that potential terrorists would see the response, both to the Sydney siege here, and also to the attacks in Paris and think, if we did the same, look what would happen?
JULIE BISHOP The message coming out of France is that the French people stand united in their condemnation of this type of attack. It was an attack against the fundamentals of the French Republic – freedom and democracy – ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’. The French people are showing by their attendance at rallies, by the observance of the national minute of silence yesterday, and also by the fact that there will be a national commemorative rally on Sunday in France – they are showing that the French people will not be cowed. They will not be intimidated by this type of attack. I believe that's the way the Australian people should respond as well. We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms. Of course, our thoughts are with the people who are injured, the families of those who are killed in this atrocity, but we should never be cowed by terrorists, because then they would win.
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW It’s so heartening to see the similar scenes here in Sydney and Melbourne of the vigils held overnight. There have been some retaliation attacks on mosques in France and on Muslim business owners. What is your message to Australians when they see this? This kind of act doesn't represent the Islamic community, does it?
JULIE BISHOP I spoke to our Ambassador in France Stephen Brady again this morning. He described the overwhelming feeling in France as being one of unity, of the country coming together in solidarity. In fact, President Hollande has been in touch with the Leader of the Opposition, former president Nicholas Sarkozy. Together they have presented a united, nonpartisan picture of a country determined not to be cowed by this kind of attack. That’s the message in Australia as well. We obviously can't be complacent about the possibility of an attack in Australia. That's why our terror alert is at High, but we also must get on with our lives and not be intimidated by those who would seek to do us harm. That would mean that those people would be successful in their attempts to terrorise us. We won't be intimidated by that, at all.
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW That's the best message, isn't it?
JULIE BISHOP Of course it is. To be united. The Australian Ambassador lay a floral tribute at the location of the attack – at the Charlie Hebdo site – yesterday on behalf of the Australian people. Our Embassy staff took part in the national minute of silence. They are doing all they can to respond to requests for consular assistance. We get on doing what we do best - that is being a united, tolerant and free society.
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW Thank you so much for joining this morning Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
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