DEBORAH KNIGHT Now turning to the situation in France, and two brothers accused of killing 12 people at Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris have now been shot dead as a third hostage taker at a Jewish supermarket was also killed, along with four hostages. It has been a very dramatic night and back home questions are being asked as to whether more of these attacks are being planned around the world and whether Australia should upgrade our terror alerts. Joining us now is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Minister, good morning to you.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning.
DEBORAH KNIGHT What more information do you have on what unfolded with these two siege situations?
JULIE BISHOP I have been in contact with our ambassador in France Stephen Brady overnight, and he has given me a very detailed account of what went on. This shocking week in in France has ended with the death of suspected terrorists, but tragically, with the death of a number of innocent lives as well. We stand united with the people of France. We weep with the families of those who were innocent bystanders, the hostages that were taken overnight, and also with the journalists and the police who have been killed during this horrific week.
Prime Minister Abbott did speak with President Hollande overnight and expressed the deep sympathy of the Australian people. We do stand in solidarity with the people and Government of France in our determination to stamp out this kind of terrorism. We must redouble our efforts to maintain a free and open and tolerant society, both here and in France and other countries around the world, and we must counter and challenge this poisonous ideology that drives militant extremists and terrorists to these horrific acts.
DEBORAH KNIGHT These sieges ended in an unnervingly similar way to the Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney.
JULIE BISHOP Tragically, hostages were taken and were killed. The details are still being put together. We understand there is some connection between the two terror suspects involved in the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and the suspect who has also been killed who had shot a policewoman the day before. Apparently there is some connection, but the French authorities are still providing that kind of detail. And, yes, there were some eerily chilling examples that would have brought it home to the people of Australia, as we saw the police trying to get the hostages out and also try and bring this situation to an end. But it does remind us that terrorist acts can take place at any time, anywhere.
We know there are about 4000 Australians in France at present. There would be more than that, but there are about 4000 registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and we do urge all Australians, either in France or travelling to France to exercise a very high degree of caution. France is now at the highest terror threat level of Alert: attack, meaning an attack is imminent, and of course we have seen that over the last couple of days.
In relation to Australia, we take advice from our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies and there's no information yet that would lead us to change the terror alert here in Australia, which is already at High.
DEBORAH KNIGHT These brothers, though, were known to authorities. They were banned from travelling to the US. Were they on Australia's radar?
JULIE BISHOP I'm not able to give that kind of information, but I know that our security and intelligence agencies are deeply engaged with the French authorities and, indeed, the European agencies, and we do have deep connections with a number of security intelligence agencies around the world. They do share information and they do share experiences.
DEBORAH KNIGHT We know at least one of the brothers has had terrorist training in Yemen. Foreign jihadist training is a major concern here in Australia as well. How likely is an attack like that that has happened in France, the two attacks, here in Australia?
JULIE BISHOP This is why the Government has redoubled our efforts. We have increased resources to our security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, we have provided them with more funding, we have changed the laws in this country. There are now new laws relating to terrorist offences. And we have been saying consistently that the issue of terrorism is our number one security priority.
The phenomena of foreign terrorist fighters, relatively new to Australia, is one that does concern us deeply; that is, young people in particular are being radicalised and being told that if they go and fight with ISIS or Da’esh or ISIL, whatever they like to call themselves, these terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria, that it is some kind of noble cause. Well it’s not, they are being utterly duped.
And we are doing all we can to prevent people joining these terrorist organisations, supporting or advocating terrorism in any way. I'm cancelling passports, we are taking whatever steps we can to stop Australians being involved in terrorist activities either here in Australia or overseas in Iraq and Syria in particular. Not only are they putting their own lives at risk but adding to the misery and suffering of other people. And we have to counter and challenge this ideology, and promote the freedom, the democracy, the tolerance of the societies in which we live.
DEBORAH KNIGHT Alright Foreign Minister, we thank you for the very latest. It is a disturbing situation that has unfolded overnight in France. Thank you so much for your time this morning.
JULIE BISHOP Thank you.
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