EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW We are joined from Melbourne by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Good morning to you again Foreign Minister.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning.
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW What is your reaction, what is Australia’s reaction to these latest terrorist attacks in France overnight?
JULIE BISHOP We are shocked by the events that have unfolded in France over the last week. We stand united with the people and the Government of France in our sympathy, in our grief and in our resolve to continue to challenge and confront the hateful ideology that drives these kind of terrorist attacks.
Overnight, Prime Minister Abbott spoke to President Hollande and gave him the assurance that Australia stands with France at this terrible time. I understand that there will be an official march on Sunday in Paris, tens of thousands of people are expected to attend. I'm informed by our Ambassador to France, Stephen Brady, that there will be representation from governments across Europe. Indeed, Prime Minister Cameron is expected to attend, Angela Merkel from Germany, so this shows the global solidarity behind France at this terrible time.
The President has called for unity. He says that unity is our best weapon and that liberty will always win over barbarism. I think that kind of stoic message is so important at this time when there are so many people grieving over the loss of innocent lives.
MARK BERETTA Minister, Al-Qaeda's Yemen branch has claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Yesterday on Sunrise you said our terror alert warning would remain on high and not be raised like France and other Western countries have. Will you change that now as a result of this second attack?
JULIE BISHOP The Government doesn't determine the threat level, that's done by our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies. I'm informed that there is no information that would lead us to believe that Australia is likely to face an imminent threat. However, our threat level is at high and if the security and intelligence agencies believe it should change, then they will act accordingly. But in France, yes, the threat has been raised to the highest level alert meaning that an attack is imminent. Of course, we have seen that over the last couple of days. We have no information to suggest that there is an imminent threat in Australia.
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW I think what is concerning to a lot of Australians, Foreign Minister, is that these people, particularly in France were known to police, yet, this kind of attack could take place. What assurances can you give to Australians that something similar won't happen here?
JULIE BISHOP You can't give any guarantees because these terrorist attacks can happen at any time anywhere and there are terrorist affiliated cells around the globe. But that's why the Australian Government has acted to introduce new laws. We have provided significant new funding to our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies, an additional $630 million so that we are building up our capability to deal with this kind of attack. But as we’ve seen in France, it is so very difficult to determine when an attack is going to take place and how.
We do co-ordinate our efforts across the globe with other security and intelligence agencies. Our authorities are deeply engaged with the authorities in other countries. So that we can share information, share experiences and do what we can to keep Australians safe, here in our country, but also Australians travelling overseas. We know that there are thousands of Australians in France at present and we do urge them to register on our Smartraveller website but also to take note of the directions of the French authorities at this terribly tense time in Paris and in France generally.
MARK BERETTA It is a good point Minister we have, Australia and France, have so many connections. There are many French here in Australia. There are of course many Australians living and working in France. So your advice to them is to register?
JULIE BISHOP Absolutely. I say that to any Australians travelling overseas. Please log on to the Smartraveller website but also register your details so that we know who is overseas at what time and we can provide support if it's needed. There are about 4,000 Australians registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in France at present but I am sure there are many more than that, particularly at this time of the year. So it's important that people register their details and also that they take note of the directions and advice from the local authorities in France. Of course, this is a very tense situation and with the big march tomorrow expected in the streets of Paris, then there will be a significant security presence. I noted you said earlier there were about 88,000 police and defence personnel involved in this in Paris so there is obviously a very high security level and presence in Paris and beyond at present.
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW One of the things that Prime Minister Tony Abbott discussed with President Francois Hollande overnight was the French Air Force's involvement in drone style attacks in Iraq and against ISIS. I know we are involved as well in that with also Special Forces on the ground. Will this change our tactics, our involvement in the Middle East at all?
JULIE BISHOP We must not be cowered by terrorist attacks. We must not give in to the terrorists. What we are doing in Iraq is building the capacity of the Iraqi Defence Force so that the Iraqi Government can take back the territory that has been claimed by these terrorist organisations and protect the people of Iraq who are being terrorised and brutalised by this terrorist organisation.
Australia's connection is tragic for we have young Australians who are leaving this country to take up arms and fight with the terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria. We are doing all we can as a government to prevent that. We urge Australians to not travel overseas, to not engage with terrorist organisations. It's not only an offence in Australia, but it's adding to the misery and the suffering of the people of Iraq and Syria. We are seeing new phenomena all the time. For the first time in 2014, Australians citizens were suicide bombers in Iraq and Syria. So, we must re-double our efforts to counter this ideology that is driving people to commit these terrorist acts.
MARK BERETTA Foreign Minister, we know you've got a busy few days and a busy time. We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
JULIE BISHOP Thank you.
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