ANDREW BOLT: It is nearly six months since Australia sent aircraft and 600 troops to help fight the Islamic State in Iraq. And good. The Islamic State is incredibly evil and a threat, recruiting even children. But our planes don’t seem to have done much damage:
KEVIN ANDREWS, DEFENCE MINISTER: There have now been some 500 sorties flown over Iraq. More than 200 weapons have been used to strike the targets.
ANDREW BOLT: Just 200 bombs? In six months? What a day. In fact, the Islamic State has not been rolled back in any big way. It still controls Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city. Well, there are now reports the US might soon try to free Mosul, and New Zealand this week said it is sending 140 soldiers in non-combat roles, and Prime Minister John Key passionately attacked New Zealand Labor for not backing him:
JOHN KEY, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: I will not, will not stand by while Jordanian pilots are burnt to death, when kids execute soldiers, when people are out there being beheaded. I’m sorry, but this is the time to stand up and be counted. Get some guts and join the right side.
ANDREW BOLT: Joining me is Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop. Julie, if Tony Abbott did that kind of speech you'd hear all the Fairfax press and the ABC saying that, “He's too extreme! He’s too extreme!”
JULIE BISHOP: I couldn't have said it better than John Key. There's no way that Iraq should have to face this alone. Australia is part of the US-led coalition. There are about 60 countries in this coalition now. And, of course, the object is to defeat ISIL, one of the most barbaric terrorist organisations the world has ever seen. It's more dangerous, it's more complex, it has greater ambitions. It's declared a caliphate over parts of Iraq and Syria. So it must be stopped.
ANDREW BOLT: Now, you’ll soon announce sending more soldiers to train the Iraqi army, which seems to be in a bit of a shambles. This does show that the war has failed so far really, hasn’t it?
JULIE BISHOP: No, I don't accept that, Andrew. This is going to be a long-term objective. We're not just dealing with a military outcome. We're also trying to defeat an ideology, and we have to come up with a counter-narrative so that we can starve ISIL of foreign fighters, of finance and support. But you mentioned the air strikes in the beginning of the show.
ANDREW BOLT: One bomb a day.
JULIE BISHOP: Don't look at it in that light. These are targeted air strikes. We're not dealing with a conventional army, and they are in cities and towns. ISIL or Daesh as it’s called, have taken over Mosul. That's a city of about 700,000 people. So you can't have random bombings. They have to be extremely targeted air strikes acting on very good intelligence, because just imagine if civilians were taken out. That would play into the extremist’s narrative. So the air strikes are very targeted. Very specific. We're not seeing the columns...
ANDREW BOLT: One bomb a day?
JULIE BISHOP: That's the Australian contribution. The US is also obviously taking air strikes in Iraq and Syria. And there are other countries - the UAE is involved, Jordan’s involved. But we are being very targeted. So we don’t…
ANDREW BOLT: It's not working, is it? They still control Mosul.
JULIE BISHOP: There have been gains, there have been losses.
ANDREW BOLT: Losses.
JULIE BISHOP: But overall we are making progress. And the more countries that come into support - that's why we're so pleased to welcome New Zealand's contribution. The air strikes are limited in their impact. They can only go on for so long. The Iraqi Defence Force will have to do the ground work that's required to take back, street by street, town by town, city by city, so that they can reclaim their territory and protect their citizens that are being so brutalised.
ANDREW BOLT: So a major attack on Mosul is expected, and let's see if we're part of that. The Prime Minister this week gave a speech about needing to tackle Islamic extremism. One thing that did worry me was freedom of speech. He says he's going to crack down on racial and religious vilification to fight the extremists. Surely we don't need even tougher laws against free speech, when you see how they've been misused in the past?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, 18C for example, they are civil remedies. What we've been doing is looking at the criminal law relating to the advocating and promoting of terrorism. And we've now made advocating terrorism a crime. And so we are trying to close down opportunities for ISIL to take hold and radicalise young Australians. What's concerning us greatly is the number of Australians who appear to have fallen for the narrative that ISIL is promoting. It is not a noble cause. It is a violent, criminal, terrorist organisation. And so we have to do all we can to dissuade people from thinking that if they go over to fight with ISIL in Iraq and Syria, somehow they're a martyr in pursuit of a noble cause. They are not. So we are doing all we can to prevent...
ANDREW BOLT: But cracking down on free speech?
JULIE BISHOP: Particularly online content. Extremist websites, where people are being radicalised at home. You see, it's one thing to talk about the hate preachers and what's happening in religious centres, but if they're not even coming to the attention of our intelligence and security agencies, because they're being radicalised online, it's a whole different world, Andrew, and we do have to do more to combat it.
ANDREW BOLT: I know personally how these laws are actually turned in a different direction than originally intended. Some signs the Medicare co-payment is about to be scrapped?
JULIE BISHOP: Sussan Ley, new Health Minister, has been consulting with medical practitioners, health professionals across Australia. She will make a recommendation to the Cabinet, and we'll take that into account. But I believe…
ANDREW BOLT: So maybe?
JULIE BISHOP: I'm not going to pre-empt any announcement that the Prime Minister or Minister Ley intends to make. But clearly we know there are savings in the health budget, we know that there are savings in the health system, and we just have to ensure that Medicare remains sustainable into the future. But we also call upon the Labor Party to indicate where the savings that they will support are? Now we need Labor to get savings through the Senate. They know that the budget must be repaired. They know the mess that they left us. And so we call on Labor to help us find the savings to ensure that Medicare is sustainable.
ANDREW BOLT: But the co-payment seems…seems gone. You seem to be hinting, so that will make your task a bit easier.
JULIE BISHOP: I'm not hinting. I'm leaving it to the Prime Minister to announce any changes to Medicare.
ANDREW BOLT: Right.
JULIE BISHOP: But what I can say is that we want to ensure that Medicare is sustainable into the future.
ANDREW BOLT: Sure. Who doesn't? No, that's good. Listeners on 2GB, whenever I go on, I’ve got this weekly, daily program with Steve Price. And I’m not the only one…
JULIE BISHOP: How does it rate?
ANDREW BOLT: Oh, fantastic. We’re top of the ratings.
JULIE BISHOP: Brilliant.
ANDREW BOLT: In the Ukraine, you have done a lot of work to confront Boris, sorry, Putin, Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, about his arming of the troops there that…the rebels that shot a plane from the sky, killing Australians. So did Boris Nemtsov, a leading Russian opposition politician - now found dead with four bullets in his back outside the Kremlin. Does Vladimir Putin have some questions to answer?
JULIE BISHOP: This is a tragic, senseless killing. There are many who say it has all the hallmarks of a political assassination. It's a tragedy for Russia. It's a tragedy for democracy. And I extend my deepest sympathies to his family. A terrible outcome for a political leader.
ANDREW BOLT: Putin?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, I'm not about to announce on Andrew Bolt, the outcome of what should be a very detailed investigation into this. Just to say that there are many who say it has all the hallmarks of a political assassination.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555