DAVID KOCH Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins me from Canberra. Minister thanks for joining me. Is the government going to increase the number of humanitarian refugees we accept?
JULIE BISHOP That's precisely why our Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is in Paris and Geneva this week. He is meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres. He is meeting with officials from the UNHCR as well as from the International Organisation of Migration. We are in a position to take persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, families from the camps in probably Lebanon, Jordan, possibly Turkey and so we are discussing what we can do to be part of an international solution.
No one country can do this alone, no one region can do this alone. So I'm talking to my counterpart Foreign Ministers in Europe, our friends in the United States but also our counterparts in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and other countries in the region to see what more they can do as well.
DAVID KOCH What are they saying? The Germans have already announced what they are going to be doing which is just sensational. What are you recommending to the Prime Minister? How many can we handle? Malcolm Fraser helped, what, 50,000 Vietnamese refugees. Bob Hawke did 42,000 Chinese students.
JULIE BISHOP You have to look at what the people are looking for. There are some who are wanting just a safe haven temporarily to return home after the conflict is over. So we also have to play our part in trying to resolve the conflict in Syria which will need a military and a political solution. So there are some people who are, for example, living with friends and relatives in Lebanon but will be going back when they feel it's safe. There are others who it wouldn't matter whether the conflict was over or not, they would be persecuted because they are ethnic or religious minorities and so that is the group that we are focussing on.
Australia of course does resettlement very well. It's not just a question of taking people temporarily. We are looking at resettling people permanently so we have to consider what facilities - education, health, accommodation - is available to take the kind of numbers that people are talking about. We have to do what is sensible, what is right, play our part but there is no point in just plucking figures out of the air. We have to do this in coordination with the UNHCR and the International Organisation of Migration.
DAVID KOCH I totally agree. We do do it well and we have thriving Vietnamese communities here in Australia now as a legacy of Malcolm Fraser's decision, the same with Chinese communities. So it's not unreasonable to think in terms of those numbers though is it - 50,000 and 40,000?
JULIE BISHOP This situation is completely different. This is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. There are millions of displaced people. What we have to do is ensure that we are able to make contact with those who are coming to resettle in Australia permanently as opposed to those who are looking for temporary safe haven. In the case of Kosovo we took thousands of Kosovars, but most of them went home after a number of years because the conflict subsided. There was a solution to the conflict. This is a very complicated, diabolical situation in Syria. You have the Assad regime…
DAVID KOCH Which we are causing too, aren’t we?
JULIE BISHOP No. The Assad regime started attacking their own people some time ago and Australia led the debate in the UN Security Council during 2013 and 2014 calling for a ceasefire, calling for the Assad regime to not use chemical weapons against their own people but of course then we saw these terrorist organisations fill a vacuum and the Al Nusra Front, the Khorosan Group, ISIL or Da’esh, as it is known, have taken over Syrian territory so people are fleeing from the terrorist organisations.
DAVID KOCH We have had Phillip Ruddock last night, I think he was speaking on the ABC, saying we have a responsibility because we are part of the problem in Syria too. We are backing one side, if you like, the civil war there.
JULIE BISHOP We are part of the solution. We are trying to prevent these terrorist organisations from carrying out these brutal, violent attacks on civilians. We are not backing the Assad regime. We are trying to prevent the terrorist organisations from carrying out these crucifixions and beheadings and positively medieval acts against civilian populations.
DAVID KOCH Yep, look, you see all this happening. I reckon you would have the worst job in the Government because you are at the coal face of all these disasters that you see around the world. Take your Minister's hat off, your politician's hat off, how does it affect you, just the sheer weight of numbers of these refugees? It's just extraordinary.
JULIE BISHOP We do what we can to be a good global citizen, we lead where we can, we assist, we are part of solutions, we are trying to be friends with others in the region who are also working to solve these challenges. Australia always steps up to the mark. We always do our part. We led the debates in the UN Security Council. We will take refugees. We are working with Coalition partners to defeat and destroy this terrorist organisation.
DAVID KOCH So we are going to be generous?
JULIE BISHOP Australia is always generous.
DAVID KOCH Good.
JULIE BISHOP When I talk about our resettlement program, it is one of the most generous in the world. This is permanent resettlement, providing people with the opportunity to live in Australia permanently, become Australian citizens. Other countries are agreeing to take in people for the purposes of processing their application to be a refugee but they are not actually going to resettle them. Australia does play its part and we will continue to do so.
DAVID KOCH Good, we have got to be a good global citizen.
Julie Bishop thanks for joining us. Good luck with that.
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