SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Islamic State has issued a new warning, threatening the United States and its allies. In a video released overnight, it said those conducting air strikes in Syria will suffer the same fate as France. We are joined now by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who is in Manila.
Minister, good morning to you.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Do you believe Australia is one of those countries being threatened by Islamic State, given that we are an ally of the United States?
JULIE BISHOP I believe that countries around the world face threats from terrorism. We have seen that in the past, that will continue to be the case. There has been a very powerful international response to the horrific attacks in Paris. We can expect repeat attacks but I am confident that Australia has done all it can to be prepared for such attacks. We have indeed foiled a number in the past and we will continue to do so.
President Holland has made a very powerful speech to a special joint sitting of the French Parliament where he has essentially said that France is at war, that the terrorists will not defeat the Republic of France, the Republic will defeat terrorism. Overnight there has been a very significant meeting between President Obama and President Putin and hopefully we will see a single coalition of forces against Islamic State, against Da’esh and further attacks against this organisation, disrupting its leadership, destroying its bases and preventing it from launching attacks from Syria and Iraq.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE US President Barak Obama overnight from the G20 ruled out putting troops on the ground in Syria. He said he will stick with the current strategy of air strikes against Islamic State. Is that enough or do we need to send in ground forces?
JULIE BISHOP It is not only air strikes, it is also targeted attacks against the Da’esh leadership and so there is a strategy to disrupt and ultimately destroy the terrorist infrastructure, the terrorist organisation to prevent it launching attacks in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
Australia is part of the US-led coalition. We don't act unilaterally, but are part of a concerted effort. We are already about the second largest contributor of defence personnel as part of the US-led coalition. We have 780 defence personnel already deployed in the Middle East. We are taking part in training of the Iraqi Security Forces so that they can take back territory, they can defeat these terrorists in Iraq. We are also part of the air strikes over Iraq and Syria. We have six F/A-18 Hornets plus support planes and personnel. Australia is already taking part in a significant way and we will continue to do our part to defeat this terrorist organisation. At home, we are doing all we can to foil any potential attacks as we have done in recent times.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Minister, later today, the first of Australia's intake of Syrian refugees arrive in Perth. Given it is thought some of the Paris attackers posed as Syrian refugees and came into France via Greece, should we still be taking in people at the moment?
JULIE BISHOP Well these are still unconfirmed reports out of France, but of course we are focussing on people who have been persecuted in Syria and Iraq, people who are fleeing from terrorism, from persecution. Our screening and testing is very intense. We carry out a range of checks and character assessments, biometrics and health and security checks, as we do with our refugee intake. We have focussed upon people who are from ethnic and religious minorities who have suffered at the hands of terrorists and at the hands of brutal regimes in the Middle East. Australia is in control of the whole process. These are not people who are coming via the people smuggling trade and we don’t know who they are. These are people who are handpicked by Australian authorities in the Middle East.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Okay, Minister, just lastly, and quickly, I want to get your thoughts on the NSW Police new ‘shoot first’ policy to deal with potential armed terrorists rather than contain and negotiate. Do you think that is necessary for police officers in Australia?
JULIE BISHOP Well clearly these brutal terrorists do not negotiate. The full horrors of the atrocities committed in Paris are just being made clear to us now. These are murderers who use military weapons to shoot unarmed civilians in cold blood, indiscriminately, randomly. There is no room for negotiation, as we have seen in Paris.
I believe that Australian law enforcement authorities need all of the powers that they can to ensure that Australians can be kept safe. We have foiled about six potential terrorist attacks in recent times and we want to ensure that our law enforcement agencies, our security and intelligence agencies, have all the powers and resources necessary to ensure Australians can be kept as safe as possible.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Okay, Julie Bishop, thank you very much for your time. We wish you all the best at APEC, I am sure we'll talk soon. Thank you for that.
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