JOURNALIST: The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has been good enough to call through. Julie, appreciate your time as always. Can you give us an update on Australia’s involvement in Mosul at the moment?
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Eddie, Mick, Luke – good to be with you. Look our strategy in Iraq is clear. We are supporting the Government of Iraq to address the ISIL terrorist threat through our training, support and air operations, and we are continuing to seek a political solution to the crisis but we are responding to the pressing humanitarian needs generated by the conflicts including the Mosul offensive. So we have been supporting and training and advising the Iraqi security forces so that they can take back the territory that was claimed by the terrorists in Mosul about two years ago as part of this Islamic Caliphate. Already ISIL has lost about 50 per cent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and when the Mosul offensive is completed, then the Iraqi Government will be virtually in control of all of Iraq once more.
JOURNALIST: Julie, I’m not being silly here or anything but can you remind us again what ISIL are fighting for and where they are because it seems…are they running out of steam, is probably what I’m putting to you? Has their intent, has it sort of dissipated, are people starting to even tire of it over there?
JULIE BISHOP: I think that’s right, Eddie. About two years ago this terrorist organisation proclaimed a caliphate, that is a kind of state, an Islamic state, over parts of Iraq and Syria and the operation to liberate the city of Mosul is designed to take back that territory around Mosul, which is in Iraq, from ISIL and that will be an important milestone in the campaign to defeat ISIL. So freeing Mosul from ISIL’s control will not only liberate its people from the terrorist group’s brutality and abuses but it will mean the loss of ISIL’s last major stronghold in Iraq. It doesn’t mean that that is the end of the terrorist organisation’s activities by any means, and this campaign is likely to take some time. But our concern is also that foreign terrorist fighters who went to Iraq to support the terrorist organisation will now seek to leave and come back home, some to Australia and others to our region, and we have to ensure that we can track them, that we know where they are and that if they have committed offences that they can be arrested and detained.
JOURNALIST: Julie, can I speak about the humanitarian concerns? Up to 1.5 million people live in Mosul – and reading today there are concerns that up to 700,000 or more of those re going to flee, and the capacity for the UN and other agencies to try and support that is almost non-existent. Can you give us an insight into how that might play out because just seeing the images are absolutely devastating of the families having to flee?
JULIE BISHOP: The humanitarian operation in Mosul is highly complex. We are obviously working very closely with UN agencies and the like and monitoring the situation and engaging with other donors and humanitarian partners. Yesterday I announced that we would provide an additional $10 million in humanitarian assistance for Iraq. This contribution will specifically provide emergency food and medical assistance and temporary shelter to help meet the needs of Iraqis who are displaced or impacted by the Mosul operation, and we are particularly supporting women and girls who are at the greatest risk of hardship. This will bring our humanitarian assistance to a total of about $70 million since ISIL advanced into Iraq about two years ago, and this assistance has helped deliver food to about one million people each month and shelter to almost one and a half million displaced Iraqis and health services for over 200,000 women. So Australia is playing its part but in the taking back of Mosul, this Mosul offensive, there will invariably, inevitably be increased humanitarian needs and Australia and other donors and other partners are stepping up to provide that assistance.
JOURNALIST: Julie I have to ask you the obvious question, does that put Australia and Australians in the line of fire with this battle against ISIL?
JULIE BISHOP: What we are doing is supporting the Iraqi security forces. We do have Special Forces involved but our role has been to train them so that they can be the force that takes back their country. I think it is very important to remember that we are in Iraq at the invitation and with consent of the Iraqi Government, to help them build up the capability and capacity of their security forces to take control of the country and keep the Iraqi people safe. But this will be a long campaign, it’s a very complex situation and we are doing what we can to support the Iraqi Government to be in control of the country.
JOURNALIST: Julie, can we just quickly before we let you go, get an update on the Crown employees who are being detained in China at the moment? And maybe quickly Wayne Gardner and his son who find themselves in a Japanese gaol at the moment? Can you give us some information on both of those situations?
JULIE BISHOP: Yes, yesterday our consular officials visited two of the three Crown employees, the Australian employees who have been detained in Shanghai. So we will continue to provide consular assistance through visits and in accordance with the consular agreement we have with China. We were able to ascertain that they are in good health, that they are being treated well – well adequately in a detention centre. But under Chinese law, it can be up to 30 days before an investigation is completed and charges are or are not laid as the case may be, and that period can be extended. So it could be some time before we know the details. In the meantime there is a third Australian, there are some questions about whether they entered on an Australian or a Chinese passport and as soon as that has been clarified we will seek to carry out a consular visit to them as well. So we are keeping the families informed but at this stage all we can do is pursue consular visits.
JOURNALIST: And finally, Julie…
JULIE BISHOP: And in relation to Wayne Gardner…
JULIE BISHOP: He and his son have been detained in gaol in Tokyo over a road incident. We don’t have details, although I know certain details are being reported, and we are providing consular support. We have visited him and, again, we are ascertaining that he is in good health, but the specific details of what he is alleged to have done, or his son, are still to be confirmed.
JOURNALIST: Julie, as always we are very appreciative of your time. A lot happening in the world and I know that you’re at the forefront of Australia’s efforts. Thanks a lot. Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister, dialling into Triple M’s Hot Breakfast as she does regularly.
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