LUKE GRANT: As Berlin mourns, as the whole world mourns the murder of at least 12 innocent people and the injury of at least 40 others after a cowardly act of terror, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is urging Australians holidaying overseas to make sure they have an exit strategy. Now, it comes in the wake of what's become a disturbing trend of deadly terror attacks in Western capitals to coincide with Christmas and New Year and other religious celebrations and commemorations. The Foreign Minister is on the line. Julie Bishop, good to talk to you and Merry Christmas.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Luke. Good to be with you.
LUKE GRANT: We have to be mindful of Berlin. We have to be mindful that we want to get around and not have our lives ruined by people who do ghastly acts, but you'd understand the concern. What do you say to concerned Australians who never thought something like a truck at a Christmas fair would lead to such horror?
JULIE BISHOP: If Australians are travelling overseas and are planning to be overseas during the holiday period, Christmas and New Year, then I urge them to register on our Smart Traveller website - that's smartraveller.gov.au - and subscribe to our travel advice to receive email advice whenever it's been reissued. What we try to do is provide advice that reflects a current assessment of the safety and security environment in any country at any time.
The aim is to assist Australians to make their own safe travel decisions, and travellers are advised to be particularly vigilant during this Christmas and New Year period, and it's apparent that gatherings that attract tourists or attract Westerners could be targeted. So we continue - for example, in Indonesia where there was an arrest yesterday by Indonesian authorities of alleged terrorists who were said to be in the advanced stages of planning attacks. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, including in Bali. An attack could take place at any time, so we advise travellers to exercise particular caution during this holiday period, including in locations that have low level of protective security, but also places where tourists or Westerners usually gather.
LUKE GRANT: So you're talking to a dad of a boy and his girlfriend going to Bali on Christmas Day, and when they told me, I thought oh well, fantastic, you've done well in life, good on you. And now I see the reports today, I've been to Smart Traveller. I don't know what all those words mean. Is there a point, Julie, exactly in a scale where parents like me or family or friends, or these people themselves probably more importantly, should say you know, I better not go there.
JULIE BISHOP: We can't allow terrorists to dictate our way of life.
LUKE GRANT: True.
JULIE BISHOP: The whole point of terrorist attacks, they seek to disrupt and prevent people from carrying out their usual activities, from carrying on with their lives. So what we try to do is provide advice to enable Australians to make their own safe travel decisions. For example, for Indonesia, there are four levels of threat assessment. We currently have it at two, and so we continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia. Much of it is common sense, but it's also being aware of the local environment, the local situation. We of course encourage people to monitor the media, to follow the advice of local authorities, but also to ensure that they are subscribing to the Australian Government travel advice. And one other point I can't stress enough is make sure you have travel insurance. If you can't afford travel insurance, you really can't afford to go overseas.
LUKE GRANT: Yeah, that's such a good point. I guess the attack in Berlin and elsewhere- I mean, even an accountant going to work in Parramatta or coming out of work to go home in Parramatta. Can we really guarantee the safety of people? I just know at this time of year, people do worry a bit more, and as you rightly said, the aim of this terror is to terrorise us out of doing what we would normally do. We've had Donald Trump say that this attack in Berlin, a wake-up call for the world. We have to change our thinking. Julie, do you think as a world - as a free world, anyway - we've got much of this right? I don't imagine you're saying no, we've completely screwed it up, but what can you say to give confidence to listeners?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, most certainly in Australia, the Government has provided our law enforcement, our intelligence, and our security agencies with significant new resources. We have changed the laws so that they now have the legislative powers that they need to keep Australians as secure as possible, and we coordinate across the states and territories, Australian Federal Police with other state and territory police forces.
We are doing all we can to keep Australians safe in Australia. When they travel overseas, of course they're subject to the laws and the systems and the environment of that country. So we provide whatever advice we can, and we urge people to register on smartraveller.gov.au so that we know when somebody's in another country, so our embassies and missions can be aware of who's in the country and can account for them.
But this incident in Berlin recently is deeply, deeply troubling, of course. ISIL's claimed responsibility for it, but there is no confirmation or evidence that supports it at this point. The authorities have afforded 100,000 euros for information on a suspect, but the investigation is ongoing. We issued the travel advice to Berlin on 20 December to reflect this attack, but we'd already reissued it on 17 December to remind people that public venues such as Christmas markets were vulnerable to attack, and suggesting that perhaps they should visit them outside peak times and that they have an exit strategy if they are to visit them. And by that we mean be aware of the situation you're in, be aware of the environment, circumstances, and if something were to occur, a security incident were to occur, think how would they get out of it, who knows they're there, are family and friends aware that they're in say, Berlin at the time.
LUKE GRANT: Yeah. A couple of quick ones before you go. I see Cory Bernardi, according to reports, is having meetings with the Trump team over there, and now is going to set up a new conservative force. And my own view is that surely for people like Cory Bernardi and others who might be tempted - or this might just be speculation - but might be tempted to break away and form a new party- I know people like you often refer to the Liberal Party or the National Parties or the Coalition as a broad church. It needs to be made up of people who might be slightly of the left, people slightly of the right, very much of the right, some are in the middle, and together you form a considered view, and if Cory and others want the Coalition to be more conservative, they should agitate more of their mates to get involved, shouldn't they?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, I agree with you absolutely. The strength of the Liberal Party is that it is, as John Howard always said, a broad church. It encompasses the views of conservatives, of liberals, of people from the left and the right of the political spectrum - mostly on the right - but we encompass all views. I value Cory's contribution and I think that it's a great idea for a political party to have competition of ideas and contestability of ideas, and that's what we seek to do, to take into account a whole range of views on the political right, but within that political right, you can have varying degrees of people who are supposedly on the- more to the left, more to the right.
LUKE GRANT: [Interrupts] And you know what the media does, which I think is really destructive, is we then see you have a slightly different point of view of Cory Bernardi, and all of a sudden, oh, look at this, the Government's fallen to bits, which is rubbish. All you've had is one little disagreement on one little thing. Surely we can have that and move on.
JULIE BISHOP: But that's good. That's what it's about. You don't want robotic thinking.
LUKE GRANT: No, you don't.
JULIE BISHOP: We embrace difference. We embrace diversity. We certainly embrace the contest of ideas, because that leads to better policy outcomes. So I'm pleased that Tory- Cory is meeting with [indistinct] …
LUKE GRANT: [Interrupts] Cory the Tory!
JULIE BISHOP: [Laughs].
LUKE GRANT: Well done.
JULIE BISHOP: Freudian. But I'm pleased that Cory is meeting with the members of the Trump transition team, because we need to be deeply engaged with the United States Administration. The US is our most important strategic guarantor, our security guarantor, our major Defence partner, our second-largest trading partner, our largest source of foreign direct investment. So the United States matters to us a lot, and I'm pleased that our Members of Parliament are reaching out and meeting with representatives from the new Trump Administration.
LUKE GRANT: Can I wish you a merry Christmas, and hope we get to talk or see each other soon. Thank you so much.
JULIE BISHOP: Same to your listeners too. Thanks Luke.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555