JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, thanks for joining us. Can you confirm whether any Australians were injured in this attack?
JULIE BISHOP: My understanding, Kochie, is that no Australians are involved but it is still early days. Our High Commissioner has been in contact and he has said that, at this point, there is no evidence or information to suggest any Australians were involved. But I certainly do extend condolences to the British people, the British British Government for yet another horrific attack. I've spoken with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson here in Washington, he’s here for these meetings, and extended our concern and support, and if there is any information that we can provide or assist with, we certainly will give it.
JOURNALIST: Minister, you are in Washington, ironically, talking about how to defend ISIS, how to stop these kinds of attacks. Again we have seen an ordinary car being used to create absolute carnage. How do authorities stop lone wolves from attacking like this?
JULIE BISHOP: Our focus at these meetings is on defeating ISIS, the terrorist group, particularly at its root in Syria and Iraq. But of course there are ISIS- inspired attacks around the world and we are discussing how we can defeat ISIS the organisation but also prevent others being inspired or attracted by its ideas and by its ideology. In Australia we have reviewed our intelligence, our laws, our law enforcement capability, to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be to prevent these attacks. We have had a review of important public buildings and public spaces, but, as we’ve seen in London these matters can escape the attention of the authorities. These matters can occur, these incidents, but we do all that we can to ensure we have the resources and the laws to keep Australians safe.
JOURNALIST: And you have taken a tough stance on anyone returning from the battlefields of Syria. That must be a concern for a lot of nations, that we are defeating ISIS on the battlefields of Syria and a lot of those fighters are making or sneaking their way home now.
JULIE BISHOP: That is absolutely right. As we have more pressure on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as we take back territory like the city of Mosul and then the city of Raqqa, if we take back these provinces, then the foreign terrorist fighters, if they survive, are likely to seek to return home. That is why we are working so closely with countries in Europe, in the Middle East and particularly in Southeast Asia, sharing real-time intelligence and information, so that we can monitor and track them. And of course we have laws in Australia that, should they reach Australia then they could potentially be prosecuted for breaches of Australian laws. So we are working very closely with other countries in our region and beyond to ensure that our region and particularly Australia is as safe as possible from potential terrorist attacks.
JOURNALIST: When you spoke to Boris Johnson on the phone, he is a Londoner through and through, this has happened at the front door of his offices, how was he? Is he shaken by this? You know, how are Londoners?
JULIE BISHOP: He is actually here in Washington attending this meeting. So I spoke with him here and he had to absent himself from some of the meeting obviously, to take calls from London. But he did address the meeting about the attack. He said it was very early days, that the British police will be carrying out an investigation and that at this stage they were treating it as a terrorist incident unless there was other evidence that came to hand or came to light that would prevent them from doing so. But he was clearly very upset about it, as were the other foreign ministers that were here because after all, this is the whole point of our meeting here in Washington, to work out ways to continue to maintain the pressure on this terrorist organisation and prevent attacks from taking place in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere around the globe. We have seen too many of these incidents in recent times. That is why the Australian Government is focused on making sure we have the resources and the laws to keep Australians as safe as possible.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, will Australia be contributing any additional resources to the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and also including that sort of globally in terms of intelligence?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia is already one of the largest contributors militarily, we have about 1000 personnel both taking part in air strikes over Syria and also training and assisting in the support and advising the Iraqi security forces in Iraq. We have trained about 20,000 Iraqi security force personnel. We have also provided about $500 million of funding on a humanitarian basis to Syria, Iraq and also countries like Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey who are supporting the bulk of the people fleeing, the displaced people, the refugees fleeing from the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Of course we will continue to play our part and it may well be that we are asked to provide more and we would of course consider any specific request at that time.
JOURNALIST: You have called on countries during this trip around Syria to do more in this situation, are they the countries you mean? Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey? To step up? And is it up to that region to sort out its own problems?
JULIE BISHOP: We're talking about countries that stand to benefit from, directly, from the cessation of hostilities in Iraq and Syria – the countries in the Middle East, the Gulf countries. We want to see countries that are able to defeat the narrative; we want to hear strong and moderate Muslim voices drowning out the voices of extremism and the voices that are promoting this terrorist ideology. So I, and other foreign ministers, have called on those countries that have, for example high profile imams, strong moderate Islamic voices to drown out the voice of extremism that seems to be acting as a magnet in convincing young people in particular to join the forces of this terrorist organisation in Iraq and Syria.
JOURNALIST: How many of these countries in the Middle East, you're talking about Saudi Arabia and some of the leading kingdoms over there, how many were present at your meeting over the last day?
JULIE BISHOP: Virtually all of them. The 68 countries represented at the large group Coalition was made up of countries from Europe, from Africa, from Southeast Asia, from the Middle East and from the Gulf countries as well as the United States and Canada and others. So it was a very broad representation of countries across the globe. This afternoon there was a small group Coalition meeting and I represented Australia at that meeting, and that comprises the countries that are making the largest contribution and Australia is one of the largest contributors to the effort to counter ISIS.
JOURNALIST: What was the reaction from those Middle Eastern countries that you are encouraging to help more?
JULIE BISHOP: They understand that ISIS is a threat to not only Iraq and Syria but to their region and beyond. A number of them made some very positive contributions about what more they could do. Indeed a number of them pledged more money to help with the humanitarian crisis that has followed this conflict, but also more in the messaging, on social media and in other forms. In getting the message across in mosques, in schools, in families, that joining ISIS is a terrible undertaking, and that’s why we also focused on the drivers of why people would join a terrorist organisation like this, economic opportunity and political empowerment. These are two issues that countries in the Middle East must address.
JOURNALIST: Yesterday America and Britain announced bans on any electronic devices bigger than a mobile phone being forbidden to be carried on flights from the Middle East and North Africa. Will Australia be following that lead?
JULIE BISHOP: We have certainly noted that advice from the United States and the United Kingdom and we have adjusted our travel advice accordingly so that Australian passengers who might be passing through the nominated airports are aware of this restraint. But we are making enquiries and working with our intelligence agencies and partners overseas before we make any determination.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, really appreciate your time from Washington.
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