JULIE BISHOP Australia is assisting in the search and rescue operation to find missing AirAsia flight QZ8501. Yesterday one RAAF P-3 Orion was part of the search and rescue operation. Today, Australia has sent two P-3 Orions to an island west of Kalimantan as requested by the Indonesian authorities. Australia will continue to assist to try to find this missing AirAsia flight.
I can confirm that there are no Australians on board that flight, no Australian citizens, permanent residents or dual nationals. However, there are reports that a person with a student visa for Monash University is a passenger aboard that flight, but those details are still to be verified.
JOURNALIST Does Australia have more resources on standby?
JULIE BISHOP Australia does have resources on standby. At this stage we've been asked to provide aircraft. Yesterday one RAAF P-3 Orion, today two RAAF P-3 Orions. This is part of a broader offer of support from the Australian Government to the Indonesian authorities who have responsibility for the search and rescue operation at this stage.
JOURNALIST What's been done to confirm that Monash University student was or wasn't on the plane?
JULIE BISHOP Our officials are making inquiries of the authorities in Indonesia to confirm that, in fact, there is a person aboard that flight who has a student visa from Monash University.
JOURNALIST What assistance is being offered by the Australian Government to any potential people impacted from the Monash University community?
JULIE BISHOP Well, we are still verifying those details but of course should any support or assistance be required the Australian Government stands ready to do that and provide that assistance and support.
JOURNALIST So it's unlikely that they have any family in Australia at this early stage?
JULIE BISHOP These details are yet to be verified. I understand it's not an Australian national, but a person does have an Australian student visa to study at Monash University, but the details are still being verified.
JOURNALIST What can you tell us about the two dual nationals that were on board the burning ferry?
JULIE BISHOP Yes, I can confirm that two Turkish-Australian dual nationals were aboard that ferry. They were travelling on Turkish passports. Both are safe and Australia has offered consular support and assistance should it be required. But I can confirm that they are both safe, so that's good news.
JOURNALIST We've heard early reports that there may have been an oil slick sighted regarding the AirAsia plane. Have you heard that? Is there anything you can confirm?
JULIE BISHOP There will be many reports over the next little while as the search and rescue operation gets under way and continues, but until such time as we have actual verification, I'm not going to speculate on these issues. I'm sure there will be sightings of all sorts of debris in the ocean, but we will wait until there's actual confirmation of the plane sighting before we make any official comment on that. And the Indonesian authorities in charge of the search and rescue operations would be best placed to make that verification or confirmation.
JOURNALIST What's your response to the news a Sydney man who was fighting in Syria has been killed?
JULIE BISHOP I'm not in a position to comment on individual cases, but this just does highlight the concern that we have about Australian citizens heading overseas to fight with terrorist organisations like ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Not only are they placing their own lives at risk, but they are adding to the suffering and the misery of the people of Iraq and Syria who are being subjected to the most brutal and inhumane treatment by ISIL and other terrorist organisations.
The fact that some of these people are leaving Australia and are not even under surveillance or of interest to our security agencies is, of course, deeply concerning. It seems some people are being radicalised and within a very short period of time believing the ideology that they've been provided with and heading overseas, but for no positive purpose at all. They are, in fact, being duped by these terrorist organisations who are seeking to radicalise young perhaps vulnerable people to undertake these brutal activities.
We know that if people return to Australia after becoming hardened or experienced terrorists there is a possibility that they would seek to carry out terrorist activities here in Australia and I emphasise that it is an offence in Australia to leave this country, to take up with a terrorist organisation and terrorist activities and offences can bring jail sentences of up to 25 years.
It's a very serious issue. That's why the Australian Government has increased the funding and resources to our law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies to deal with what I see as being the most major security threat that we've faced in a long time.
JOURNALIST Any reaction to the fact that his friends and families are posting that he's a martyr on Facebook?
JULIE BISHOP If people want to put stupid or idiotic things on Facebook then that's not an offence in itself, but if people are inciting or advocating or promoting terrorism under the new laws that this Government has introduced, then that can be an offence and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
JOURNALIST Were you wrong to raise people's hopes that Peter Greste might have been pardoned before the appeal?
JULIE BISHOP Not at all. I reflected precisely what we'd been told by the Egyptian Government. I think it's sensible to be transparent at this stage and I was reflecting what we had been told. It seems that there are mixed messages from within the Egyptian Government and it depends which department you're talking to as to the information that we receive. But I only pass on information from credible sources and I was, as I said, mildly optimistic that the statements the President had made previously about pardons or clemency would apply to Peter Greste and I remain hopeful that is the case.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555