MATT TILLEY: Minister, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
JULIE BISHOP: Hi Matt Tilley, Jane, how are you today?
JANE HALL: Very good thank you. Thanks for your time.
MATT TILLEY: Should we call you Minister or Julie? I want to be respectful.
JULIE BISHOP: What makes you feel more comfortable?
JANE HALL: I like calling you Julie because I feel like I know you and I have never met you before in my life!
JULIE BISHOP: That is fine. Let’s stick with Julie, that will be good.
MATT TILLEY: Julie it is a difficult morning to be the Foreign Minister as another tragedy, another airline tragedy, envelopes the news space here. What can you tell us? What do you know so far?
JULIE BISHOP: Sadly I can confirm some heartbreaking news that two Australian citizens, a mother and her adult son from Victoria, were on board this Germanwings flight that crashed in a remote area of the southern Alps in France. And we are seeking to identify whether there are any other Australian citizens or dual nationals or permanent residents who may have been on board. But clearly this is very sad, heartbreaking news and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two Victorians who were in this shocking tragedy and we certainly extend our condolences to all of the victims of this air crash. Lufthansa says it is working on the assumption that the plane crash was an accident, so it is terrible news that such an accident can occur.
MATT TILLEY: I imagine as Foreign Minister you get the facts first before news agencies do but it is starting to become a bit of a familiar path for you - an airline disaster that you have to be on top of. What is the actual protocol? How does it come to you?
JULIE BISHOP: I was first told about it by our consular officials last night. The crash occurred at about 9pm Australian Eastern Standard Time and I was told shortly thereafter. We have people on the ground in our Embassy in Paris and in fact I spoke earlier this morning to our Ambassador in Paris, Stephen Brady, and he is liaising directly with the French authorities who are in charge of the investigation because of course it occurred in the French Alps. The plane was on route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf but it crashed near a town called Barcelonette about 100km north of Nice. So our Ambassador in Paris gets the news, our consular officials in Canberra liaise with them and of course I’m kept informed and so as soon as we were able to confirm the news about the two Australians I did a press conference at about 7.15am this morning.
MATT TILLEY: Right and in terms of information, because we are hearing that the plane fell for eight minutes, that they have retrieved the black box, I mean are the airlines obliged to let you, as a Government, know before anyone else?
JULIE BISHOP: We have people on the ground. Our Embassy is in direct contact with the French authorities, not with the airline directly, but what is happening now is the French Government is setting up an Incident Coordination Centre. We’ve been given permission for our consular officials to travel to a town called Gap in France where they are coordinating the recovery efforts including the identification of remains. So we will set up a mobile office at that location so that we are able to get information real time, we are able to coordinate the French authorities, with the airline, with all of the stakeholders in the thorough investigation that will have to take place.
JANE HALL: You are stressing though that Australians shouldn’t change any travel plans that they have in place at the moment?
JULIE BISHOP: Of course plane travel is safe for the vast majority of people but from time to time these terrible accidents can occur. But Australians are very curious people, we love travelling, we love being overseas and of course that shouldn’t change. There is nothing one can do to prevent an accident of this type, it is just one of those tragic events in life. But I do say to all Australians who are travelling overseas, take care, take out travel insurance, do what you can to keep safe but I’m afraid heartbreaking news like this does occur from time to time.
JANE HALL: Thank you so much for your time.
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