EDDIE MAGUIRE Joining us on the line from Seoul in South Korea is the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Good morning Julie, thanks for calling in.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning Eddie. I’m at a MIKTA meeting in Seoul and I guess that is a question for your listeners today. What does MIKTA stand for - M.I.K.T.A?
LUKE DARCY That’s a good pop question. Is it a backpacker convention or something Julie?
JULIE BISHOP No, it’s a meeting of Foreign Ministers from Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Australia – MIKTA.
EDDIE MAGUIRE That is an interesting coming together of the clan. What would you have in common with the Mexicans for example?
JULIE BISHOP Well it is very interesting, we are all G20 economies, in fact we represent the 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th largest economies in the world and we are all significant nations in our own region. Mexico in Latin America, Turkey in the Middle East, Indonesia in South East Asia, Korea in North Asia and Australia in the Pacific, so we do have a lot in common.
MICK MOLLOY What’s at the top of the order, what’s the talking point?
JULIE BISHOP Today it will be counterterrorism, given that this is such a significant issue in Australia. It is also an issue for about 90 countries across the world who claim to have citizens seeking to fight or are fighting with Da’esh, this so-called Islamic State terrorist organisation in Syria and Iraq. Australia is not immune from the threat of terrorism and neither are other countries around the world.
EDDIE MAGUIRE So what’s the mood within the international community Julie? It seems like everyone is sort of standing back a little bit at the moment. Is there a feeling as if it’s maybe time to send people in?
JULIE BISHOP Well Australia is part of the coalition working with the Iraqi Government to build up the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces so that they can take back the territory that Da’esh, as it is called, has claimed and they can protect their own citizens who are being brutalised by these terrorists. And this organisation doesn’t care whether you are a Sunni or a Shia or Christian or what ethnic group you come from, they just kill with impunity – beheadings and crucifixions - it is the most barbaric terrorist organisation we’ve ever seen. So Australia is supporting the Iraqi Government. The United States is working in both Syria and Iraq with a number of other nations. The coalition comes to about 30 countries that are trying to support Iraq particularly but also Syria in driving out, defeating this terrorist organisation.
Our biggest concern is the number of Australians who are leaving this country to take up arms with this terrorist organisation. It is unthinkable that young Australians would want to fight with them, but they are and we are doing our level best to stop them.
LUKE DARCY Are reports correct Julie that some of them have got over there and now worked out just how horrific it is and having second thoughts and wanting to come home? Is that correct?
JULIE BISHOP We understand that there are a number of people who have had second thoughts but the fact is, anyone fighting with or providing support to, or associating with Da’esh or other terrorist organisations is committing a serious crime against Australian law. So the threat from Australians who support Da’esh and other terrorist organisations, including these returning foreign fighters, is the greatest security risk that Australia has faced in many years and the challenge is those Australians who have then got hands-on terrorist experience in Syria or Iraq and are wanting to come home. We have to ensure that they are not wanting to come home to carry out terrorist activities here or indeed in other countries on the way home.
EDDIE MAGUIRE So how do you do that? Do you just say don’t come? If you go over there that’s it.
MICK MOLLOY I’d be happy to see that happen.
EDDIE MAGUIRE Just say righto okay, if you sign up to go over there that’s your new home, see you later.
JULIE BISHOP Well we have said that, we have said if you leave Australia to take up with a terrorist organisation you are committing a serious offence. If you come back to Australia and are detained you could face jail sentences of up to 25 years. So our message is don’t go and our message to families is please, if you see any unusual activities on the part of your children - same for schools - you’ve got to report it to our national hotline so that we can take steps to intervene and stop these people becoming radicalised and taking up with extremist groups.
An example is what happened in Afghanistan. Between1990 and 2010, about 30 Australians travelled to Afghanistan or Pakistan to fight with extremists, 25 of them returned to Australia and about 19 engaged in activities that were of concern to our security forces after they returned and eight of them were convicted of terrorism related offences. Now that shows the proportion of people who went to Afghanistan - we've got five times that number, even greater than that number, seeking to go to Iraq and Syria. So that’s why the terror threat level was raised to high for the first time in September 2014 and remains there.
LUKE DARCY Julie good luck in Seoul, in Korea and we appreciate you joining us.
JULIE BISHOP Thanks guys.
LUKE DARCY The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, great of her to call us and update us with what is happening at the world at the moment.
EDDIE MAGUIRE Say hello to your Indonesian counterpart over there as well Julie.
How’s that all going?
JULIE BISHOP Yes, we are working rather well on these broader issues, broader global, international issues.
LUKE DARCY Good luck with that one.
EDDIE MAGUIRE Thanks Julie!
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