ANDREW BOLT:Fairfax reporters in particular claim Tony Abbott pushed Barack Obama into inviting Australia to fight the Islamic State not just in Iraq but now Syria as well. Joining me is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Thank you for your time. America started this war against the Islamic State a year ago this month, but the Islamic State remains strong, powerful, threatening even so. How bad is Obama's war leadership been?
JULIE BISHOP:I think there was concern within the Obama Administration about going back into Iraq. After all, in the war between 2003 and 2011, the United States lost thousands of soldiers, it cost them billions of dollars in direct costs and some estimate trillions in the indirect cost to their economy. So they were obviously concerned about going back into Iraq, but the United States was invited in, their presence is there with the consent of the Iraqi government and gains have been made. ISIL, or Da'esh as it is known, has had to change its tactics. It is no longer forming these columns and storming into towns and cities. They haven't taken any more territory. Some gains are being made, but there is a Coalition of other countries, like-minded countries, and also countries in the Middle East who are now part of this Coalition to defeat Da'esh.
ANDREW BOLT:Yeah, but that even just broadens my point. All these countries allegedly taking part - and Islamic State still exists.
JULIE BISHOP:Well, it exists, but there are gains being made in affecting its operations...
ANDREW BOLT:But where?
JULIE BISHOP:Well the strikes are being undertaken. Australia recently took part in an air strike that took out about 15 Da'esh leaders. These are important gains.
ANDREW BOLT:But, you know, you've got to actually say, 15 killed - I mean, 15 people killed? For heaven's sake.
JULIE BISHOP:Andrew, one Australian air strike took out 15 and amongst them were the leaders of Da'esh so there are important gains to be made,but this was never going to be easy.
These are experienced, hardened, terrorist, insurgent fighters and they are coming in from all over the world. Some estimates say there are about 30,000 of these fighters who, of course, embed themselves in towns and cities and the difficulty for Coalition air strikes is to not hit civilians. SO they are limited in what they can do. But Da'esh, or ISIL, is across both the Syrian and Iraq border. They have claimed that area, it is essentially ungoverned by either the Syrian regime or the Iraqi government, and so that's why there is this request from the United States for Australia to join the Coalition that is carrying out air strikes over the Syria/Iraq border.
ANDREW BOLT:Which brings me to this conspiracy theory. There might be something in it from my point of view in this - that switching our operations from Iraq, or some of the operations, to Syria, we've only got six planes, is not going to militarily make much of a difference. Is this your way of buying in to the wider operation in order to stiffen the spine of a very weak President?
JULIE BISHOP:We have been asked by the Iraqi government to help build their capacity to defeat Da'esh and the Iraqi government itself has pointed to the fact that this terrorist organisation is planning and launching attacks from Syria into Iraq. So that's how you get the legal principle of collective self-defence.
Turkey, of course, is relying on individual and collective self-defence, because Turkey itself feels threatened by ISIL, Da'esh, and has now taken part in air strikes. In fact, overnight, Turkey took part in the first air strikes with the Coalition against Da'esh strongholds in Syria. This is a crisis of global proportions and that's why we are focusing on Da'esh in Iraq, with the consent of the Iraqi government, and now there has been a request for us to consider air strikes over Syria.
ANDREW BOLT:Do you need an invitation from Syria or a mandate from the UN?
JULIE BISHOP:Not under the principle of collective self-defence.
ANDREW BOLT:So you are not going to go to the UN with this?
JUIE BISHOP:Well, we're considering it now. But the legal principle is collective self-defence. That's how the United States and Canada and other countries are taking part in air strikes over Syria now.
ANDREW BOLT:Because on the UN you've got, the Security Council, Russia and China wouldn't like this.
JULIE BISHOP:Certainly Russia is backing the Assad regime in Syria
so any intervention in Syria is obviously going to be problematic. It's exceedingly complex, the whole situation. But in terms of a legal principle, the US, Canada and others are relying on what's called collective self-defence, protecting Iraq by attacking the Da'esh attacks that come from across the Syrian border.
ANDREW BOLT:Now, you've seen the huge push of people moving into Europe, including lots of Syrians. If jihadism isn't controlled and confronted in places like Syria and Iraq it will probably expand. You will see more people from the third world into Europe. How will this affect Europe?
JULIE BISHOP:Well, this is a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions and countries surrounding Syria and Iraq - Lebanon, Jordan and others - are already bearing the brunt of thousands, millions, of people leaving those countries and claiming refugee status in their lands. But it's going beyond that and that's why I believe the Europeans must be involved in the Coalition air strikes and the effort in Syria and Iraq - because that's where the refugees are fleeing. Not only from there, they're also coming from Africa and you're seeing them through the Horn of Africa all the way up to Libya.
ANDREW BOLT:It seems like an existential threat for Europe, though. 300,000 in eight months and it is increasing?
JULIE BISHOP:I was in Europe earlier this year as well and spoke with Parliamentarians from the European Union and this really has highlighted the fact that Europe is the destination for so many people seeking asylum, and they were asking what Australia had done to protect our borders, what were Australia's policies, how had we managed to stop boats coming to Australia. So there was an enormous amount of interest on the part of Europeans who, in the past, had not been confronted to the same extent as they are now.
ANDREW BOLT:Socialist protesters on Friday helped force police to cancel an operation against anti-social behaviour after the Australian Border Force put out a press release falsely suggesting it would join in by stopping people to check whether they had a visa to be here. Here is Bill Shorten hyping it up yesterday.
Saying they're going to have some sort of strike force of uniformed federal public servants accosting like a dragnet in the streets of Melbourne... I don't want to live in a police state and if that's what they were going to do that's a very serious breach the faith for the Australian people.
So this fool talking about police states.
JULIE BISHOP:Oh, it's complete hyperbole. That was never the intention, that is not government policy. There was a poorly-worded press release. It was never the intention of Border Force representatives to randomly stop people in the street. That was not ever going to happen.
ANDREW BOLT:What do you make of this stuff - police state, police state?
JULIE BISHOP:It is nonsense. It is a poorly-worded press release, and let's get this into context. The Border Force were going to be working with the Victorian Police on a whole range of issues and if people were found to have been in breach of visa conditions they would have been referred to Border Force in the normal course. It was just an operational matter and Bill Shorten's reaction is completely and utterly over-the-top.
ANDREW BOLT:I think it's dangerous actually to feed that. It's taking up the socialist alternative lines from the protests in Melbourne that day. It's ridiculous. But Bill Shorten says you should negotiate with Labor to make the Free Trade Agreement with China less of a threat to Australian jobs. Will you negotiate with this to get the deal passed by the Senate?
JULIE BISHOP:There is no threat to Australian jobs. The Free Trade Agreement will create more Australian jobs and the wording of the Free Trade Agreement has been supported by no less a luminary than Bob Hawke. Bob Carr said the wording of the Free Trade Agreement did not need to change.
ANDREW BOLT:He did but will you negotiate with Labor to get it through the Senate?
JULIE BISHOP:There is a process whereby the Free Trade Agreement will go to a Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and that committee can hold public hearings, take evidence and receive submissions and then make recommendations to the Government. But I do not believe there is any threat to Australian jobs. There will be no need to changing the wording.
ANDREW BOLT:No negotiation?
JULIE BISHOP:Well, the Treaty Committee may well come up with recommendations and that is the usual process. The US Free Trade Agreement, the Japanese Free Trade Agreement, the South Korean Free Trade Agreement all go through this process. So the China Free Trade Agreement will go through the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and they may well make recommendations. But this agreement is undeniably good for Australia, it will create more Australian jobs, it will help boost our economy. We will have access into one of the largest consumer markets in the world. Australian businesses small, medium and large will be able to access those markets to sell their goods and services.
ANDREW BOLT: Julie Bishop, thank you so much for your time.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555