JOURNALIST: Let's go to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. She joins us now from the US. Foreign Minister, thank you for your time. Firstly, your reaction to the attacks in London.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, Karl. The Australian Government sends its condolences to the British people and the British Government on yet another terrible attack. We certainly feel for those who have been killed in this attack and we have offered to do all we can to assist the British Government if there is anything we can do to assist. I have been in contact with our High Commissioner and at this stage he confirmed that no Australians are involved, but of course an investigation is under way and that will continue for some time. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, is actually here in Washington, and I spoke to him a short time ago and extended our condolences to him and the Government of Great Britain and he said it was a shocking incident, but they were investigating it.
JOURNALIST: Just in terms of Australians, I know that you have pointed out there is no reference at this stage to any Australians being involved and to avoid swamping DFAT with calls. For those who do want to make a call, that number is 1300 555 135, but you are saying at this point to be careful with that or as careful as you can be.
JULIE BISHOP: Well, I have spoken with our High Commissioner, I have been in contact with our High Commissioner. We don't have any information that would suggest any Australians are involved, I certainly know that our High Commission staff are safe, they have all been accounted for, but we're not aware of any involvement of any Australian. But if people are concerned about a loved one or a family or friends, then, of course, they can call that number, but I stress that we have no information, no evidence at this stage to suggest any Australians are involved.
JOURNALIST: I have spoken to you unfortunately so many times in the aftermath of some of these attacks overseas. This one as well, there are a lot of Australians who live in London. Your advice to anyone who may be going, who may be there?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, most certainly people must continue to go about their business, but in the Westminster area to abide by the instructions and directions of the local police, to avoid the area obviously at this stage because there is an investigation under way, but we must continue on with our lives. We can't let these isolated incidents or, indeed, attacks of this kind prevent us from continuing on with our lives. We have to be careful. We have to be aware of what can happen in public places. We have seen too many of these attacks around the world not to be aware of it and the Australian Government has certainly reviewed our approach to law enforcement and to ensuring that our public places and high profile tourist places are as safe as possible, but until we know the reason why this attack occur, it would just be speculation as to who is behind it.
JOURNALIST: It obviously at this time looks like a lone wolf style of attack. They are incredibly difficult to prevent.
JULIE BISHOP: It is very difficult to detect a person who wants to carry out this kind of attack and hasn't been in touch with others. I mean, if it is a group or it is inspired by ISIS or a terrorist attack, then there may well be intelligence that we can draw upon, but if it is somebody who, for some unknown reason, or a reason yet to be determined, has carried out an attack, it is very hard to detect them. But we have provided significant resources, new laws, enhanced laws, to ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies and our authorities are placed as well as they can be to ensure that Australians are safe from this kind of they attack. We don't know if it is a terrorist attack. The British police are treating it as such until evidence indicates otherwise, but these lone wolf type attacks can occur anywhere at any time.
JOURNALIST: ASIO has been busy, that is for certain. Do you have any information or can you confirm this morning that 500 Iraqi and Syrian refugees have been refused entry in Australia, at least 30 of whom are on ASIO's terror watch list?
JULIE BISHOP: That would be a matter for the Immigration Minister to determine, but it would certainly be consistent with the approach that we take to our immigration processes. We have very strong border protection laws and the people that we bring into this country are vetted for health checks, but also security checks and if people were on an ASIO or an international watch list, well then of course, that would raise a concern and we would do what we can to vet them and check out their status from a security perspective as closely and carefully as possible.
JOURNALIST: The worry here and the interesting thing is that they’ve moved away from these lone males, the detection of lone males. It has moved into a lot of these people found among priority family groups which makes it even more important to be vigilant on behalf of our authorities, doesn’t it?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, that is absolutely right. We do take quite some time to check the health and security status of those seeking visas as we have done with the 12,000 Syrian refugees bringing to Australia. We were criticised for taking time to vet the applications, but it's important from a national security point of view that we do so, that we check the details, the backgrounds as thoroughly and closely as possible to ensure we can keep Australians as safe as possible.
JOURNALIST: This all dovetails to where you are right now and in the aftermath of London it's all the more important, isn’t it another reminder of how vigilant we all need to be?
JULIE BISHOP: We are certainly seeking to defeat ISIS the terrorism organisation at its cause, at its source in Syria and Iraq and the nations represented here today reaffirmed their commitment to do serious damage to defeat ISIS, to also take back the territory, the caliphate that it declared in Iraq and in Syria and do what we can to prevent foreign terrorist fighters returning to Australia, to our region, and potentially carry out the attacks in our part of the world. It's been a very productive couple of meetings here, with like-minded countries who are determined to defeat this terrorist organisation.
JOURNALIST: As the pressure on them intensifies, as they continue to be pressured, and to be on the run, are you expecting much more of a fight back?
JULIE BISHOP: As the pressure increases on the ISIS organisation, particularly in Iraq, as the Iraqi security forces that have been trained by Australia and others are successful in taking back territory and defeating the terrorist organisation, we expect that terrorists will seek to leave. If they survive they will seek to leave, and they may well seek to come back to our part of the world. That's why we are monitoring them, tracking them, exchanging intelligence, real-time information to ensure we can keep people as safe as possible. Once we are successful in taking back Mosul and driving ISIS from Iraq then the focus will be back on Syria the attention will be on Raqqa and the same will occur there. People, if they survive the taking back of Raqqa, they may seek to come back to Southeast Asia, Australia, and we will do all we can to monitor them and track them and prosecute them if they are found guilty of or if we have evidence to prove they are guilty of terrorism offences.
JOURNALIST: One final question. London is a city you have been to and run around many, many times, your personal reaction?
JULIE BISHOP: I was shocked and saddened. I know that area well, as many Australians would, that we work in that area, we are tourists there, Australians know London well. I was very shocked and saddened by it. If I were to return to London I would continue to go about my business in London but I would certainly take care to avoid being in places that might attract this kind of occurrence. It's so hard to know where and when a lone wolf attack will take place. We have updated our travel advice to advise Australian travellers of this incident, but all we can say is to be careful, be vigilant and follow the directions of the local authorities.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, really good to talk to you. Thank you for your time today.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Karl.
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