JOURNALIST: So first of all, this is an exciting thing for Western Sydney — I’m a Western Sydney girl myself — how do you see the development of this area just continue to grow year after year?
MARISE PAYNE: Yes, I'm very excited to see this new Campbelltown Sport and Health Centre of Excellence developing. I've been here since the beginning, since the planning stage, and since the Council applied for a Commonwealth contribution, which we're very, very pleased to be making. But this particular site will bring a facility to this part of Western Sydney like nothing else. And I think outside perhaps the NRL teams, there is nothing of this calibre. To hear that the Macarthur Bulls are going to be, if you like, ground floor tenants as it were, is great news from the National Football League perspective. And also that they have a focus on their women's team and its development. Its capacity to participate will be significantly enhanced by this activity. So it’s due to be concluded in the middle of 2021, and I look forward to seeing it every step of the way.
JOURNALIST: I actually was just at the Western Sydney Wanderers game last weekend. And seeing the calibre and the demand for Western Sydney teams — it is just a very exciting thing even for spectators.
MARISE PAYNE: Well I think seeing that local derby at Bankwest really sent a powerful message about what a great facility the new stadium is, and how the Wanderers are making it their own, and the opportunity it delivers for elite sports participation in this region. Without athletes having to travel so much further to do the training and the work that they need to do. It's here in their backyard, and that makes a very, very significant difference.
JOURNALIST: I will just turn now to foreign affairs today. So Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed by US forces. When was Australia told about the operation?
MARISE PAYNE: We were advised of the outcome of the operation. It was an entirely US operation, so we would not expect that to be otherwise. But what I would like to say is that this is a very important achievement. It's very important for the international coalition's fight against Daesh, and everything that entity has represented in such appalling ways in so many parts of the world, but particularly in the Middle East. This is a very important step in dealing with the leadership of Daesh or ISIS, a very important step in removing a fundamental figure. It's the most significant event in terms of addressing the leadership on terrorism, really, since the death of Osama bin Laden.
JOURNALIST: And pragmatically and just practically speaking, what impact do you think this will have on ISIS?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, it will certainly have an effect. I think removing a leader like this always has an effect. But I understand that there has also been significant intelligence acquisition from the site at which the attack occurred. And that will take some time for all authorities to go through. But any help that that can give us in addressing Daesh in its many forms, and let's not forget that it has sent its tentacles into our region before, we know that people claiming the so-called inspiration of ISIS have launched attacks here domestically.
So everything that we do is focused on preventing those attacks, and the AFP and the intelligence agencies have been very, very focused on that. That focus can’t stop, we must ensure that we’re protecting Australia and Australians. But an event like this, the removal of a leader like this, has a significant impact on the terrorist organisation itself.
JOURNALIST: Now, US President Donald Trump has made a lot of controversy by pulling US troops out of Syria. Do you think that there is an interplay between his actions there and this? What does it say about the region, how much help is actually needed?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, I wouldn't underestimate the length of time it takes to plan an operation of this nature. It's obviously been something that the United States and their forces have been working on for some time. And I absolutely commend the intelligence, the military planning, the strategic effort that has gone into doing this by US forces. For the Middle East itself, it's obviously an extremely complex area, and Australia has made our own significant commitment over a long period of time now, including in the fight against Daesh. We still have men and women of the ADF deployed in Iraq, and ensuring that we continue to make that contribution. But what we see is that this does not become less complex. This continues to be an extremely complex environment and it continues to be an environment where working together, across the international coalition from the United States to Australia, to the leadership of a number of the European participants is very, very important.
JOURNALIST: And because it is so important and it is still quite complex, do you think it's necessarily the right move to remove troops from the area?
MARISE PAYNE: We have said that that is a matter for the United States, and we need to be very clear — all of the steps taken by Turkey are steps that they have taken unilaterally in terms of their push into Syria. So the displacement of families in their tens of thousands, the deaths that have occurred as a result of that have occurred as a result of decisions taken by Turkey. This is an area in which we have previously acknowledged the leadership and the important contribution of the Syrian Democratic Forces. We continue to do that; they have paid a significant cost for their efforts to combat Daesh as well.
JOURNALIST: And a question now on Jock Palfreeman — is there any update on his case?
MARISE PAYNE: Not an update from the beginning of this week, but of course we know that Mr Palfreeman was released from immigration detention, which we have welcomed. We are concerned that he be dealt with according to Bulgarian law, as it stands. And I have expressed my concerns in the chamber and publicly if he were to be dealt with by matters outside the normal legal process, if that were to have any bearing on his continued position in Bulgaria, we understand there is a ‘do not travel’ order placed on Mr Palfreeman, which has been in place for some time, and we would seek through the appropriate authorities that that travel order be lifted.
JOURNALIST: And I just had one final question — there's no legal right for Bulgaria to hold him in the country, what does this say about the country's respect for the law?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, in some ways it goes to the point I just made about ensuring that he is dealt with appropriately according to the application of Bulgarian law, and the ‘do not travel’ order which has been imposed on him for some time now appears to be an ongoing matter of concern, and we would seek to have that, as appropriate, lifted through the Bulgarian processes.
JOURNALIST: Thank you very much, Senator Payne.
MARISE PAYNE: Thank you.
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