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The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Julie Bishop

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Headines Bishop says its not useful to put a time frame on how long its going to take the Western coalition to beat Islamic State after John Key says New Zealand wont commit for longer than two years. That would just play into the …On The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Julie Bishop

Bishop says it’s “not useful” to put a time frame on how long it’s going to take the Western coalition to beat Islamic State after John Key says New Zealand won’t commit for longer than two years.

“That would just play into the hands of the terrorist organisations. They would either wait it out or increase their activities”

Says Australia’s contribution to the coalition fighting Islamic State is not overreaching by sending in special forces, while NZ PM warns against fighting Iraq’s wars for it.

Refuses to confirm details of what John Key says is likely to be a joint Australia and New Zealand mission

Says she’s not aware of any motion to roll Prime Minister Tony Abbott

“There is no evidence that there is going to be a motion for a spill. I don’t believe a motion for a spill would get up. It didn’t two weeks ago.”

“I’m the deputy of the party. I support the leader that the party elected; that is Tony Abbott.”

Describes rumours of a caucus vote to roll Mr Abbott as “highly hypothetical” and “speculative”

Julie Bishop: Australia has a deep national interest in bolstering our security against the— what is now a global threat of terrorism. It’s also a regional threat, and we will do whatever we can to keep our nation and our people safe from a terrorist attack. So we are working with a coalition of countries to attack Da’ish, or ISIL, at its source in Iraq by supporting the Iraqi government build up the capability and capacity of the Iraqi defence force to take back the territory that has been claimed by Da’ish and to help protect their citizens, who have been subjected atrocities and appallingly brutal treatment.

Lisa Owen: I don’t think you’d get any argument about the brutal treatment, but the thing is – isn’t a fight exactly what Islamic State wants? It wants the image of a crusade. It wants to be seen as going up against the West. That’s how it recruits people. So aren’t you giving them exactly what they want?

It’s not only against the West. ISIL, or Da’ish, is against anyone who opposes their poisonous ideology. They don’t care whether it’s a Western democracy or a Middle Eastern government or anything in between. They are claiming a caliphate over territory that belongs to Iraq and Syria. They ignore governments, they ignore laws, regulations and the rules-based international order, so this is not just a fight against the West. This is global. It’s complex. It’s more dangerous than ever before, and we have a significant number of Australians who have been attracted to fight with this terrorist organisation. We believe around 90 Australians are in Syria or Iraq having taken up arms to fight with this terrorist organisation. Our fear is that they will come back to Australia or to our region and, having gained experience as a terrorist, will seek to carry out terrorist activities here.

I want to talk to you about the domestic – Australia’s domestic situation and concerns about foreign fighters a bit later, but I just want to know what evidence is there that what you are doing is going to make things better and not worse? Because the West has a history of making things worse in the Middle East.

We’ve been invited into Iraq by the Iraqi government. We have been invited in to support the Iraqi government with their consent. We’re part of the coalition that the Iraqi government has called upon to support them, and I don’t believe the Iraqi government should be left to face this alone. I believe that other countries, particularly countries whose citizens are taking up the fight in Syria and Iraq on behalf of the terrorist organisation, have a responsibility to support Iraq in its defence—

But in doing that, Minister—?

…of its country and its people.

But in doing that, what evidence do you have that you’re going to make the situation better? How can you know you’re going to make the situation better?

Surely having Da’ish in control of any country or any portion of a country is the worst possible outcome. This is an organisation that carries out beheadings and executions, subjects women as sex slaves, rapings and killings. It is utterly barbaric, and no responsible nation, no responsible citizen can stand by and watch that without doing something.

So what do you think that success against Islamic State will look like in real terms? What would that be?

Clearly, we are dealing with not only a military solution, but there also is an ideology to combat. This poisonous narrative against countries, against sovereign nations, against the rules-based global order has to be defeated.

How long will that take?

It will take some time. You’re dealing with an ideology. You’re dealing with a narrative.

So two years? 10 years? A generation?

It’s not useful to put a time frame on it. That would just play into the hands of the terrorist organisations. They would either wait it out or increase their activities, so I don’t intend to give the terrorist organisation the comfort of knowing how long the coalition of countries will seek to defeat it.

Well, our Prime Minister says two years for New Zealand. He says two years, but he also says he thinks Australia will be there longer. Is he right?

And, of course, there are about 90 countries that are now claiming they have citizens who have taken up supporting this terrorist organisation, so this is not an issue just for Australia and New Zealand or our region. This is a global issue, and countries will make their own decisions about how long they’ll be there, and, of course, that will also depend on the Iraqi government, because we are there at the invitation of—

So New Zealand says two years—

We’re there at the invitation of and consent of the Iraqi government.

Okay. So you talked about a proportionate response. Well, New Zealand is sending 16 trainers plus support troops. Does New Zealand need to do more than that?

That’s a matter for New Zealand. We welcome the support that New Zealand is providing, and we certainly welcome their contribution to the coalition of nations.

John Key has just told this programme that he’s not matching Australia’s contribution in Iraq because he says, ‘If we fight Iraq’s wars, we involve ourselves in something that we can’t hope to solve for them.’ Isn’t that exactly what Australia is doing? Are you overreaching?


And what makes you say that?

Because we are providing support to the Iraqi government in accordance with the advice that we take from our experts and in accordance with the discussions that we’ve had with the Iraqi government.

Okay. So as we said, it’s likely to be a joint New Zealand-Australia mission, so how do you think that will work?

Well, I’m not a military expert. I’ll leave that to our defence personnel, who are on the ground, who make those sorts of decisions.

So when do you think that will be announced or made public – how that joint operation might work?

I’m not saying it is a joint operation.

Is it not going to be a joint operation? Is there some—?

Well, the Prime Minister of Australia has not made an announcement, so I’m not sure what you’re going on.

In saying that, our Prime Minister has publicly said that it’s likely to be a joint operation. Is he mistaken in that?

I am not pre-empting any announcement that my prime minister would make. I don’t know a foreign minister or a defence minister that would seek to pre-empt any announcement that their prime minister would make. Now, Prime Minister Key has spoken on behalf of the New Zealand Government. That’s absolutely appropriate. But the Australian Prime Minister should be allowed to make whatever announcement he chooses to make in his time.

Okay. Well, let’s talk about closer to home. It seems that there’s a disproportionate number of Australians joining this fight with Islamic State. Why do you think that is? Why are they being attracted to it?

There has been a serious attempt to radicalise young people using online sophisticated technology. There has been an element of radicalisation through some of the communities in Australia. But I think if you look at other countries, France, for example, estimates that it has about a thousand foreign terrorist fighters. Russia estimates that it has about a thousand. Other countries – Canada, United Kingdom, a range of countries say that they have foreign terrorist fighters amongst their citizens. Indeed, as I said, about 90 countries have confirmed that they believe they have foreign terrorist fighters amongst their citizens who are going to Syria and Iraq.

In our back yard, is Indonesia—? Now, that’s one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, and a growing number of them are joining Islamic State as well. How much of a worry is that for us?

It’s a concern for Indonesia and for Australia and our region, and that’s why we’re working so closely with Indonesia to share intelligence, to share information, to share experiences and work together to combat terrorism and to prevent the flow of foreign fighters and finance into the Middle East.

In terms of finance, you have invested more effort into looking into finances and terrorism funding. Is there any suggestion that money is coming from Australia, the Pacific, New Zealand?

There is a concern that funding is coming from Australia, and that’s why we’ve acted in some instances to use laws to prevent that from occurring. We’ve reviewed our legislation to ensure that any gaps that may have existed will be closed so that we can stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, we can combat the radicalisation, particularly of young people, which is deeply concerning, and that we can prevent the flow of finances.

Where’s that money coming from, do you think?

Well, these are matters that our intelligence agencies act upon and our law enforcement agencies act upon.


There is an argument that narco-terrorism is a deeply worrying phenomenon, particularly in our region.

While we’re talking about Indonesia, it appears that two Australian drug traffickers will soon be executed in Bali. Is there anything else, anything else that you can do to stop that happening?

The Australian government continues to make representations at every level of the Indonesian government at the highest levels. Our officials are in Jakarta. Our officials are in Bali. I have made personal representations, as has the Prime Minister, as has our Governor General. Other ministers will continue to do so.

Okay, well, Mr Abbott has had some problems recently. Is there going to be a leadership vote next week?

Not as far as I’m aware.



Really? There’s not going to be a vote next week? I mean, you’re in the middle of a spat with the Human Rights Commission; there’s a split in the ranks over his chief of staff; there is the comments about Indonesia; there was a leak suggesting that he was preparing to go to war—

I’ll save you the description. I am not aware of any attempt to bring a spill motion to challenge the leadership. I’m not aware of any such approach. There was a motion for a spill of the leadership a couple of weeks ago. It was defeated.

Is he a dead man walking?


So you’re not aware of a vote. If one happens, are you going to support him?

This is highly hypothetical. There is no evidence that there is going to be a motion for a spill. I don’t believe a motion for a spill would get up. It didn’t two weeks ago. I see no reason why it would get up now.

Well, there’s reports now that there are up to seven MPs who are looking to change the way they voted, so would you, do you support Mr Abbott 100 per cent?

Of course I do. I’m the deputy of the party and I support the leader that the party has elected, and Mr Abbott is the elected leader of the Liberal Party. I support the leader.

So if there was a caucus vote next week, you would vote for Mr Abbott?

Look, there won’t be a caucus vote next week. This is highly hypothetical, speculative, and I don’t intend to add to it. I’m the deputy of the party. I support the leader that the party elected; that is Tony Abbott. And I’m not going to add to speculation. It’s unhelpful, it’s unnecessary, and I’m not going to add in any way to it.

Well, what if—? You support him 100 per cent, but that’s no guarantee that he won’t get rolled if there is a vote. So if that were to happen, would you stand?

I think this is a really unhelpful line of questioning. It’s hypothetical; it’s speculative; it’s based on rumour. I have no idea about seven members who may or may not change their vote. I don’t know the names of seven members. Do you?

All right. On a competition of a different kind, could you give us a prediction for the cricket?

The Aussies.

What else were you going to say?


Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate your time.

My pleasure.

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