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ABC News 24 12 Noon News -

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(generated from captions) This program is live captioned by Ericsson Access Services. Apologies for breaking into program. We are taking you to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.... I also announced new scholarships to be carried out for Pacific risk reduction managers and a $1 million humanitarian supplies challenge to seek ideas, and new ways and innovative ways of responding to natural disasters in the Pa sifbling. So, a fitting tribute to world humanitarian Day which is designed to recognise the sacrifice and efforts and courage of those who carry out humanitarian work around the world. Any questions. REPORTER: You were asked about the cuts to the Budget. You just announced this new strategy. How difficult is it to actually achieve it given there has been over $1 billion in cuts?We are able to achieve a considerable amount with our aid budget. As I indicated, we are the 12th largest donor amongst economies.
OECD countries, comparable economies. We have targeted our aid budget where we can make the biggest difference and I've been very pleased with the outcomes that we have been able to achieve under our new aid paradigm. Of course, because we inherited such a massive debt and deficit situation from the previous Labor Government, all departments have had to find savings, and that includes the Trade, but
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but I believe that through targeted, focused, innovative and creative ways of spending our aid dollar more carefully, by partnering with the private sector, by working with NGOs and by focusing on where we can make the biggest difference we have achieved our aims.REPORTER: You mentioned it, the trajectory so bad that it had to be cut by billions?The trajectory was unsustainable. It was also unable to be absorbed by our then aid agency, AusAID, so the aid budget had to be reformed in any event, but also we were facing budget savings because of the dire Budget situation that we inherited. REPORTER: What information do you have about an Australian woman in Bali who is being sought by Indonesian authorities over the death of a policeman?I am aware of the reports. Consulate in Bali stands ready to provide consular assistance but we have not been asked to do so, but I'm aware of the reports as our diplomats in Bali have aware of those reports. We have not yet been contacted by any family or connections in relation to it.REPORTER: Do you know whether she is a suspect or a possible witness?I don't have that information.REPORTER: What about the situation in Dubai at the moment, the man held in custody for three weeks without charge?We understand this is a British citizen, he did have an Australian passport, but not for many years, so he apparently didn't have an Australian passport for many years. He apparently entered Dubai on British passport. British diplomats are attending to his consular needs. We have offered to assist, but Britain is taking the lead and we maintain contact with them. So he is a British citizen on a British passport, has not had an Australian passport for many years and British con sue consulate is giving assistance.(Inaudible question (? .I'm not aware of specific details other than offence to promote overseas charities other than that in Dubai, so I'm unaware of the details that affect this British citizen, but I troo I to make the warning to all Australians travelling overseas that they must abide by the laws of the country in which they are living or residing or travelling. Laws can be very different from those that are applicable in Australia and Australian travellers should take the too imto familiarise themselves with specific laws of a country in which they are visiting, and also to access our Smartraveller website which does provide tips and information advice to those travelling overseas.REPORTER: Just on Vietnam and Long Tan, some veterans say the Australian Government knew for weeks about Indonesia's, about Vietnamese concerns about large numbers going over there. Was that handled poorly by the Australian Government?Not at all, the Australian Government facilitated what our veterans wanted to do in Vietnam and the concerns of the Vietnamese Government. I met with the Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Min in I have ent around at the end of July and we discussed the Long Tan commemoration and those issues were raised with him at that time. I spoke with him the night before last when we were informed for the first time that the Vietnamese Government intended to cancel the commemorative service. And he said to me that the concerns and tensions over the presence of a significant number of Australian veterans and their families had been rising. The They were concerned at the reaction of local people. The sensitivities that the conflict in Vietnam, all those years ago still bring to communities in Vietnam. Both the PM and I spoke with our counterpart, Foreign Minister and PM at length, and we were able to achieve a breakthrough. I'm informed that hundreds of our veterans and families were able to attend a service, but others, hundreds were not able to. I think it comes down to the sheer scale and size of what was proposed this year, but until the Government gave us formal notice, the other night, we had continued to work closely with the Vietnamese Government about how much it meant to Australian time.
veterans to be in Long Tan at this time.REPORTER: And is it possible that the Vietnam Government's decision to cancel the Long Tan commemorations waas in retaliation for any action taken by the Australian Government?That is not the way it was presented to me at any time in my discussions. In fact, the Deputy PM and the PM of Vietnam were at pains to explain that our bilateral relationship was in the best shape it has been in for 40 years at least, and we have a very close relationship with Vietnam. In fact, our strategic interests are con vrjing on a regular basis, and the bilateral relationship is very good. However, on the issue of commemorations relating to the Vietnam War, it is still a very sensitive topic in Vietnam, particularly among the local communities where some of these battles took place. And while I explained that our veterans were there to pay tribute to all those who sacrificed their lives in the conflict, the emotion was running very deep, and the Vietnamese Government took the action that, as a sovereign government, they are able to do. PM Turnbull and I did achieve a breakthrough in that they allowed the service to proceed, but then the provincial government became concerned at the sheer numbers of Australians who were there for the event. We will work closely with the Government of Vietnam in relation to future commemorative services, as we have to with other governments around the world where Australian vets or Australian citizens want to pay their respects to those who have died and sacrificed their lives in conflicts, often far away from Australia.REPORTER: So could it be linked to any actions taken by the Australian Government to protect national security?That was not raised with me at any time. Either when I met the Deputy PM a couple of weeks ago or in my conversations with him over the phone. He stressed, as did the PM to PM Turnbull how important the bilateral relationship between Australia and Vietnam is, and how healthy it is, and we certainly have a very strong engagement with Vietnam. I've visited Vietnam and I've worked very closely with the Deputy PM whom I've met on numerous occasions, we have a very good relationship, so, no, that issue was not ever raised. They said it was entirely to do with local concerns, local emotions, local tensions and their desire to put the pain and suffering of the Vietnam War behind them, and that's the way they want to do it. Australian veterans have a different view, so we must work very closely with the Vietnamese Government over coming months to ensure that both the needs of the Vietnamese Government and our veterans community can be met. REPORTER: So just to clarify, when did you first know that the Vietnamese were concerned about large numbers of Australians heading over there for the anniversary?Two days ago. REPORTER: Ms Bishop, I hope you don't mind me changing suts. The British media is claiming that they've spoken to a man who sounds a lot like an Australian who claims he is a rebel group. Are you aware of any Australians involved in conflicts in rebel groups?I'm certainly aware a number of Australians have left our shores to travel to Syria and Iraq as foreign terrorist fighters, but we have very little visibility in Syria because we don't have an emba sis in Damascus, we are relying on others to inform us as to where Australians are and with whom they are fighting, but it is against Australian law for any Australian citizen to take part in fighting on any side in Syria. It is against our sanctions regime, it is also in breach of some of our existing criminal laws, and I have continually urged Australians not to travel to Syria or Iraq to take part in the conflict there. And in the case of Al Raqqa province, it is actually a crime for an Australian citizen to be there without lawful excuse.REPORTER: I know you said visibility is poor, but do you have any information from those as, that could give you an indication as to how many potential Aussies are over there? We are aware that there are about travelled
150 Australians or so who have travelled to the Middle East, some have come back, some have been killed, but we maintain contact with our friends and allies and other governments in the region to ascertain the number of Australians who have been, or are in the Middle East, taking part in the conflict in Syria and Iraq.REPORTER: Given what has happened (inaudible) of the past 24 hours, and the images of the young children, particularly that young boy yesterday, you mentioned that our foreign aid budget is (inaudible) is there any East?
scope to expand it to the Middle East?We already do. We are one of the most significant contributors Syria.
to the humanitarian effort in Syria. I announced a further $227 million in the last May Budget, that comes on top of hundreds of millions of dollars that we have provided to Syria and Iraq, and that to Libya and Jordan. Australia budget
does have a global humanitarian budget which is part of the speech today, but the major focus is on the reach where we can make the biggest difference. Multilateral agencies, UN and the work, World Food program, to the UN, to Save the Children, other organisations that are able to carry out humanitarian and relief work on the ground. OK. Thank you.That's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop speaking, referring to a couple of different issues there. We had the carriage of that story a bit earlier about a man who is being held in Dubai for three weeks now without charge and the Foreign Minister there revealing that he is not an Australian, but a British