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Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney: 20 June 2014: official opening of the Shepherd Centre; Iraq; Papua New Guinea



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www.pm.gov.au

PRIME MINISTER

20 June 2014

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, SYDNEY

Subjects: Official opening of the Shepherd Centre; Iraq; Papua New Guinea.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s really good to be here at the Shepherd Centre. This has been a very moving occasion; it’s a real honour to be involved in it. What a marvelous celebration of the human spirit something like this is. We’ve got people here who are having a go, who are turning a difficulty into an opportunity and that is very much at the heart of the Australian spirit.

QUESTION:

Are you concerned about the safety of yourself and ministers at university campuses and elsewhere?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. It’s very important that members of Australian governments are able to move around the country and we do. Very, very rarely there are protests, occasionally those protests get ugly. That shouldn’t happen. I don’t think it’s a very Australian thing to do, to try to prevent someone from speaking, prevent someone from visiting some place where their duty calls them and that’s why very, very occasionally it’s important that there be some security.

QUESTION:

And that’s despite the incident with Julie Bishop and the man arrested at Melbourne University? You’re still not concerned?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, as I said, we are a free and democratic society. Australians are free to express a view, they’re free to protest. They should always do it, we should always do it in a way which is fair, in a way which is respectful and it seems that a few people did go a bit over the top today.

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QUESTION:

Prime Minister, on Iraq, after the United States offering military advisers, what’s Australia doing?

PRIME MINISTER:

No one should underestimate the seriousness of the situation in Iraq. This is a terrorist group seeking to create a terrorist state and that would be a humanitarian catastrophe and a security nightmare for the region and for the wider world. We are of course consulting with our US allies, with our other friends and allies in the region. As far as I am aware, we have not yet been asked for any assistance. If any request for assistance comes we will take it seriously and we will try to be helpful because we are a strong and contributing member of the Western Alliance. But right now, our focus is on first of all ensuring that our people in Baghdad are safe and that we have the capacity to remove them if necessary - to remove them safely if necessary - and second to ensure that our borders are secure because the last thing the Australian people want is to see murderous potential terrorists coming to this county. There are up to 100 people who have left Australia apparently to join these various Jihadist groups in Syria and now in Iraq. They will not come back and if they come back they will be taken into detention because our community will be kept safe by this Government.

QUESTION:

Have any of them come back?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are keeping as careful a watch on all of these individuals as we possibly can. Be in no doubt that some individuals from this country are now participating in acts of barbarity in Iraq. These people should have no place in our country and we will do our best to keep them out and if they can’t be kept out they will be taken into detention, because we are not going to allow people who are an obvious threat to our safety and security to roam loose in Australia.

QUESTION:

If we are asked to offer our military support or any other kind of support are we in a position to do that?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have strong and capable armed forces - strong and capable armed forces which have made a very significant contribution to conflicts in our region and further afield. But let’s wait and see what, if any, requests come our way. We will carefully consider them and I have to say that I do support the careful and measured response that President Obama has made to this. This is a witch’s brew of difficulty and complexity, it’s important to respond but it’s also important to respond in a way which is careful, calm and considered and that’s what President Obama has done.

QUESTION:

Have you spoken to your own counterpart in Papua New Guinea about the events over there in the last week?

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PRIME MINISTER:

As you know I do talk from time to time to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. What happens in PNG, the politics of PNG is essentially a matter for the government and the people of PNG. It is important that Australia and PNG continue to cooperate closely on matters of mutual interest and that’s exactly what’s happening.

As you know, yesterday marked six months without a successful people smuggling venture to our country. The contrast with the former government couldn’t be more stark; in the same period of the previous year there were some 200 illegal boats with some 13,000 illegal arrivals on them. We’ve gone six months now with zero boats, with zero illegal arrivals and in part that’s been because of our cooperation with PNG and that will continue.

[ends]