Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of interview with Chris Kenny: Sky News, Viewpoint: 30 August 2015: Da'esh; air strikes in Syria; the Canning by-election; Border Force; Cabinet and AFL

Download PDFDownload PDF

Sky News Viewpoint - interview with Chris Kenny

Subjects: Da’esh, air strikes in Syria, the Canning by-election, Border Force, Cabinet and AFL.

Transcript, E&OE

30 August 2015



I am joined in the studio now by the

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Thanks for joining us again

Foreign Minister.

There is always so much to talk to you about, so I appreciate you joining us.



My pleasure.



May I start off with the battle

against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - I want to come to Australia’s

deployment in a moment - but first up I heard on Jonathan Spyer on this program

on Friday night, he suggested

that Islamic State is reasonably well contained

but not enough is being done on the ground to eliminate it within its


caliphate. He has been in Syria and Iraq of late. Is that the case? Do you

believe you have them

contained but you actually need to liberate that area so

to speak?


The long-term goal of

course is to ensure that national sovereign governments are in control of


own territory and can protect their own people. That’s why we are supporting

the Iraqi Government try and

take back the territory that has been claimed by

Islamic State or Da’esh as it is called over there, and help build

the capacity

of the Iraqi Security Forces so that they can protect their own people.

In Syria it

is far more complex because of course the Assad regime lost all legitimacy when

it used chemical

weapons against its own people and there are more players

involved in Syria - Iraq, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia

backing Assad - you have

different minority groups and Al-Nusra as well as Islamic State in Syria. But

we are

making progress with the airstrikes. The airstrikes in Iraq have

contained the march of Islamic State into other

territories. You remember how

they used to form columns and go out with their black flags and vehicles so


been contained…



Contained in Ramadi, only 60 or 70

kilometres from Baghdad.



That’s true but 12 months ago there

was a real fear that Baghdad might fall and that’s when I

went to Iraq and met

with the Government and signed up that status of forces agreement - well it is

technically not

- but an agreement as to Australia’s engagement in Iraq at the

request of the Iraqi Government. So the airstrikes

are having an impact.

In Syria, the

United States has now asked Australia to consider joining the Coalition. A

number of countries in the

region are part of those airstrikes - the UAE, Saudi

Arabia, Jordan and now Turkey last night took part for the first

time in US

airstrikes to target ISIL or Da’esh. So the airstrikes will continue but of

course the challenge is to

ensure that the security forces on the ground of

Iraq and the moderate Syrian forces in Syria can take back that

territory and

protect the people.



Yet to formally make the decision

about whether or not Australian aircrafts can cross the border

into Syria. Now

of course the United States wanted Australia to do that from the start - they

wanted our missions

to be able to disregard the border, fly into Syria as well

- what’s changing? We decided then that the legal

technicalities made it not

worth us committing to that or restricting our actions to Iraqi airspace,

what’s changed

that we want to re-examine this?



It is effectively one theatre of war,

one conflict, because Da’esh began in Iraq, moved into Syria

and is now back in

Iraq, and that border area between Syria and Iraq is essentially ungoverned

space. Neither the

Assad regime nor the Abadi Government…



But that was always the case.



Hang on Chris, but there was a large

coalition of countries committing to support the United

States and there have

been a number of countries carrying out airstrikes in Iraq - Australia

supported that

because we were asked by the Iraqi Government so it was


In the case

of Syria it is more complex. The legal situation is different. The United

States is relying on the principle

of collective self-defence, Turkey is

relying individual and collective self-defence. We have now been asked to


on Syria. We are considering that. We will take our own legal advice and

consult with Coalition partners and

other stakeholders in this and make a

decision on this.



Of course it is more complex in a

legal sense because there’s a sovereign government who is not

going to invite

you in to help them defend their territory in Syria. This is where the United

Nations Security Council

could be useful, but your old friend Russia of course

will stymie any action to get United Nations cover for more

serious operations.



That’s right and the difficulty with

Syria is that the Assad regime will seek to benefit from any

attacks on ISIL or

Islamic State/Da’esh. But any attacks by the Coalition should not be seen as

support for Assad.

I mean his regime has been horrendous in its behaviour, its

conduct against its own people.

But what we

are seeking to do is contain and defeat Da’esh so that its tentacles can’t

spread further and of course

we have 120 or more Australians who are fighting

with Da’esh and we are concerned that as hardened terrorists

they might make

their way back to Australia and seek to carry out a terrorist act here.



I presume you’d like to see more

action in Iraq and Syria by the Europeans, both the EU and

European nations

doing more to deal with this threat. Do you think they might start to do more

given the people

smuggling crisis that is rising to unspeakable levels in

Europe now which is driven in part of course by what’s

happening in Syria as

well as in Libya. Doesn’t this show that the Europeans need to do more about


situations in the source countries?



I think that the crisis that is

unfolding in Europe will focus their attention - this humanitarian crisis


unprecedented. The UNHCR estimates that around 40 per cent of those currently

seeking asylum in Europe are

coming from Syria and there are a significant

number also coming from Libya and also up through the horn of

Africa - Nigeria,

Somalia, Mali as well as Afghanistan. So the conflict in North Africa and the

Middle East is having

a huge impact on Europe.

And while

there are European nations already involved in the Coalition undertaking

airstrikes - Netherlands,

Poland, Belgium, a number of countries are supporting

the US - this will really focus their minds on trying to

prevent the flow of

asylum seekers and some are economic asylum seekers, others are fleeing

persecution, war,

conflict. It will focus their attention on trying to resolve

the situation at its source and that will include military and


solutions in both Syria and Iraq.



And when will Australia formally make

the decision on whether or not to approve these operations

in Syria - possibly

we read based out of Turkey, which is a turnaround for the history books,

Australian forces

operating out of Turkey.



There is no specific timeframe. The US

have asked us to consider this and they are continuing

their airstrikes. The

Canadians, the Brits, the Jordanians, they are all involved. We will take our

own legal advice,

we will consult with Coalition partners and then we will make

a decision.



Now there have been some horrible

political claims suggesting that the whole question of going

into Syria was

raised as an attempt at having a khaki by-election in Canning. This is patently

nonsense because

the conversation between Tony Abbott and Barack Obama about

this predates the untimely death of Don Randall.



It occurred weeks ago. In fact, the

issue of Syria and being one theatre of war with Iraq has been

around for

months. We were discussing this with the United States very early on. As you

said, the United States

has always seen this as one theatre of war. They

believe that the legal principle of collective self-defence of Iraq

and its

people justifies their airstrikes over Syria. So this is an issue that has been

on the agenda for a long time.



I raise this as a segue into those

major issues of state and international crisis into the grubby


politics. Because that kind of ridiculous conspiracy theory is being pushed not

just by people on Twitter

but by Ray Martin on Channel Ten I noticed last week,

who has been appointed by the ABC to look at ABC-bias on

Q&A. It just shows

that the level of debate in this country is reaching the lowest levels




That is an utterly false assumption

and just looking at the timeline shows there is nothing in it.

And to suggest

that we are trying to contrive this outcome in the Canning by-election is

offensive and ridiculous.

Of course, the Canning by-election has come about as

a result of the untimely death of my friend and colleague

Don Randall.

It has

nothing to do with our commitment to the Iraqi Government and the notion of

collective self-defence of Iraq.

We’ve been in Iraq for some time now - coming

up to 12 months or more - so it was just a ridiculous suggestion

and really

doesn’t reflect well on Ray Martin.



Well it doesn’t. But look at those

other excerpts I showed at the start of the program in relation to

this Border

Force story in Melbourne. You have Andrew Wilkie invoking Stalin who was

responsible for millions of

death and the East German regime. You’ve got Tony

Windsor suggesting that your Government wants to provoke

a terrorist act on our

shores. How do you deal with this - not just these swipes - but the fact that

they are run,

particularly on the ABC, unquestioned? How are you going to fight

back against this sort of hysteria?



There is nothing like relevance

deprivation syndrome is there? And in the case of Mr Wilkie and

Mr Windsor,

they obviously have an acute case of it. But to draw some sort of parallel

between arbitrary,

totalitarian regimes and the Australian Government is

complete and utter nonsense. It makes them look ridiculous

but it is also

preposterous. For sensible - seemingly sensible - elected representatives to

try and draw analogies

between Hitler’s Germany, Pinochet’s regime, Stalin’s

Russia and a misguided press release, it is just




Let’s just clarify. Obviously it was a

poorly worded press release, but you are a lawyer, are our law


officers - whether they are customs, border force, police or whatever - are

they able to randomly

pull people on the streets and demand their

identification and the likes? My understanding, that is now within our

rule of




Absolutely not, and that was never the

intention and certainly is not government policy. It was

never going to happen,

and anybody with an ounce of sense could see that there was a mistake in the

wording of

the press release. The Border Force made it quite clear that it was

a very poorly worded press release and

people could have taken it the wrong

way. But we came out and said clearly this was not the intention, this was


going to happen and anyone who knew anything about law enforcement in this

country knew it wouldn’t be




Yet Bill Shorten talks about a ‘Police

State’ - a quasi ‘Police State’.



Well that is outrageous language. A

‘Police State’ - meaning a totalitarian regime - is just

nonsense. But I think

the Australian voters are smart enough to see this kind of overgrown hyperbole

is just

ridiculous in these circumstances.



I want to ask you about Bill Shorten

because he of course is also attacking the trade union royal

commission. He has

joined with the ACTU - the Labor party really trying to get Dyson Heydon to

stand aside - he

will announce that decision tomorrow. Can you tell us that

whatever Dyson Heydon decides to do that the royal

commission will continue?

Because otherwise we are seeing it shut down by the very people who it has made

revelations about.



Bill Shorten has very selective

outrage. He is outraged about poorly worded press release but he

is not

outraged about the systemic corruption in the union movement. And those who are

leading the charge

against Dyson Heydon and that includes Bill Shorten, have

one motivation and that is to stop the investigation into

corrupt union

officials and behaviour that was ripping off honest union workers.

They are

trying to protect these union officials from further investigation. Already

about 26 officials have been

referred for further investigation and

prosecution. And so for those who are trying to close down this royal

commission, all they are trying to do is protect corruption and behaviour that

was working against the interests of

honest union members.



So will they fail no matter what Dyson

Heydon decides? The royal commission will continue



This Royal Commission

must continue on behalf of those honest union members who have been

ripped off

by corrupt union bosses, who put their own personal interests ahead of the

people they are meant to be




Two matters I want to clear up before

I let you go. One is Canning, you have been on the ground

campaigning with

Andrew Hastie. What is your assessment of how he has recovered from that

initial smear

against him and what are the issues that it is going to be fought

on - local or is it very much a referendum on the

Abbott Government?



He is an outstanding Australian. He

will bring rare insights and qualities for the role of a Member

for Canning. I

believe that he is one of the most outstanding candidates I’ve seen on either

side of politics for a

very, very long time - a serving officer in the SAS, he

brings those leadership qualities.



So there is no chance he will lose if

he’s such a great candidate and you have an 11 per cent

margin, the Government

can be in no fear of losing the seat.



I have every confidence that the

people of Canning will want a person of his temperament and his

character to

represent them, and that is what it is all about. This is a by-election, there

will always be challenges

for the incumbent Government during a by-election,

but this has come about because of the untimely death of Don

Randall and the

people of Canning get to choose who they want to represent them in Canberra.

And I don’t

believe they can find anybody more outstanding, more committed to

their interests than Andrew Hastie.



Well speaking about politicians and

ambition and how much they can deliver, I also want to ask

you in the context

of possible reshuffles, a lot of talk there could be a reshuffle in the

Government’s frontbench

later in the year. You of course when you were first

Deputy Liberal Leader in Opposition had the Shadow Treasury

portfolio, a lot of

political drama around that, and Joe Hockey took the job you went into Foreign

Affairs. It hasn’t

really worked out for Joe Hockey and he seemed very much

like the weak link in the Government, don’t we need

one of the Government’s

best campaigners, best advocates in that crucial treasury portfolio?



We have to remember that Joe Hockey as

Treasurer inherited the worse set of national accounts

of any government in

living memory. Yet only six years earlier the Labor Government under Kevin Rudd


inherited the very best set of financial accounts. So Joe has had to deal

with not only the debt and deficit that was

brought about by six years of Labor

incompetence and mismanagement of our national finances, but is also


with an irresponsible Labor group of Senators…



We know it is a tough job, but the

point is most observers in the country think that Malcolm

Turnbull or Scott

Morrison or even yourself could do a better job than Joe Hockey.



Well rather than criticise Joe I would

call on Labor to work with him, accept responsibility for the

legacy they left

- the worse debt and deficit that we have ever seen in Australia’s history -

and work with him to find

the solutions.

They are

being irresponsible in the Senate, they are blocking even their own savings

that they put up. They are

blocking the establishment of the ABCC - which is a

productivity measure bringing back lawful practices in our

workplaces, our

building sites - and yet Labor is blocking it. So Joe has a very tough gig but

I am sure he is up for




There you go, we have spent the best

part of 15 minutes with you. You are a former board

member of the West Coast

Eagles, of course, as a big Crows man I haven’t even mentioned football today,


very much for your time.



It’s not today, but well done the

Crows, but it is the Grand Final that counts.

Media enquiries

Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500

DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555