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Foreign Minister discusses terrorist attack in Mumbai.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HON STEPHEN MR SMITH, MP

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: 29 November 2008

TITLE: Radio Interview on AM Program, ABC

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, says that he's worried about the safety of dozens of Australians still missing after the terrorist attacks. Indian officials say four Australians have died and a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said officials were urgently seeking to confirm the safety and welfare of 37 other Australians.

Australia's Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, is currently in London and he spoke to our correspondent, Phillip Williams.

STEPHEN SMITH: There are a number of Australians whose names were drawn to attention, who we have been able to account for but I can't discount that there may not be Australians amongst the victims, or further Australians amongst the victims so we just have to wait patiently while the Indian authorities go through the painstaking process of clearing the hotel and identifying victims.

We're also again checking the hospitals to ensure that there are no Australians there either receiving treatment nor who are casualties.

PHILLIP WILLIAMS: Now there have been reports of a number of bodies being found as these hotels have been cleared. How long will it take, do you

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think, before we know whether there are other Australians involved, who have been caught up in that?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well unfortunately I can't put a timetable on that. I think we have to say days rather than hours. It's a terrible painstaking process. And I think also we're - we are better off proceeding with caution, waiting until we have definitive information. I can't discount there may not be further Australians amongst the victims. We simply have to wait for the painstaking process to occur.

PHILLIP WILLIAMS: And for those that have survived and been through a terrifying ordeal, can you outline what sort of support you're offering them?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well we're moving additional officers to Mumbai, additional consular officers. People are being assisted to get new passports to enable them to travel. They'll also have open to them counselling and medical attention if they need it. And of course the Prime Minister and Jenny Macklin have announced a financial assistance package for those people who have been unfortunately caught up in this.

So all of the things that we can do for people who've been caught up in it we think we're doing, making arrangements to help get them back to Australia, assisting with counselling, making sure that they're treated as well as possible in terrible circumstances.

PHILLIP WILLIAMS: Now of course Australia and India's linkages have been growing, it's been tremendous trade opportunities opening up. This surely is going to have a - put the brakes on that, that is going to make Australians very reluctant to travel there.

STEPHEN SMITH: Well as you know, unfortunately in the face of this terrible attack, we've increased our travel advisory to Australians to reconsider

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their need to travel. So that obviously will be a factor. But I spoke, as you know, to External Affairs Minister Mukherjee yesterday, indicated that Australia is a great friend of India. We want India to be in the front line of our international relationships. don't need to take that assistance at this point in time but if they need that or any other assistance they'll ask for it and it'll be given. So in some respects in difficult times neighbours and partners and friends get closer together.

So whilst there will be difficulties in terms of travel, in some respects this will help make us closer as neighbours and as friends. We stand shoulder to shoulder with India at this very difficult time. We've offered the forensic assistance of the Australian Federal Police if that's required. That's a standing offer. The Indians have indicated to us that they don't need to take that assistance at this point in time but if they need that or any other assistance they'll ask for it and it'll be given. So in some respects in difficult times neighbours and partners and friends get closer together.

[Ends]