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Transcript - 23824

Interview with David Koch and Samantha Armytage, Sunrise, Seven Network

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 15/09/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23824

Subject(s): Australian Defence Force contribution to international coalition against ISIL

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Prime Minister, good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

‘Morning, Sam, ‘morning, Kochie.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

When will our forces begin leaving, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

You may well see the air element leave by the end of the week, and some of the Special Forces may well leave before then.

DAVID KOCH:

Ok. Who else has joined, if you like, this new coalition of the willing? Who’s committed?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a coalition that has been put together by President Obama, and all credit to President Obama who has acted methodically and purposefully. It’s been measured and prudent and careful. President Obama, as you know, has not been quick to reach for the gun here and that’s as it should be. But, so far, of Western countries that are prepared to be engaged in military action, there’s the United States, Britain, France, Canada, and of Middle Eastern countries, those that have so far committed to military action against ISIL are Jordan, Bahrain and the Emirates.

So, this is a very broad coalition and it’s getting broader all the time because the ISIL movement is a threat, not just to the people of Northern Iraq, it’s a threat to the entire Middle East. It’s a threat which is reaching out to us, Kochie, because, as you know, there are at least 60 Australians that we know of who are fighting in the Middle East with terrorist groups like ISIL and their murderous rage, as we’ve seen on our TV screens, it extends to people like us. They hate us, not for what we’ve done, but for who we are and how we live.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Ok. This is going to be quite a tricky operation, Prime Minister, because of how the Islamic State fights and how they move. Given how they operate, how will we know when our mission is accomplished?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sam, the objective is to work with the Iraqi Government, to work with the regional government in the Kurdish parts of Iraq. We aren’t going in there against the will of the elected government; we are going there at the invitation, with the welcome of the elected government. Our objective is to work with the Iraqis, to work with the Kurds to ensure that they are able to keep their people safe, they are able to maintain reasonable control over their territory and they are able to ensure that ISIL, in their territory, is no more effective.

DAVID KOCH:

As Sam was saying, it is tricky because the elected government are no angels; they’re pretty ruthless as well.

PRIME MINISTER:

I take your point, Kochie, but this is a new Iraqi government. Obviously, the Government of Mr Maliki, which has now gone, was quite sectarian, and one of the reasons why ISIL was able to get such momentum in Northern Iraq was because of the alienation of the Sunni tribes of that part of the country. But, the new Government of Mr Abadi – and I spoke to Mr Abadi just a couple of days ago – he stressed to me his absolute determination to form an inclusive government, a government that could bring people together, and it’s important for countries like Australia, like the United States, like Britain, France and Canada, to work sympathetically with governments that are trying to do the right thing under impossibly difficult circumstances.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

As you say, this is basically a tribal war that has been boiling for hundreds of years. Do you, as a Government, put an endpoint on a military commitment like this one? Can you give us any sort of specific timeframe, or do we just see how it goes?

PRIME MINISTER:

But, Sam, it’s not just a tribal war. If that’s all it was, Australia wouldn’t be involved. What we saw yesterday was the third public execution on our TV screens of a Westerner by a Westerner fighting with this particular group. This is a new level of threat; it’s a new level of evil. ISIL are not just another Middle Eastern tribe. They are highly ideological; in fact they’re a death cult. That’s why this is different and worse than anything that we’ve seen before. That’s why it’s important that the whole world mobilise against this movement and that’s what Australia is participating in. This is a mobilisation led by President Obama with the full support, cooperation and assistance of the Iraqi Government to tackle a threat to the entire world.

DAVID KOCH:

News Corp is reporting this morning police have stepped up the search for rocket launchers believed to be buried in Sydney bushland. Do you believe that they could be used for an attack on home soil here? You’re quite rightly pointing out the number of Aussies and Brits who are over there fighting for ISIL. Does this put us on the frontline at home of terror attacks?

PRIME MINISTER:

We’ve been on the frontline for potential terror attacks for quite some time. As the outgoing Director-General of Security has been saying in recent weeks, for months now the threat has been building. It is dramatically intensified by the exhortations that are coming from ISIL operatives in the Middle East to their networks in Australia. It’s intensified by the fact that there are people who have been fighting in the Middle East who have returned to Australia radicalised, brutalised, militarised by the experience. These are people, I regret to say, Kochie, who have the intention and the capacity to do us harm, but I’m confident that our security services are at least one step ahead of them.

DAVID KOCH:

Oh good. That’s comforting.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Exactly, and that’s very good to hear, Prime Minister.

Now, you’re obviously in Arnhem Land this week to meet with indigenous leaders and indigenous representatives. Are you committed to seeing out the week there while this coalition is taking shape and may leave the country?

PRIME MINISTER:

Obviously, if there are dramatic new developments I can move if needs be, but the point, Sam, that I should make, is that the ordinary business of government goes on despite this commitment to deploy forces to the Middle East with a mind to engage down the track in combat operations should further decisions be needed. But, at all times up here in Arnhem Land, as you can see, it’s possible to communicate and I think I’m planning a couple of teleconferences today with people in Canberra to ensure not only that the ordinary business of government is going on, but that we are properly monitoring the deployment of our military forces and the situation abroad.

DAVID KOCH:

Are you in favour of constitutional recognition of our first Australians – indigenous Australians?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think just about everyone is, Kochie. I think we’re all in favour of doing the right thing by Aboriginal people and the point I make is that the right constitutional change will complete our Constitution rather than change it as such. The important thing now is to set a timetable for this. We shouldn’t rush it. It’s more important that we get it right than we rush it, because the last thing anyone ought to want is to put a proposal of this nature to the people and have it fail.

So, part of my task this week is to try to build a consensus for change; change that does help lift Aboriginal people, that does help to ensure that never again do the first Australians feel like strangers in their own country, but which is a unifying moment for everyone, not a ‘them and us’ moment. My hope, Kochie, is that if we get this right we can go forward, not as them and us, but as a better and greater us. That’s my hope.

DAVID KOCH:

Good luck with that. Alright, good luck for the week ahead.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

I know, a big week on all fronts. Thanks for your time, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, Sam, thank you, Kochie.

[ends]

Transcript - 23824