Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Lyons for his question and I can assure him that the safety of the community will always be the first priority of government. It has been the first priority of governments of all political persuasions; it will certainly be the first priority of this government.
I think all Australians, and I am sure every member of this House, have watched events unfolding in northern Iraq and eastern Syria with growing horror. We have seen with our own eyes on our screens and on the front pages of our newspapers beheadings, crucifixions and mass executions of innocent people. We have beheld the holding hostage, as it were, of tens of thousands of minority people on Mount Sinjar, and I am pleased and proud to say that the Royal Australian Air Force has been part of humanitarian relief efforts there.
What we have seen in recent weeks is medieval barbarism, perpetrated and spread with the most modern of technology. Regrettably, what might otherwise be horrific events in a faraway country have, because of the interconnectedness of the modern world, ramifications here. What happens somewhere these days tends to have ramifications everywhere. And, regrettably, some 60 Australians are known to be fighting with various terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria. Some 100 Australians are known to be supporting and facilitating these same terrorist organisations.
The vast majority of these people are Australians born and bred. At some point in time at least some of the 60 will seek to return to Australia. We need to be able to deal with them when they return to their home. A few weeks ago the government announced there will be $630 million in additional support for our intelligence and security agencies. In addition, there will be three pieces of legislation to strengthen agency powers to make it easier to detain and jail people returning from terrorist activities and to ensure we keep the necessary telecommunications metadata.
I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that the enemy here is terrorism. It is not any particular faith; it is not any particular community. But I do have a clear message to people thinking of going overseas to join in terrorist activity: do not go—because if you do, and if you return, you will be arrested and you will be jailed.
I seek to associate the opposition with the Prime Minister's remarks with regard to the work of the RAAF in terms of the humanitarian missions in northern Iraq. They are highly professional and the best people possible to do this very risky job.