House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013


National Security

3:17 pm

Photo of Michael KeenanMichael Keenan (Stirling, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection) Share this | Hansard source

I second the motion. I do so because we are dealing today with one of the gravest national security breaches that have occurred under this government and in recent memory. I say that, because we know a lot about this case. I will list the reasons why I say this is a grave breach of national security. The individual whom we are talking about today is a member of Egyptian Islamic jihad, an organisation that merged with al-Qaeda prior to the September 11 attacks in the United States, an organisation which was headed at the time by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who people will know took over the leadership of al-Qaeda once Osama bin Laden was killed. It also furnished other leadership positions within al-Qaeda, including Mohammed Atta, who led the attacks on September 11 in the United States. Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atta, both from the Islamic jihad organisation, share membership of that organisation with an individual whom this government has placed in what is essentially low security detention in the Adelaide Hills, surrounded by the equivalent of a pool fence.

The crimes that this man has not been accused of but convicted of through an Egyptian court, in 1999, include: premeditated murder, destruction of property, firearm possession, possession of explosive devices without a permit, membership of a terrorist group and forgery of documents. He has been convicted of crimes both inside and outside Egypt. He arrived in Australia, apparently, in May last year and was subsequently, within a very short space of time, released in Inverbrackie.

Since then, ASIO and the AFP have both taken an interest in this individual. ASIO went through a process where they formally identified him on 25 August last year and, on 30 August, they notified the department of immigration that, within their low security family facility in the Adelaide Hills, they had a convicted terrorist, a member of Egyptian Islamic jihad. What do the department of immigration do? Absolutely nothing, under the failed leadership of these ministers and the Labor Party.

Subsequently and astonishingly, in November last year the Australian Federal Police, who were apparently conducting a parallel investigation, reported the same facts to the department of immigration that, within their Inverbrackie low security facility, they were holding a convicted Egyptian terrorist. What did the department do? Absolutely nothing. In fact, nothing happened to this individual, even though Australia's domestic security agency and the Australian Federal Police had reported who he was to the department. Nothing happened to this individual until the West Australianpublished a story, on 16 April this year, that he was being held in Inverbrackie. Only subsequent to that story being published was this individual taken from low security and placed in the more secure environment of the Villawood Detention Centre. Once the matter was raised in the newspapers I wrote to the minister in my capacity as the acting shadow minister for immigration. He wrote back to me and he said:

Where further information of a security or criminal nature comes to hand, the department works with relevant agencies to ensure placements remain appropriate.

Does this minister, Minister O'Connor, sitting at the table, seriously believe that Inverbrackie, a family detention facility, is an appropriate place for a convicted Jihadist terrorist? If he does, in one minute's time he will be able to get up and explain to the House why he feels that is appropriate.

If this were the only situation we were dealing with in terms of grave security breaches for people who have come here courtesy of people smugglers then it would be bad enough. But what we know is that there are other cases—maybe many other cases. For instance, a Sri Lankan man accused of murder arrives in Australia courtesy of a people smuggler and he is not released into low security detention; he is released into the community on a bridging visa. And there was a suspected Iranian drug smuggler—again, held in a low security environment.

It is bad enough that we have lost control over who is coming here—and if you cannot control who comes here then you will leave that space open for criminals to take advantage of our border weakness—but when people are dealt with in this way, and when they have been identified as people who surely pose a danger to the Australian community, then we would expect that any government that takes national security seriously would make sure that they are housed in appropriate detention accommodation. But this government have failed to do that, and they have failed this test of national security.


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