House debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Matters of Public Importance

National Security

3:16 pm

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

s ANDREWS () (): I start by saying that the protection of Australians should be the No. 1 priority of any government. When the coalition were in government, we took that very seriously and we always acted to make sure that Australians were protected and that they were kept safe. Community safety forms a very key part of that national security and making sure that Australians are protected.

After weeks of media reporting about the potential repatriation of dozens of Australian people in Syria, on Saturday 29 October 2022 the government confirmed by media release that it had 'repatriated four Australian women and their 13 Australian children to New South Wales from an internally displaced persons camp in Syria'. It went on:

Informed by national security advice, the Government has carefully considered the range of security, community and welfare factors in making the decision to repatriate.

That full release can be found on the Home Affairs website. I would draw the attention of those here today to what the government said they had considered, which was a range of security issues—and I do hope that they did take into account the security implications of bringing those women and their children to Australia, because the advice was very clear about the risks that were associated with Australians going into those camps to bring out women and children. There was also very clear advice about the impacts on our community of these people coming back to Australia, and there was very clear advice about the costs that there would be to make sure that these people were properly monitored when they were in Australia. So security was one of the issues the government claimed that it considered. The government also said that it took into consideration welfare factors, but little has been said about that. Of particular concern in this matter of public importance are in relation to the words 'community factors'.

Last week, I met in Sydney with the mayors of Liverpool, Fairfield and Campbelltown councils, and I discussed multiple issues arising from the Labor government's decision to repatriate a group of individuals from those camps in Syria. One thing that was made abundantly clear to me by the mayors, on behalf of their communities, was the disappointment that they felt by the way the government had treated them, largely pushing aside their concerns and refusing to make any contact with them—dismissing the concerns that they genuinely had on behalf of their communities.

Those three mayors were very passionate about representing their communities, and I commend them for that. They have been particularly outspoken about their concerns regarding the way that they have been treated by the government. They have tried, on a number of occasions, to reach out to the government and to speak with local members, with ministers or with the Prime Minister. It's actually got to the point where they have raised concerns so many times, without hearing back, that they've offered to jointly pay to attend a fundraiser that's supposed to be attended by the Prime Minister. An article in the Daily Telegraph said:

Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone, Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun, and Campbelltown Mayor George Greiss told The Daily Telegraph that they would do "whatever it takes" to raise concerns of their communities with Mr Albanese.

"If it takes $1500 to attend his event just so we can put forward our community view, we are happy to pay it," Mr Carbone said.

I have publicly stated on a number of occasions that the views of local government should certainly be taken into account and that those mayors should be listened to, particularly on such important issues as resettling wives of terrorists and their children in their community.

Let's understand Western Sydney and the concerns that the people in those communities very rightly have. Some of the people who are living there had to flee from ISIS. They witnessed firsthand overseas what impact ISIS had on them. They saw their friends killed. They perhaps saw members of their family killed, in some cases by being beheaded in front of them. They are so concerned about the impacts of ISIS that they feel particularly terrorised. But here they are. They are in Australia, where they had felt safe. They are in Western Sydney, in a community where they felt safe, and now they are facing—


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