Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister advise the House of the action the government is taking to ensure that we have a strategic and coordinated approach to combating the threat of terrorism at home and abroad?
The world is now facing a new terrorist threat, and I thank the member for Berowra for his question. He well knows the heightened security risk that this country is facing through the rise of an extreme ideology that inspires its followers to engage in barbarism and brutal acts that are designed to shock and terrify. Who can forget the appalling image of a young Australian boy holding the severed head of what is said to be a Syrian soldier, or the images of the beheading of American journalist James Foley?
ISIL, or Islamic State, is bringing a reign of terror to Syria and northern Iraq as it seeks to exterminate its opponents—that is, anyone who will not willingly submit to its ideals. But this is not an isolated issue for Syria and Iraq, because this is a threat that has implications for all nations. Indeed, thousands of potential terrorists from a dozen countries or more are leaving our region, the Middle East, Europe, the United States and elsewhere to join the conflict. They are becoming radicalised and skilled in terrorist activities and are gaining the experience that we fear they will bring home to their own countries. Shockingly, Australian nationals are figuring prominently in the ranks of ISIL. About 60, as the Prime Minister said, are currently fighting in the conflict; about 100 more, we believe, are providing support, including finance.
The government has demonstrated firm and decisive leadership. ISIL or any iteration is listed as a terrorist organisation. Being involved with ISIL can bring prosecution and offences with penalties of up to 25 years. I am cancelling passports for or not providing passports to those who have received an adverse security assessment. We are talking to our counterparts in the region. This morning, I spoke to Secretary of State John Kerry about a plan that Australia and the United States have to bring this issue to the United Nations during the General Assembly leaders' week in September. We have issued a travel advisory at the highest possible level. If you are in Iraq or Syria, leave. If you are planning to go, don't. We have also introduced legislation to enhance our capabilities to deal with this terrorist threat. We have also announced a package of some $630 million to increase our counterterrorism capabilities.
This is the highest national security risk that we face and we will not rest until we are sure that the Australian people are safe and secure from it.
on indulgence—Very briefly, I wish to say that the opposition shares the concerns of the government relating to violence against ethnic and religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.