Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Gilmore for her question and I can reassure her and all members of the Australian community that the safety of our nation is the first priority of government. It is the first priority of this government. It was the first priority of the former government. It has been the first priority of every Australian government as it should be. But, regrettably, at least 60 Australians are known to have gone overseas to fight with terrorist groups in Syria and northern Iraq, including with the ISIL movement, and about 100 Australians are known to have been supporting or facilitating these terrorist groups.
We know what these people can do. We have seen it on our screens and we must make sure that it never happens here in this country of ours. We need the capacity to deal with people, preferably to stop them from going overseas to join terrorist groups in the first place but, certainly, to stop them, should they seek to return to this country.
The government has recently announced a further $630 million in new funding for the Australian Federal Police, for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, for the Office of National Assessments and for the Customs and Border Protection Service. I am pleased to remind the House that soon there will be biometric screening at all our international airports.
I want to stress that extremism is our enemy, not religion, and that it is terrorism that is being targeted, not the members of any particular community.
I make a further announcement today that late last week the Customs and Border Protection Service began operating counter-terrorism units at Sydney and Melbourne international airports, and similar units will shortly be established at all international airports in Australia. There will be an additional 80 Border Force officers stationed at international airports to monitor the movements of people on our national security watchlists. I am advised that these new units have already intercepted at least one person of interest. I do want to assure the House that this government will do—I am sure this parliament will do—everything that is reasonably necessary to keep our country safe.