Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Longman for his question. The threat posed by the rise of extremism, as exemplified by the brutality of the ISIL group, represents the most serious challenge to Australian national security for many years. It is not confined to our shores; it is a global and regional threat to international security and to the domestic security of many nations around the world, including our near neighbours.
Of the 150 or so Australians involved in the conflict in one way or another in Syria and Iraq, we believe that 15 Australians have already been killed fighting in these conflicts and that two Australian suicide bombers have also been killed. Foreign fighters from Europe, North America and Arab states have been joined by extremists from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, indeed China and others. History reminds us that extremists from the region who fought in Afghanistan were responsible for some of the most shocking attacks in South-East Asia, including the Bali bombings in 2002, when 88 Australians were killed; again, Bali bombings in 2005; the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004; and the bombing of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in 2009.
Through the measures that the Australian government has announced recently, we are building on a network of regional and bilateral counter-terrorism agreements. We have 17 in total; 13 of these are with countries in our region. At the recent East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, I met with many foreign ministers of countries in our region to discuss expanding counter-terrorism cooperation through increased intelligence sharing, supporting border and transport security, and increasing law enforcement cooperation. With the terrorist threat so prominent on our national security agenda, it is fitting that this evening I travel to Indonesia to sign a joint understanding with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. This will lay the groundwork for even greater cooperation in the area of intelligence sharing. Indeed, our intelligence agencies will be coordinating at a higher level than ever before, including in relation to the issue of foreign fighters.
Terrorism and the threat posed by it does not respect international borders, nor does it resile from ruthlessly targeting civilians, as we have seen in the most graphic and barbaric way in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The Australian government is determined to work with our partners in the region to keep our people safe.