Thursday, 28 August 2014
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Robertson for her question. I reiterate to this House today, as I have on earlier days, that the safety of the community is our first duty. It is the first duty of government, and I acknowledge the commitment of this parliament—both sides of this parliament—to upholding that duty by supporting strong national security laws and strong national security agencies.
As this House knows, there are, regrettably, a growing number of Australians who are fighting with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. There are 60 that we know of, who are fighting with these murderous groups. There are 100 that we know of, who are working with and facilitating the work of these murderous groups.
There are people who are killing without compunction in these countries, and the fear is that there would be at least a predisposition to kill without compunction should they return to Australia. That is why we need more resources for our security agencies—hence the government's commitment of an additional $630 million. We need stronger laws to deal with people returning from terrorist activity overseas, to boost agency powers, to strengthen anti-terrorist offences and to retain access to telecommunications metadata for crime-fighting purposes. This is why we need counter-terrorism units at our international airports, such as those units that became operational late last week.
I can inform the House that yesterday the government signed an agreement for data-sharing between the United States and Australia, which will make it easier to monitor people on national security watch lists. I stress that data-sharing will take place in conformity with both countries' privacy laws. I further stress that it is terrorism that is being targeted, not members of any particular community. It is extremism that is our enemy, not religion.
I wish to stress to this House and to the Australian people that this government and this parliament will do everything that is reasonably necessary to keep our community safe.