House debates

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Statements on Indulgence

National Security

10:01 am

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Australians are entitled to express concern about involvement in another international conflict. The memory of our previous venture into Iraq a mere decade ago still lingers, as does how that involvement has contributed to the human tragedy which is currently unfolding in the Middle East. The misguided and poorly planned coalition of the willing, which was opposed by the United Nations and most European states, led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. That was largely responsible for creating the power vacuum impacting all levels of Iraq's administration and bureaucracy, which has in turn contributed to the rise of terrorist groups such as ISIL. For the record, we should not—and should never—refer to them as the 'Islamic State' because, I think, that is offensive to anyone of faith, particularly those of the Muslim faith.

We know that since 2003 more than 1.4 million Christians, Assyrians, Chaldean Catholics, Mandaeans, Yazidis and other minorities have fled their homeland or faced what could only be referred to as a genocide. Thousands of families are being driven from their homes, with innocent people being killed and women and girls being raped and forced into sexual servitude. The simple fact is that the international community has no choice. The international community must take action to support vulnerable communities and minorities, and therefore we should be committed to being in Iraq.

It is for that very reason that Labor fully supports Australia's contribution to the international humanitarian mission. That is why Labor also supports the military assistance and efforts to degrade ISIL and prevent further genocide. Particularly when the Iraqi government is requesting help from the international community to protect its people from further atrocities, it means it is time for Australia to act. Given the fact that we were part of the coalition of the willing, Australia holds a higher moral responsibility to lend assistance in this instance.

I have the honour of representing the most multicultural community in the whole of Australia. The colour, the vibrancy and the diversity of my community is something that I have great pride in. My electorate also has a very high proportion of Muslim Australians, many of whom in recent weeks are certainly feeling stigmatised by the crimes and atrocities committed by ISIL.

Over the past few weeks I have been visiting many members of the Islamic community in my electorate. I know Australian Muslims to be, in the main, good, honest and hardworking people. I also know how repulsed they are by the crimes and atrocities being committed by ISIL, particularly when it is being said that those crimes are being committed in the name of religion.

One thing that is common at the various mosques and Islamic schools that I visit is that they are angry that their religion is being hijacked by extremists. We know that there are a number of Australians fighting alongside terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. We understand that a lot of these people have left Australia against the wishes of their families and communities. Therefore, it is only right that Australia takes every effort to stop young people, for whatever reason, seeking to leave this country to fight with terrorist groups. The new national security laws give our law enforcement and intelligence services the ability, or a greater ability, to do that. Where there is credible evidence of these people intending to join terrorist groups, we should be intervening. We should not simply be preventing people exiting this country; we should make sure that we are doing enough to provide services to families and communities to ensure that ISIL's cause is not embedded in their psyche that they need to join a terrorist organisation in order to make a difference.

One thing that we do have and celebrate in this country is our democracy. People are entitled to have views, but people are not entitled to take extreme views to the extent of working in concert with a terrorist organisation, an organisation that detests not only our free and democratic way of life but everything that we stand for. That is really what our new national security laws are intended to do: they are there to protect the freedom and our way of life.

ISIL's hatred is intolerable, and hence our renewed commitment in Iraq. But can I just say hatred in our own community, impacting on fellow Australians—in this case Muslim Australians—regardless of their religion or beliefs, is also intolerable. It is intolerable to our way of life. It is simply un-Australian.

Muslim Australians who peacefully follow their religion, with a faith of peace, should not be associated in any way, in any of our communities, with the twisted ideology of ISIL. I say this not just as a member of parliament who represents a large Islamic community but also as someone who, like most here, shares a deep love of family. I am a father of three and, yesterday with the arrival of Arabella, a grandfather of seven, so family is really important to me. I understand how family structures develop and how we constantly stand by and support our families, particularly in times of need.

Just as a bit of background, my daughter's sister-in-law, Celeste, married this really lively young local bloke, Kenny Darwich, and over a period of time they have had two delightful children, Ayah and Zane. Being very close and at the same age as my grandchildren, Ayah and Zane have grown up calling me 'pop', and for all intents and purposes I see them as my grandchildren. Kenny and Celeste have raised their kids in a loving household, very active in sport and community affairs. They, like many people of faith, have favoured private religious based education for their children. Their children attend Amity College in Liverpool, which is an Islamic school. You see, Kenny and his family are Muslims. While my family have grown up in the Catholic religion and my children have attended Catholic schools, as I did, and I do attend mass on Sundays, under my roof there is no distinction between our two families. Sure, we make allowances for Ramadan, when we have our Sunday meals during that, and for Eid—as does Kenny. When we visited his place one time on Ash Wednesday, he made sure he did not serve us meat. We are conscious of each other's religious beliefs. Kenny's children, Aya and Zane, should be able to grow up like any other Australian kids. The fact that Kenny and his family follow their religion and practise their faith should not be the reason that anyone in our community would seek to associate them or others like them with the abhorrent crimes of ISIL.

I wish to finish almost where I started. Australia cannot stand by while ISIL and its supporters perpetrate crimes of hatred and genocide against the innocent people of Iraq. Australia has a higher moral responsibility, given our initial involvement in Iraq in 2003, and I remind the House once more that the consequences of that engagement have largely set the path for the creation and development of an organisation such as ISIL. We do have a responsibility to degrade this organisation. We have that responsibility on behalf of humanity.

10:11 am

Photo of Andrew SouthcottAndrew Southcott (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support the Prime Minister's motion and to support the measured approach that the Prime Minister has taken on this issue. There are three key messages from the Australian government. Firstly, the first priority of any Australian government is to keep people safe. Secondly, this approach is directed against terrorism and not against religion. Thirdly, Australians should feel comfortable going about their daily business. There is a heightened alert level, but people still should be able to go about their daily business.

On the first priority, that of keeping the Australian people safe, Australians should feel confident that in ASIO and the Australian Federal Police we have excellent institutions which are well led and which we should be very proud of. Successive Australian governments have developed an expertise against terrorism dating back to the 1978 bombings outside the Sydney Hilton Hotel. We have gained experience through the events of September 11 and through the bombings in Bali of October 2002 that saw the beginnings of a very strong cooperative relationship between the Australian Federal Police and the Indonesian police. We saw an attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004. There were the London bombings in 2005 and the Bali bombings in October 2005. Australians should feel confident that the steps that have been taken, going all the way back to 1978 but more recently following the September 11 bombings, mean that we are well served by ASIO and the Australian Federal Police. There have been a number of terrorist cells that have been disrupted. We have seen raids conducted in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. We saw the horrific attack on two policemen in Melbourne.

On the second message, and that is that this is directed against terrorism and not religion, I want to say how welcome is the strong leadership from Muslim leaders who have been prepared to really stand up and be counted and to denounce ISIL.

It is very important that the Muslim community do feel the warm embrace of the Australian nation, because they are key allies in addressing terrorism and extremism. This is not a problem that is isolated to Australia. We have heard that more than 80 countries have had citizens from their country travel to the Middle East to take part in terrorist activities. That is why the Australian government are taking a number of steps to address this. The concern now is that, with such easy international travel, it is possible for foreign fighters who learn to kill overseas to return to Australia to continue their murderous trade. We saw this with people who travelled to Afghanistan more than a decade ago. The Prime Minister's clear message to all Australians who fight with terrorist groups is that you will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed for a very long time.

There are a number of responses that this parliament has to take in addressing the financing of terrorism and in addressing metadata and making sure that our intelligence agencies are one step ahead and have an idea of what the terrorists are up to. In dealing with the commitment to the Middle East, we now have an air task group at our major base in the Middle East. Four hundred Air Force personnel are now there. Today we heard that some of the Australian assets there have commenced flights over Iraq.

One of the things which I think has been a very good development is that a very broad international coalition has formed to disrupt and degrade ISIL. There is wide involvement from the Gulf states and Arab nations. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar are all involved. There are a number of NATO countries involved as well as the United States and the United Kingdom. As well as participating in humanitarian aid drops and assistance to the Kurdish regional government, the Australian Defence Force assets are ready to commence action against ISIL in Iraq.

A strong process has been mapped out for the steps that would be taken before going to that. Firstly, there would be a request from the Iraqi national government. The defence minister was in Iraq recently to make sure that the legal basis for any action in Iraq is very strong. Secondly, there would be a meeting of the National Security Committee of Cabinet, which would have briefings from the ADF, ASIO and the Australian Federal Police. The full cabinet would then make a decision and the opposition would also be briefed on this. I pay tribute to the role the opposition has played here.

Some people have talked about action in Syria. That is getting one step ahead. As I outlined, the process that has been outlined for action in Iraq is strong. That concludes my remarks. Our thoughts should be with all the ADF personnel who are now on pre-deployment in the Middle East. I was lucky enough to meet a number of them at Amberley and Williamtown in the last couple of weeks. They are a very professional group. They are, by and large, young Australian men and women. They will, no doubt, do us proud should they be required to take on this important task.

10:19 am

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak in support of the Prime Minister's statement on national security. I would like to associate myself with the statements that were made particularly by the member for Boothby who made reference to the Australian men and women who are currently deployed to the region. I am conscious of the fact that I am making this particular statement today virtually the day after that deployment began, and I do want to wish all Australian ADF personnel a safe passage and a safe time in their duty. Our thoughts are with them.

When Australia's initial involvement in the war in Iraq in 2003 commenced, I was a very vocal advocate against Australia being a member of the coalition of the willing. It was not just me; I can say that a large number of the Australian community were also against our involvement in that war at that time. Their opposition was visible in our streets and we all remember the hundreds of thousands of people who marched in the streets of Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne all those years ago—pleading with the government not to commit Australia and Australian troops to Iraq. That was then and, of course, 10 years later it is very unfortunate that we are having discussions again about Australian involvement in Iraq. What is tragic is that some 10 years later a situation that we initially participated in fixing actually has not been fixed; it has been broken. Its consequences, unfortunately, are not just for the people of Iraq and the Middle East generally; they are of concern to the global community and therefore our concern here in Australia, which is why I support the current humanitarian intervention—Australia's involvement at that level at this time in Iraq. I do of course support the Prime Minister's statement and I do so in the terms that have been outlined by the Leader of the Opposition—in particular the points that this is an action that has been asked for by the government of Iraq and our involvement there is supported by the government of Iraq, that we remain within the confines of Iraq and that we are not involved in any combat on the ground exchanges.

I remember full well—I have spoken about my community many times in this place—that the decade that I often refer to as the 'September 11 decade' was a very difficult time for many of the people in my electorate. I do have one of the largest constituencies of Australians of Muslim faith and I remember well the adverse impact that the war in Iraq at that period, and in fact September 11 generally, had on those communities—in particular the impact and the ramifications of that on the women in my electorate. On many occasions in this place I have spoken about women who wear hijabs being attacked. The Muslim community came under extreme pressure and was time and time again put on notice that they had to reaffirm their loyalty to Australia, and quite frankly I think they endured quite a lot of pressure. What is important, however, is that our community rallied not only in my electorate but right across the country. We rallied as Australians to support each other. In Melbourne in particular we ran very, very intense interfaith networks. Our religious leaders took their place in leading our communities and in trying to manage and avoid unnecessary harm being inflicted upon one part of our community.

Such is the nature of our social cohesion and its strength that I believe we got through that decade successfully. It is unfortunate that we are back there again. However, as I said initially, we have a responsibility to again come together to prevent any adverse effects on members of our community. In my own case in the federal seat of Calwell, I have virtually every community from the Middle East living in Calwell. As I said, I have a very large constituency of Australians of Muslim faith but I also have a very large emerging constituency of Iraqi Chaldean Christians, who have come here under the refugee humanitarian program. They are living examples of what war does to people—its dislocation, its violence. Its whole culture is destructive.

They have come to Australia; they are thankful that they have been given the opportunity to live in Australia. However, they remain very much concerned about what is happening to their family, to their friends and to their communities in Iraq and in the broader Middle East. For them this situation is alive. It is something they cannot switch off from, it is a large part of the way in which they are trying to create a new life in Australia, and it affects the way in which they go through the settlement process. I have communities that are reeling, hurt and afraid because they have direct links to the Middle East. I have communities, on the other hand, that have been in the broader Australia community for a long time and are trying to understand what is going on internationally and how it is impacting on us. Having said that, I feel that our involvement at this point in time in Iraq is necessary and it is intended for a greater good. We are not over there to cause unnecessary grief; we are there to help, and I think that is very important. Australia, being a country in a global community, has the capacity to offer that assistance.

It is probably important to finish by simply urging all of us here in this place to be mindful of the way that we speak in relation to what is going on at the moment, because words can be just as damaging and just as divisive as physical actions. I defend the right for all of us to express our views, but we who are members of parliament and leaders in our community need to be mindful that wisdom is probably a better way of approaching the expression of those views. When we speak about our views on women wearing burqas or on other things that we do not like, we need to be mindful that we have a right to say those things but that the timing may not be very good at this point in time.

Our role as members of parliament is to bring our communities together and to recognise that there are some very difficult things happening in the world. They are impacting on Australia. We need to be able to be wise in the way that we lead and manage community debate on this issue. My plea is to my colleagues—those who have sought to express views that, by the way, have been expressed many times before. They should be mindful of what the consequences of those words that they express could be. We live in a multicultural society. It is a society of people of diverse backgrounds. I am an example of that. If our society and our multiculturalism had been the failure that some people often like to talk about, then I can assure you that I would not be standing here speaking in this chamber today. We have a lot to be proud of in this country. We have been a success story. We have the capacity to show the way to others who wish to manage their diversity—not just their cultural diversity but also their faith diversity.

I support our current action as it has been framed. I urge my colleagues to be mindful of the things that they say and the language that they use. My advice to those who have probably had no engagement whatsoever with Australians of Muslim faith is to come to Melbourne, Sydney or other parts of the country where there are large communities, and not-so-large communities, of Australians of Muslim faith and actually speak to them; enter into dialogue with people. It is at that level where you can have sensible and wise discussion about issues that we may or may not disagree about.

10:29 am

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' So said Edmund Burke, the well-known Irish philosopher, thinker and politician from the 18th century. He also added: 'When bad men combine, good men must associate'.

I rise to support the words and sentiments of our Prime Minister in his statement to the parliament in the preceding weeks. What the world has been witnessing with the ISIS movement in Syria and Iraq is indeed pure evil. One cannot justify it in any way, shape, or form. We cannot sit idly by and watch it on our computer screens and TV screens. It must be confronted or it will grow like a cancer throughout the world. As the Prime Minister said, it will reach out to us and our neighbours. Following the latest news in the last 48 hours, it looks like it may reach out even further into Turkey, rather than stopping at the border, or go south and east into Lebanon, because the ISIL movement got a foothold in Syria during the civil war that had erupted, and they feed on unstable situations. Not only could it reach out there locally; it could reach out to us and our neighbours. As we have seen, sympathisers of this warped philosophy—there are sympathisers in our suburbs—can surface and they are emboldened by the success of ISIS. Similarly, sympathisers in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia can also be emboldened by ISIS's success.

We, as a civilised nation, are a small country in the scheme of things in the world. We are not a major world power, but we are a very respected citizen of the world. Our actions—our early, clear commitment to humanitarian aid and involvement and our commitment to the struggle—were very much noticed and very much respected. It is like in other battles, whether it is on the sporting field or in physical mortal combat: when volunteers are asked for, the person that raises the first hand has the biggest responsibility. People take note. People did notice our early involvement. I am pleased to see now, at the latest count, there are 62 nations around the world that have joined the coalition of nations that are committed to degrading and destroying the physical military arm of this murderous philosophy. It is good to see that the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and other Arab League nations, and the nations of Europe and Africa—62 in all—are committed.

I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly compliment our local Australian Islamic leaders, who have been quite forthright in their condemnation of terrorism and this warped philosophy of death. We should take note and formally support our servicemen and servicewomen, who are now on call over in the UAE at Al Minhad and who may be called into more than what they are involved in now. Our security services—ASIO and ASIS, the Australian Federal Police and our local police—have been performing a wonderful function for our nation in our cities and suburbs and they are all to be commended and admired.

I would also like to comment about some of the opinions voiced in the commentariat around the nation. There are a portion of the commentariat that allege, imply or out-and-out state that the coalition government's recent actions and statements, thus far, have been a media and political beat-up for pure short-term political advantage. Never have I heard such absolute rubbish, which should be condemned for the silliness that it is. People must remember that the Jakarta bombings, the Bali bombings and September 11 all happened before our engagement in recent battles in Afghanistan and Iraq. As another famous philosopher, John Stuart Mill, said: 'Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.'

I am very proud that Australia has put their hand up in the room in the world of nations and is committed to confronting evil where it is and committed to help to the level and proportion of our abilities.

10:35 am

Photo of Natasha GriggsNatasha Griggs (Solomon, Country Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Obviously these are very difficult times and very sad times, and nobody in this building is enjoying taking the tough measures that have been introduced over recent days. But, as a government and as our nation's representatives, we can make no apology for putting the safety of Australians first.

In many ways, the latest wave of terrorism has its origins in the horrific attacks on America in September 2001. The four tragic events that made up the sum total of what we now know as 9/11 sparked a chain of events that has left a stain of blood across the globe. The message that has come out of 9/11 and its tragic aftermath is that the world has zero tolerance for terrorism, has zero tolerance for the type of brutality that took thousands of lives that day and has zero tolerance for the hate and malevolence that drive some people to commit acts of barbarism against their fellow citizens.

It is in the interest of ordinary Australians that the government has taken steps to enhance our national security. The anti-terror raids in Brisbane and Sydney and the events in Victoria over the past week remind us all that some in the community are driven by zealotry, fuelled by venom and motivated by hate. The stabbing of two law enforcement officers last week has reinforced that, while the tragic events in the Middle East are thousands of kilometres from us, their impacts reverberate right here in Australia.

Let us not forget that the people who are involved in these activities—in the brutal killings in Syria and Iraq or the plots to take innocent lives here—are at heart violent men with criminal backgrounds and no real future in regular society. I refer, for instance, to the man who appears to be the ringleader of Australians fighting with ISIL, known these days as Mohammad Baryalei, who was born in Afghanistan and who was a babe in arms when his parents fled the country after the 1979 Soviet invasion. According to an excellent report on the ABC program 7.30 this week, Baryalei grew up in north-western Sydney, was booted out of home by his father and had a troubled history of drug abuse, mental illness and family violence. This is the same man who police believe issued the instruction to Mr Azari, the Sydney man arrested a fortnight ago for plotting to kidnap and kill an ordinary Australian citizen and film the execution.

Another former Australian who has also found a niche for himself in the Middle East after years of non-achievement in Australia is Khaled Sharrouf, who was filmed holding severed heads of Iraqi soldiers. Again, according to another report on 7:30, Sharrouf, who had really been jailed for terrorism offences in Australia, had been diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia, most likely the result of years of drug abuse including the use of LSD, ecstasy and amphetamines.

I offer up these two case studies not in any way to diminish the actions of these and other men like them but to make the point that, whether they be in Australia or elsewhere, they are criminals with no regard for the impact of their actions to others and little ability to exist within the confines of generally accepted behaviour. Instead, these weak and appalling people have taken the easy way out and along the way have fallen in with a mob that is as demented as it is bloodthirsty. But they will find that their brutal lives will end up either in an equally brutal death or, preferably, in an extremely long stretch in an Australian prison. As I said last week when I spoke in support of the Prime Minister's motion, these people are criminals—it is as simple as that. These people represent nobody. They stand for nothing. They have a blood lust that is impossible to comprehend until it is placed against a backdrop of drug use, a history of violence and a general failure to achieve both in their younger years and then as adults in broader society.

The tougher measures that we debated in the House yesterday are designed to keep Australians safe from the malice these people wish to cultivate and spread. This is the first of three tranches of national security legislation that the government is producing to ensure that all Australians are safe. The deployment of 800 police officers and security agents in Sydney and Brisbane last week to execute search warrants as part of an antiterrorism investigation sends out a very clear message of intent. This message was reaffirmed this week when more than 100 police officers carried out raids in Melbourne. The provision of more than half a billion dollars to fund the Australian Federal Police, Customs and Border Protection, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, and the Office of National Assessments buttresses our legislative measures. I want to say again: the foreign fighters involved with ISIL or supporting this death cult here at home are brutal, bloodthirsty criminals, and this government will take every single step it can to prevent them from threatening the safety and security of ordinary Australians who are just going about their daily lives.

10:43 am

Photo of Teresa GambaroTeresa Gambaro (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today in support of the Prime Minister's national security statement, and I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his update on Australia's security situation. I note with regret that never before have Australians been in such a position of heightened awareness concerning our security. I also note that the Prime Minister and cabinet have worked hard to keep Australians well-informed as the government navigates the tricky waters of formulating an effective response to the threats before us. I note that this has been a journey of bipartisan support, which only serves to strengthen the effectiveness of our response. Most of all, I emphatically want to remind us all to consider these words by the Prime Minister in the opening of his national security statement last week:

Because protecting our people is the first duty of government …

With all of the security discourse Australians are becoming accustomed to, we must never lose sight of the importance behind these words. The imperative to keep Australians safe is the driving force behind the tranche of new legislation being introduced and debated before parliament, and the driving force behind our need to reconsider the whys and the hows of what makes Australia a secure nation.

It is not unique to Australia that we would seek as a priority a safe and secure nation. Indeed, it remains the high politics, the priority, of functional governments all over the world to provide a safe haven for their citizens. This is evident in the international nature of our response to the common threat of terrorism, as like-minded nations come together and we all try to counter it. In particular, I commend the government's commitment to the international coalition deployed against ISIL.

It is really clear to me that the battle is fought on many levels—domestically, internationally and in the minds of those who are so easily influenced for evil intent. Of course, terrorism is not a new concept, but certainly the threat to both Australians and our allies has grown markedly in recent times. I believe that this has been the case not only as result of recent events in Iraq and Syria but also since the tragic events of September 11, over 13 years ago. Recent events have brought it home to us in all too stark and blunt terms that the fight against terrorism is not something that happens on the other side of the world. It is happening right here and now. It is not a remote activity. It is not a nine-to-five undertaking. It requires our constant vigilance to keep our nation safe.

I note that in his statement the Prime Minister reminded us that September 11 predated the United States' involvement in Iraq, just as the first Bali bombing in 2002 predated Australia's. We have not invited attack on our soil or foreign soil by any action of our own. Rather, in the Prime Minister's own words, we were attacked for 'who we are and how we live'. I know that many who are Australians by birth or who have come here by choice have no desire to relinquish and have no intention of relinquishing the wonderful privileges and the wonderful freedoms that are intrinsic to our identity, to all of us, and that make us Australians.

Sadly, the events of the last few months have signalled just how pervasive and repugnant the battle for minds and control by violent extremists who are behind these terrorism related attacks can be. At least 60 Australians have joined ISIL and other terrorist groups to fight in Iraq and Syria. They are presenting not only security threats overseas but also very real ones here in Australia. At least 100 known Australians are supporting them. Over 20 of these foreign fighters have returned to Australia. They bring with them that terrible hate. We know that nothing can justify the mass slaughter of innocent people that we have seen as a result of terrorist activities in Iraq and Syria, which are overwhelmingly targeting Muslims.

The government has made clear over recent weeks that there is nothing even remotely Islamic about beheadings, crucifixions, mass executions, ethnic cleansing, rape and sexual slavery. ISIL is not Islam. ISIL is a barbaric sham. It is a sham masquerading behind Islam, committing barbaric atrocities in the name of Islam, seeking to put the people of the world against one another in a fake holy war. I commend the Prime Minister for giving no recognition or authority to so-called Islamic State in his national security statement. The title implies an explicit link between Islam and terrorists that we, as official representatives of the Australian public, emphatically refute.

We have already had the information we need to know that hatred from radical terrorist groups directed towards Australia represents a very real threat, not just to our values but also to Australian lives in Australia. We have heard a call to kill 'kaffirs' on our soil and have witnessed the regrettable death of a young radicalised man in Victoria following the unprovoked attack on our police. We also know that police have made arrests. They have foiled definitive plans for violent terrorist action. We have seen the recent raids in Brisbane and in Sydney.

When we refer to a safe haven, it is important that we recognise that it is a responsibility of effective governments to respond not only to events, often—unfortunately—when it is too late, but to threats before they materialise. I therefore support the raft of legislation being brought to the parliament to strengthen the intelligence gathering of our agencies, allowing them to respond to evolving security needs and to crack down on foreign fighters and those who finance them.

I echo the sentiments of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition when they thanked our police and security agencies for their wonderful work in disrupting any ISIL plot to conduct demonstration executions in Australia. I welcome the Australian government's commitment to an additional $630 million to support the work of the Australian Federal Police, Customs, Border Protection, ASIO, ASIS and the Office of National Assessments. This will include new measures such as the introduction of biometric screening in international airports over the next 12 months and an increase in Border Force personnel and measures which will strengthen our essential security infrastructure from the ground up.

Acknowledging the technological connectivity in today's world, and the use of this medium by terrorists, I commend the Prime Minister's announcement that legislation will be introduced to require telecommunication providers to keep metadata and to make it available to police and security agencies as needed. I am also pleased to say that the majority of Australians continue to be law-abiding, responsible and peaceful citizens. They are unlikely to be impacted by these legislated amendments. The main change for everyday Australians, outside the increased visibility of security in warranted circumstances, is that they can enjoy living in a safer, more secure and more vigilant nation.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister's national security statement and those that have followed it make it absolutely clear that the Abbott government has a strong sense of its responsibility to protect all Australians to the best of our ability and as a priority. Let us be absolutely clear: the Abbott government will leave no stone unturned in strengthening our capacity to do so. Nevertheless, any security measures are not, and will not, be directed against any religion or sector of the Australian community. They are solely directed against the one and only threat that they seek to counter, and that is terrorism. Australia should, with the secure foundations that this government is putting in place, remain a country where people can live normally, with a sense of trust, hope and optimism.

10:52 am

Photo of Louise MarkusLouise Markus (Macquarie, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to acknowledge the need and grave necessity to address the national security of this nation. As members of the House are well aware, events have been set in motion and amended national security legislation has been formed to respond to the increased threat of terrorism to Australia from without and, as recent events have sadly proven, from within our own borders.

Australia is a nation blessed beyond measure. We are known internationally as an easy-going, freethinking and diversity-embracing, people. The freedoms we enjoy in this land have been fought for and established over the centuries and decades. We have faced challenges from natural disasters. The trauma of war, conflict and terrorism that daily confronts others in the world have largely not confronted us on our shores. In Australia, we can travel and go about our work and leisure largely without fear of violence or discrimination. It is not so in other parts of the world.

The terrorist movement ISIS has shocked the world with its impunity. It has rejoiced in unwarranted and indiscriminate violence, slandering international conventions, values and rights. ISIS are a group who deal in absolutes, seeking either conformity or the destruction of all before them. The objective of such atrocities is to create fear in the hope that we will acquiesce to their misguided values and selfish wishes. Their violation of accepted norms in pursuit of radical militaristic aims, for the domination of one extremist group above all others, is absolutely and unequivocally unacceptable. We will not conform. We will not be silent.

Since the horrendous atrocities of the major wars and conflicts of the 20th century, Australia and other Western democratic nations have increasingly committed to stand as bastions aiming wherever possible for justice, to advocate for human rights and to ensure wherever possible that the oppressed are provided with opportunities for freedom. Our freedoms are hard won. They were defended with bravery and contested at great cost of lives when ideologues, dictators and titanic martial powers sought to take them from much of the world. Australia has always been a nation where people that have been oppressed in other parts of the globe have been able to seek freedom and comfort. Values of honour, hard work and compassion for the weak are indeed written into our national character.

As Australians we aim, wherever possible—falling short, at times—to value and protect the inherent value and dignity of individuals. We value freedom of religion and are committed to the rule of law. We embrace a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good. The Australian government can and should have in place every reasonable and forward-thinking measure to defend the nation in proportion to the dangers posed to us. A peaceful home, secure against intimidation, fear, terror and the moral degradation these cause, is something that must be continually fought for, both in our nation and abroad.

At this point of time in our history, national security is our priority. In the face of ISIS's abhorrent actions and their potential for aggression on our home soil, measures must account for the dangers posed by foreign fighters returning from the Middle East and other unstable regions. I share the sentiments of many of my colleagues that have spoken in this place that this is not about any particular religion. It is about criminal behaviour. This is about taking a stand and setting some standards and protections in place against behaviour that is completely unacceptable in any space or nation.

As a nation of laws and of shared values, the Australian nation responds to criminal behaviour by ensuring that normal life continues. The rule of law in our nation places certain constraints on all Australians, irrespective of their background and irrespective of their faith, so that the most basic freedom can be enjoyed. The assurance of safety in everyday life is something that we must pursue. It is that freedom we seek to preserve by targeting criminal behaviour at home and abroad. The measures and provisions the government considers and carries out for the national security are not aimed at any one group or any section of our community. The measures and provisions the government carries out in the interests of Australians' everyday security are not for the benefit of a select few, but for the Australian community at large.

It is a sad reality that there may be those at home, connected with the criminal activities of terrorists abroad, who threaten to upheave the stability and safety we enjoy as Australians. There are Australian citizens that have already been—and are currently—overseas, fighting with extremists in Iraq and Syria, highlighting very real threats to our security. To combat these threats at home and ensure Australians may not commit terrorist acts overseas, our nation's counterterrorism agencies need to be supplied with resources and legislative powers proportionate to the threat posed.

Last week, our police and security agencies disrupted an ISIL plot to conduct demonstrative executions on Australian soil. The public witnessed the sad and alarming incident that saw a known 18-year-old terror suspect shot dead by police in Endeavour Hills last week. This young individual was an Australian like many others, with beloved family, friends and a community, who are surely dismayed and grieved by his actions. This young man fell prey to the influence of ISIS and their determination to employ hate and indiscriminate violence as tools to promote their own agenda and perverted ideal of justice. The horrible incident has highlighted the reality that there are those in our community capable of extreme acts of violence. I want to acknowledge the injured officers, who did not hesitate to act as our first line of defence. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.

Combating the threat of foreign fighters has become a vital national security issue, and the government is committed to doing all that it reasonably can to defend our freedoms while ensuring our safety. As a peaceful nation, we avoid involvement in international conflicts, but, when those conflicts come to our home and citizens are targeted or found to be engaged in criminal activity, a measured, prudent and united response is essential. Our country is called home by many who have fled oppression or hardship of some kind from other parts of the world; it is a priority to ensure the evils that threatened them then do not pursue them here. The government has committed in excess of $600 million in additional funding over the next four years, after a reduction in counter-terrorism expenditure since 2009. This funding will help to equip, resource and support our agencies concerned with security and counter-terrorism.

Australia has joined with the international outrage at the ISIS death cult and is contributing to the international response, delivering aid and further considered responses to this outbreak. I would like to commend the personnel of Richmond RAAF base, from the electorate of Macquarie, who are involved in providing humanitarian aid to communities affected. As aid is supplied without, constant vigil is required within.

The Prime Minister declared in his ministerial statement to the House:

… for some time … the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.

The Prime Minister has also assured us that the government is vigilant, at home and abroad, in making the safety of our community the highest priority. These decisions are made after considerable consultation with all levels of government to ensure that our response is practical and proportionate to the threat posed by terrorist forces.

There are also steps that all Australians can take that can help to foster a stronger, unified community. It is important that as a nation we plan for, pray for and support the safety and preparedness of the officers working in our security agencies. We can bear the minor sacrifices of some freedoms we enjoy in order to ensure the safety of all. We can refuse to allow intimidation to undermine or change our way of life. We can and will choose to live normally.

Radicalisation is a manifestation of extremism—the violent outburst of an offence held onto and offered misguided advice. The government is committed to the right course of action to preserve the freedoms and security of all Australians.

11:02 am

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I speak in support of the Prime Minister's statement on national security in response to current events which have seen a general breakdown in law and order, failed governance, terrorism and atrocities committed. I fully support the government's commitment to be part of an international coalition providing military support both to provide humanitarian protection and to assist the legitimate government of Iraq to regain control over its sovereign territory by combating Islamic State insurgents and terrorists.

Although these events are located several thousand kilometres away in the Middle East, half a world away, they have a profound effect on the national security of the Australian homeland. Recently, we have seen a raising of the national terror threat level and the disruption of potential terror plots by our national security and intelligence agencies and the Australian Federal Police. Last week, the wounding of two police officers during the course of their duties represented a direct attack on home soil.

It is of great concern that a number of Australian citizens have acted contrary to the laws of Australia by travelling to foreign nations to participate in armed conflict for foreign causes. This amounts to treasonous conduct. It is true to say that the enemies of the state are not limited to one particular ethnic, minority or religious group. A number of constituents have contacted me recently to express their concerns about the brutal atrocities which have been perpetrated in the Middle East, fears for their own safety and outrage that certain subsets of the community are being grossly disloyal to Australia. These are very valid concerns, and I believe a tough stance should be taken on these issues.

Australia's immigration system has traditionally welcomed people from across the globe into our multicultural society over the years. In return, our society is entitled to expect that when migrants arrive in our country they will adopt a positive attitude, strive to integrate into mainstream society, obey the laws and make a constructive contribution to their new homeland. Above all, society expects that they will be civic minded, loyal and patriotic to Australia and their fellow Australians. Experience has shown that the majority of immigrants have indeed settled and become good citizens, which is testament to our immigration system and our multicultural society. Unfortunately, there are certain enclaves that have failed to integrate into mainstream society and have adopted hostile, antisocial and radical attitudes towards mainstream Australian society and culture—in the worst of instances, resorting to violence and intimidation.

Currently there is a great deal of unrest in the community about perceived threats from particular subgroups. The government is taking measured and responsible steps to increase surveillance and security measures to protect our citizens by mitigating threats. Members of the community need to be vigilant, review their own personal safety and take appropriate, lawful measures to protect themselves.

As national leaders, it is important that we are careful not to generalise or stereotype any particular ethnic group or religion as being solely associated with these illegal, criminal and terrorist acts. Rather, as representatives of our community, we have a duty to speak out against fundamentalism, extremism and criminality in all their forms. We must take tough measures to protect the fabric of Australian society, founded on our Westminster system of democracy: the culture, values, traditions and principles which we hold dear, the very things which make Australia a country that we love and the very characteristics which draw thousands of immigrants to our shores.

We must strongly oppose radicalism, militancy and moves to introduce foreign legal systems into Australia. Together, we must unite to defeat our enemies that intend to do us harm, and bring those who have contravened Australian laws to justice. We have a responsibility to protect our national borders and to be very selective to ensure the merit based selection of immigrants who are committed to integrate into mainstream society and will strive to become good Australian citizens.

Australians can be assured that the Abbott government is committed to maintaining strong border protection, merit based immigration and strengthening our Defence Force capabilities. I am proud to be part of a government that will take a hard line against radicalism, extremism and militancy whilst at the same time upholding the rule of law and protecting traditional Australian institutions and culture. We will not allow global terrorists to scare us into a state of fear that allows prejudice to unravel the social cohesion in our mainstream communities. Neither will we allow zealots and fundamentalists to disrupt the fabric of Australian society.

Two weeks ago, I visited the Amberley Air Force base near Brisbane and saw firsthand some of the personnel and aircraft being prepared for deployment to the Middle East. I wish the members of the Australian Defence Force a safe and successful mission as they face numerous challenges and dangers in the service of our nation. Similarly, on behalf of the Australian community, I express appreciation to the officers of the Australian Federal Police, emergency services personnel and our national security and intelligence operatives as they work diligently to neutralise prospective threats and to maintain our safety and security.

11:09 am

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to add my voice to this very important expression of bipartisan support for the way that our security and Defence border protection officials are looking after the safety and security of our country. We have full faith in their work. I also acknowledge that obviously at the moment there are some unique international events that certainly do test our will as a freedom-loving democracy to be able to continue the work that we do overseas in developing economies, but also ensure that those of us here at home remain aware, not distressed or fearful, of these changes. As a strong, vibrant, multicultural, wealthy and successful Australia, we can brook these challenges and we can succeed. Before we go any further, I want to make it very clear that there are a large number of Australians both in uniform and not in uniform who are part of this effort. I know that this full parliament as well as all Australians thank them for their service and the work that they are doing.

But my message today is predominately to Australians who do not have a direct connection to these events. As I have remarked before, my electorate of Bowman was recently considered the least ethnically diverse metropolitan electorate in Australia. So I come to this debate potentially far removed from the immediacy of close connection to some of the recent events. I do not have senior multicultural leaders in my electorate with whom I can speak directly about some of these concerns, but I am very sympathetic to communities that are in this situation. As has been noted already in some unfortunate divarication in this debate into areas that are effectively distractions, I think it is very important to make it clear that we welcome people from every corner of this planet to become Australians. We are the most multicultural country in the world. We have done it successfully and we will continue to do so. That is actually our strength, not our weakness. So I want everyone in my electorate certainly to realise the impressive community and society that we have established and recognise that it will play a very important role in areas of the world where democracy is under threat.

To people who have doubts about that involvement and to individuals who have had some concerns about Australia's involvement dating back to 2000 and even prior in the Gulf War, I remember the words of Tony Blair: 'We do not engage ourselves in areas simply because we feel like doing it or because we can. We are in these parts of the world because as freedom-loving democracies we must be there.' We must be at that front line making sure that extremists and radicals have nowhere to hide, that they cannot embed themselves in major metropolitan areas, towns or cities in any country in the world. I am proud to say that there is not a country in the world where they can at the moment, but by doing nothing we simply risk that status quo changing.

In that fine balance between freedom and security here, we need to know that obviously the world is a very different place in parts of the Middle East. So our intention there is to put our shoulder to the wheel and to do our fair share. If requested by our coalition colleagues, and by that I mean international colleagues, I think it is appropriate that we consider that and make our own decisions through the National Security Committee and through cabinet. That is the right way to do it. We have modulated this response perfectly in the context that of course there are not yet exit plans because we do not even know the full scope of what we are engaging in. That is the 'known unknowns' element of this debate.

What we have profiled is the relatively small number of Australians who became involved, many of them before some of our reforms and our legislative propositions were known to them. I am certain there were many people who headed overseas for a combination of reasons, including family, clan and obligation—some seeking excitement and fascination, and some with way more malevolent intentions. Whoever they are the message is clear—your actions are not welcome in this country. They will not be forgotten and the sooner they leave those actions the better. They will be tracked down and prosecuted under these new laws. To that group of people, those few score people that are overseas currently engaged in either Iraq or Syria, that message is loud and clear from this government, and the bipartisan support from the opposition is welcomed.

For those that are supporting from Australia, it is now absolutely crystal clear that this must stop immediately, and that message really was one that this new legislation will articulate. Lastly, to people who have general sympathies: we are a nation of freedom of speech. I appreciate there are many people out there with anti-American sentiments and people who have particular sentiments about countries, cultures and religions. We live in a country where you can express those. We have a parliament where every person who takes a seat in this building is welcome to express them as well. Whatever our views are, whether we think it is bad timing or indelicate or little bit gauche, we can say what we think in a free country. What is absolutely clear is that there cannot be incitement to violence. That very, very clear line is now well understood by everyone.

My concern as a Queensland MP is that there has been a tendency—if there is any tendency at all—to cheap, cultural, political, religious shots and picking up email campaigns, and that is absolutely not constructive whatsoever. I am glad that the Prime Minister's statement makes it absolutely clear that we are all Australians, we are all equal and, if we share in those values, we should be able to stand together shoulder-to-shoulder, regardless of what we are wearing.

The recent debate this week was an opportunity for many of us to be able to say to people of all cultural backgrounds and to people who choose to wear garments that reflect some kind of conspicuous religious adherence that it is completely okay with us. Let's be absolutely clear about that. That is fine. Over and above all of those concerns are security issues to which we all adhere as citizens, and, as the Prime Minister's statement reflected, there has been a slight shift away in certain freedoms given the current security situation. Common-sense people understand that. I trust the Presiding Officers to make the right decision. I trust the security officials here in this building, as I do the AFP, Customs and Border Protection and all of the groups that do this work. We have to trust that they are modulating the response appropriately and then go about our normal day and our normal work unfettered and unconcerned.

If we accept this slight reduction in our freedoms, that will mean additional checks. There is no reason why someone should not identify themselves if they are entering a facility like Parliament House. That should be completely possible, regardless of what you are wearing. It is not just one garment that I am talking about here. I am talking about people wearing any form of headdress or anything that might obstruct someone's face.

Of course, if you are accessing publicly funded goods and services, we need to know who you are because there is a certain eligibility requirement and you need to be identified. As I pointed out, in the private sector there are legitimate areas. For example, in a court, in a law firm, in a health practice where you are prescribing medications or where you are picking up a parcel of value—in all of those situations, a private operator and transaction is completely within their rights to attempt to identify the person they are dealing with. It is a two-way arrangement. It does not allow refusal of service but certainly suspension of service until identification is carried out. Without putting too fine a point on it, there will be situations where a person will need to be identified by, for instance, a female officer. I think that is completely legitimate as well, but it may incur delays until a female officer is available. This is just part of the reasonable security response that we would accept, but it is also a reasonable expectation that someone can identify another person.

We need to move on from that debate. Quite realistically, we should be able to reach out to fellow Australians who have taken the oath of citizenship and say, 'You are completely equal as Australians. We don't really care what you put on as clothing in the morning. You're welcome to wear it through the day because that is your cultural or your religious preference.' Those people are welcome.

My cautionary note—and this is really the main reason that I wanted to speak today—is: if we are going to keep peace-loving, moderate Australians of all cultural backgrounds on side here, we have to make it absolutely clear that they are not our target. As Paul Sheehan said, there is one per cent of one per cent that is an issue in this debate. This is an issue of law and order and criminality. Most of it stems not from any particular book of faith but from young, disengaged, dispossessed, poorly educated people looking for an outlet. That is why we must keep our focus on our commitment to make sure that people have a chance in this great country. When you take opportunity away, that is where this all starts. So let's not mix this up with religion. It is about a lack of opportunity. It is about despondent, intrafamilial, intergenerational unemployment and not giving people a chance and a start. If there is one area we can focus on, it is the area of high youth unemployment that coincides with where some of the events we have seen in the last weeks occurred. They are the people who need to realise that a free, peace-loving, prosperous Australia is one in which they can share.

11:19 am

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It would appear at the outset that the world is moving off its axis from a social perspective; it would appear that the harmony and the equilibrium that provide the balanced nature of the way that we go about our business are now being challenged, as the previous speaker rightly said, by a very select few. It has raised the eyelids of world leaders. It has raised the level of concern within our local communities, our states and our nation, and particularly in this House that we work in.

I want to pay testament to the outstanding work of our law enforcement agencies in providing regular updates and in providing a level of security that goes virtually unnoticed—from our Australian defence forces, to intelligence agencies, to ASIO and to the AFP. I pay testament to them for all of the work that gets done in a clandestine manner so that we can put our heads on our pillows each night and know that we are in the most safe environment that can be provided. I want to acknowledge the seriousness of this issue and the mature way in which both the government and the opposition have walked through this process virtually with locked arms.

I want to read into the Hansard a couple of the opening comments from the Prime Minister's speech, along with some opening comments from the Leader of the Opposition's speech. The Prime Minister stated:

On questions of national security it is always best if government and opposition can stand together, shoulder to shoulder. It lets our enemies know that they will never shake our resolve. It is a sign that hope is stronger than fear and that decency can prevail over brute force.

… the government will do whatever is possible to keep our people safe … our security measures at home and abroad are directed against terrorism, not religion … Australians should always live normally because the terrorists' goal is to scare us out of being ourselves.

Those comments were followed by those of the opposition leader, who said:

The security of our nation runs deeper than our political differences.

…   …   …

These are uncertain times and that uncertainty can breed suspicion. That is always the insidious goal of terrorism: to spread division and nurture intolerance; to create a world where people fear the unknown and resent difference.

When Mr Shorten spoke about breeding suspicion, that was just a line in a speech for me, but the reality of the suspicion was heightened when, a number of days after that those leaders had stood in this House united, I witnessed on an ABC Q&A program some levels of suspicion that cast an unfavourable view over those law enforcement authorities that I praised so heavily earlier in my speech. There was commentary and propaganda openly being promoted that the good work being done by our law enforcement agencies was some type of 'theatre'. There was suspicion after our leaders had stood and said, 'Do not be suspicious.' There was suspicion by certain commentators in our community.

The thing that we should be lucky and thankful for is that we do live in a community where we have free speech. We do live in a community where we can have opposing positions. That is the very community that the threat wishes to take away from us as a society and as a democracy. It is that freedom of speech that riles those that would harm us. It is those commentators that I would wish would find that unity, that—for the sake of terminology—'Team Australia'. Get on board, because indifference and intolerance are exactly what those who threaten our way of life would like to see.

The comments I make were highlighted by the commentator, who asked whether the largest terror raid in Australia's history was a manufactured spectacle or whether it was a legitimate series of raids. I could go into the long-term data of raids, the benefits that they have given, the good work of these departments and how they have foiled many terrorist attacks in Australia, but that is not the intention of my speech. With these few words that we deliver in this chamber, I can send a message to those who wish to commentate: please, commentate to your heart's content, but leave the integrity of our law enforcement agencies alone because they work with their hand on their heart for the benefit of our nation. Of this I am sure. To bring into question their integrity, to say that the raids of that day were done with some secondary political motivation to benefit the government of the day, is absolute hypocrisy, and I damn them for their comments. They were unfounded and should never have been breathed. To question the integrity of our secret service agencies in linking them to some type of political theatre is irresponsible. I will not mention the punters' names, but the severity of my tone, hopefully, will resonate through to their ears.

In preparing for this speech, I asked one of my staffers to go and find out for me what the difference between ISIS and ISIL was in the genesis of this debate.

A government member: It's an L.

Yes, it's an L! The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is ISIL, so it is a geographical displacement of the Islamic State. The ISIS brand is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In trying to share the knowledge with a greater audience, the ISIL and ISIS commentary pertains to geographical locations.

I want to commend our coalition partners who are engaged in Iraq, who are fighting the fight on the ground. In particular I want to acknowledge Jordan, who are standing up; the United Arab Emirates; Turkey to a degree; Saudi Arabia for their contributions; Qatar; and Bahrain—because it is the fight on the ground that will need to be had. It is the courage that will need to be shown by those soldiers. We will be there with them to offer training. We will be there to offer humanitarian resources. We will be there to offer whatever resources we are called upon for from those governments to assist in our role as part of the coalition partners. To this day we have dispatched a number of assets, which are widely reported in the press. We will play our role because this threat does not have borders. It is worth noting some recent commentary from the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, who wrote in The Financial Review more recently that the international coalition will defeat ISIL. But he warned:

I consider this ideology to be the greatest danger that the world will face in the next decade. Its seeds are growing in Europe, the United States, Asia and elsewhere.

We need to work out as a community where 'elsewhere' is.

We have seen isolated pockets of incidents here in Australia. I commend once again—this is where I started from—our law enforcement agencies, which do such an outstanding job. I call on those commentators in our community to choose their words carefully. In times of conflict when our leaders of this nation can stand together, I ask the commentators to show some type of respect, stand together and support 'Team Australia'.

11:29 am

Photo of Ewen JonesEwen Jones (Herbert, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you very much, Deputy Speaker. A little over an hour and a half ago, I sat where you sat and listened to the contributions of the member for Fowler, the member for Calwell and the member for Boothby. That is where I would like to start: we are all coming from one space.

Being a member of parliament in this House, we are all subjected to the emails that go around about how bad Islam is and how bad Muslims are. I would like to start with a story. When the previous government had the programs about integrating or, better, exposing the Muslim faith in our communities, I went along to one in Annandale, which is an upper middle-class suburb in Townsville. We had an Imam, a Muslim scholar from Griffith University and the Muslim community in front of us. These people were university lecturers, engineers, accountants, teachers and doctors. There was not a jihadist or anything like that in the audience. An older gentleman got up and, in his language, said, 'I would like to say something', and it was translated for me. He said, 'How can you have democracy when the word 'democracy' does not appear in the Koran?' to which the Imam said, 'That's 100 per cent correct. The word 'democracy' does not appear in the Koran, but neither does the word 'chlorine' and yet you use chlorine in your pool.' The older gentleman sat down and said, 'Okay, I'll take that point.' That is where I want to go with this.

There are radicals in every religion. If you want to search hard enough, you will find things in the Old Testament that you can base your Christian beliefs on that will allow you to do just about anything you want. What I would like to do is speak to the great majority of Muslims in Australia and say, 'I understand exactly where you're coming from.' I do not agree that for every atrocity that happens overseas every Muslim in Australia must jump up and down and physically denounce it. I do not do that when a Christian shoots a girl coming out of an abortion clinic in the United States of America. I do not, as a Christian, stand up and denounce this act and say, 'As a Christian, I denounce this act.' I am not called upon to do that.

I am married to an Italian. I grew up in a small country town in south-west Queensland in the 1960s and 1970s. I know what we said about Italians and Greeks in those days. My wife turns it back on me and her family turns it back on me. They say, 'You skippies, I can hardly tell the difference between you. You all look the same to us. You all look the same.' So they have turned it on its head. But we made it very, very tough on the Italians and Greeks when they came here. They looked different, they dressed differently, they ate differently, they hung out by themselves, their families did their own thing and they did not integrate, and now I have Greeks and Italians coming to me and saying, 'We've got to get these Muslims to integrate, mate. That's what we've got to do.' That is where they come from. We did the same with the Vietnamese when they came in the 70s. We were so tough on everyone. Australians are by nature tough on the new kid on the block. That is what we do.

When the Greeks, Italians, Vietnamese, Chinese and everyone else who has come to Australia arrived, we did have entry-level jobs. We had workplace health and safety rules that meant that you could have a job in Australia and not speak English. You could still sweep the shed—no problems at all. You could still drive the forklift. You could operate the press. You could do anything. You did not have to be proficient in English. Try getting a job in a shed today, anywhere, for someone who cannot pass basic literacy. Your workplace health and safety will not let them go through. People say that those people do not work and do not integrate, but they are not able to; they want to.

A mate of mine took over from me as manager of Pickles Auctions. He had some Sudanese guys working in his detailing bay and he said he had never seen work like it. They just loved being at work. These people do want to be part of our community and we should be making it easy for them. We should not be judging an entire nation of people, an entire group of people or a religious faith, on the actions of a few.

As the member for Calwell said, we are sending our ADF personnel to places where it is dangerous. I come from Townsville, which is a defence city. We have the largest Army base in Australia. We have had significant deployments from Somalia onwards. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we had constant rotations going through. We have had condolence motions in this place for soldiers and ADF personnel who have not come home and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

We speak often in this place about post-traumatic stress disorder. In the First World War we called it shell shock; we sent them to the pub to have that cured. If they could not get there, we sent them to the fringes of society. The ADF, as an organisation, gets better every time we go away. Every time we deploy and come back we get better at it. But PTSD is the silent injury that you do not actually see. People join the ADF because they are that type of personality—because they are that strong person. Be you man or woman, you know you want to serve your country; you know what you want to do, and serve overseas is what you want to do when you pull on a uniform. When they come back, to admit that something may be wrong with them is a massive, massive effort, especially if they cannot see the injury. I think that is what we have to be very, very aware of: that we are putting people in harm's way. If we are putting people in these situations, we have to be very aware that we have to look after them when they come back, because injury is everywhere.

It is about the family as well. It is not just the soldier, airman or sailor that comes home and suffers these things; it is their entire family and it is us as a community. What we must do is put our hand out to these people and make sure that their families are taken care of. We are a great defence community in Townsville. We do do this. They are members of our sporting clubs. They are part of our community. They are on our P&Fs at schools. There are school board members. They are everything in our community, and we love them for it, but we have to make sure that we look after these people.

I continually get people saying to me that multiculturalism does not work. As I said, I am married to an Italian. Multiculturalism does not divide our country; it enriches our country. It adds layers and texture of personality to our country. I would hate to think of what we were in the 1960s, where you put the roast on on Saturday afternoon for Sunday lunch. We did not know what food is until we had new cultures come to this country. Multiculturalism is a staple of our country. It is something that we have to embrace and that we have embraced. We are at a bad point at the moment now, and a lot of people are very worried. But I think what we need to do is understand that the vast, vast majority—99.999 per cent—of people that come to this country want that better life and want the better life for their kids. I was talking to my wife about this, and I said, 'Radicalism, in these families!' because sometimes you look at these families and wonder what happened. But you also look at families where drug addiction happens; it does not pick and choose where it goes. If you are that type of personality, you can be attracted to these sorts of things. I am not saying that you are a drug addict, or anything like that, and I do not want my words misconstrued. What I am saying is that radicalism is something that happens along the way and that there is normally something else that is tied to it. I do not want to go down that path and I certainly do not want to turn our back on what Australia has become, which is, singularly, the greatest multicultural nation on the face of the earth.

We make it hard on the new kids on the block, and we make it hard on the new bloke at the game, but once they have proved their bona fides they are in. I think we make sweeping generalisations in this country about every race and nation and faith on the earth, but the thing I love about Australians is that we take the individual as they come. If you have someone move in next door to you, you do not care what colour skin they have; you go and say g'day to them. I think that is what sets us aside. That is what we have to make sure that we keep our faith in, but we have to make sure that we maintain the right for people to dress the way they want. If their faith demands that they dress a certain way then I do not see what the problem is with it. I really do not.

There are people in my community who are offended by the sight of a signet ring and people's Catholicism. My great-grandfather, when he came to Australia in 1902, was a very qualified Welsh public servant. He could not get a job in Australia because he was a Catholic. He could not get a job in the Australian Public Service because he was a Catholic. He had to convert to Anglicism. He had to convert to the Anglican Church, or the Church of England in those days, to get a job in the Public Service. Tiger O'Reilly will tell you that he did not play anywhere near as many tests for Australia because he was a Catholic and the Don was a Mason. That is what happens here. These things—divisions along religious lines—have always been there. This is no different to where we have been, but it is international. We are in this together. What I want from people in this place, and outside, is a recognition that we are in this together—that we are one Australia, and Australia is a great country. It is a country of many faiths, many opinions and many beliefs. That is what makes us great. It is what makes us great. I thank the House.

11:39 am

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too rise to join with my colleagues on all sides of the political divide in commending the Prime Minister for his strong resolve in responding to the very real threat ISIL presents to Australia's national security, both here on home soil and abroad. I have just listened to the member for Herbert, and prior to him two of my other colleagues. They have all taken a different angle about this particular issue, but it is all collegiate. It is all responding to the threats of ISIL and, in a very collaborative type of way, acknowledging and recognising the threats to our home soil and abroad.

The Australian government and our collaborative defence forces are not new to responding to conflict on our soil, or globally, to protect our nation's rights, freedoms, civil liberties and values from those who seek to take, destroy, maim or kill our people and destroy our way of life. It is not against Australian law to disagree with these values, and we have just heard the member for Herbert talking about the differences in our communities for the two centuries that Australia has existed. In fact, these values—the ability to disagree with each other—are promoted by Australia's long-held affirmation of every person's right to freedom of speech, if done so peacefully.

But what we are seeing on our television screens, on social media and now on our streets is not disagreement. It is hatred: hatred by people who live in Australia and take advantage of our way of life, our freedoms, our education system and, despicably, our welfare system—which is there to support those who need a helping hand—while they plot to kill us and praise their brothers in Iraq and Syria for their barbarism in the name of the Islamic State.

I join with the Prime Minister and our international allies in separating these extremists from the Islamic religion, whose believers do not deserve to have their religion degraded because of this evil. I heard the former Leader of the Opposition Brendan Nelson recently talk at a function where he said, 'These evil people have stolen the good name of Islam to be used for their own purposes.'

Australia has been seen as a legitimate threat for Islamic extremist groups for over a decade, but the scope of the security environment has fundamentally changed. This is clear when we begin to compare the threat of ISIL to al-Qaeda. In the last ten years of the Afghanistan war, there were 30 known Australians who went to Afghanistan to fight, yet what we have witnessed with ISIL is 60 Australians fighting in Syria and Iraq in just 12 months. Of course, as members in this place know, the threat is not just abroad. Thirty other fighters are known to have returned to Australia, and there are over 100 known supporters of these extremists living amongst us. These are extremists who are responsible for multiple massacres, suicide bombings, executions of prisoners and the taking of innocent women and children from their homes to be used as sexual slaves.

In the case of ISIL, the threat, particularly here in Australia, is from individuals or small terrorist cells that are not necessarily looking to blow up a building or landmark but instead will use any opportunity to spread their poisonous messages. Just last month, Melbourne teenager Abdul Numan Haider tried to kill two Australian policemen, and the reality of this threat also struck home on 18 September when Australia's largest ever counter-terrorism operation took place to prevent a plot to behead Australians in a public place and post these heinous acts on social media. At that time, more than 800 police and security agents were deployed in Sydney and Brisbane to execute 30 search warrants to investigate and disrupt this terrorist plot. To date, one person has been charged with serious terrorist offences and further charges may still be laid. On Tuesday additional raids occurred in Seabrook, Flemington and Kealba, with one man, 23-year-old Hassan El Sabsabi, being charged with allegedly sending $12,000 to an American citizen fighting in Syria.

The threat of home-grown terrorism is very real, just as the threat of genocide is the reality that citizens of Iraq and Syria are faced with every day. Who can forget the pleas by the woman in the Iraqi parliament to save her nation that had been, she said, wiped out? And this is not the first attempt to wipe it out.

Yesterday, the first of this government's three bills aimed at strengthening Australia's national security and ensuring that our security agencies have the resources and authority they need to investigate suspected terrorist operations and the reasonable means to prevent acts of terrorism on home soil and stop foreign fighters returning to our nation was passed by the House.

The b ill proposes some significant changes to the operations of intelligence agencies, expands their powers to ensure officers are able to better respond to threats to Australia's national security, and implements new measures to update offences relating to unauthorised communications under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 and the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

Last week, the government's second tranche of legislation , the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014—known as the foreign fighters bill—was also introduced to strengthen our intelligence agencies' ability to prevent and disrupt domestic terrorist threats, including creating new offences for advocating terrorism and for entering or remaining in a declared zone. These legislative changes are part of the government's overall commitment to strengthen our borders, bolster our national security laws, and increase our emphasis on preventing Australians from becoming involved with extremist groups through engagement programs.

The g overnment has also committed an additional $630 million over four years to c ounter- t errorism measures , including biometric screening and an increased number of Border Force personnel at international airports. We have also contributed to the international coalition's efforts to stem ISIL's poisonous occupation of Iraq and Syria by taking part in humanitarian airdrops, airlifting military supplies and providing defence force equipment and personnel in Iraq. This included 600 personnel, eight Super Hornets and two heavy support planes to a standby position.

Today the Prime Minister expanded this role with Australian Defence Force aircraft taking part in their first aerial mission over Iraq in support of allied operations. I highlight that this mission was purely in an assistance capacity, with no decision yet being made to further extend this role to combat.

This g overnment has taken a considered approach and acted with precision in responding to the deplorable acts of terrorism that we have seen abroad and on home soil. There has , however , been much debate surrounding Australia's future military involvement in Iraq and Syria. Simply, this cannot be predicted and should not be pre-determined by this g overnment or those of our international allies. Like our allies, this g overnment is sickened by the heinous acts of terrorism that we have seen in Iraq and Syria and will assess any calls for additional military involvement in the context of both Australia's domestic and international responsibilities.

In saying that, while I stand in this place to commend the Prime Minister's statement, I also commend President Obama's recent address to the United Nations and the sentiment that the threat of ISIL will not be stopped or degraded through peaceful discussion — the only option the international coalition has is to fight force with force. As President Obama stated:

No God condones this terror. No grie vance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning — no negotiation —with this brand of evil. T he only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.

With this statement in mind, I also take a moment to address those in this place who have claimed that this g overnment's response to the protection of our n ational security is just a beat- up for other political purposes. We just heard the member for Wright talk about the recent ABC Q&A program. To those people I say: I hope your condemnation of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 and the g overnment's actions to try to prevent or reduce the threat level onshore and abroad is not answered by the harsh whip of reality when you turn on your television screen s .

This is not about politics. It is about the safety of every Australian, whether they were born here or have chosen to call our great nation home and live peacefully under our laws. 91 Page It is shame on them for not b eing able to look past their own cynicisms and see the bipartisanship that has been shown by this g overnment and by the other colleagues in this place. It is shame on them for not opting to be part of the unity that c ould be and should be fostered in the name of national security , and it should be shame on them for not having the a bility to look past the strain of their own shadow and the need to see their name branded across the headlines.

Unlike them , I stand in unity with my fellow Australians in this place and outside it who understand that we have a responsibility to protect all Australians and the innocents abroad from this evil. I stand in unity with the Prime Minister and my fellow g overnment colleagues who are doing everything in their power to keep Australia ns safe and to ensure that , no matter what age, gender or race we and our international allies come from , we will fight this evil together .

I recently met the Turkish community president in Western Australia and had a lengthy discussion about where this is going. He also said, as we have heard other people say: people who come to this country should join us, not change us.

11:49 am

Photo of Kelly O'DwyerKelly O'Dwyer (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am delighted to join my friend and colleague the member for Swan, who gave such an eloquent address to the chamber. I also rise to speak today on a matter of great importance. We have all heard the phrase 'the world is getting smaller'. Often this is applied to the positive aspects of a more connected humanity, such as better trade links, the sharing of information or the ability to travel freely. Yet this world made smaller by technologies of both transit and information has also enhanced the ability of threats to be imported into our once impregnable heartland.

Right now, Australian citizens are fighting in both Iraq and Syria, yet they fight for organisations which execute a policy of torture, rape and murder to achieve their ends. They fight with those that plan and prepare to bring their particular form of virulent extremism inside our national borders. Our intelligence agencies report that there are currently at least 60 Australians fighting in Iraq or Syria and up to an additional 100 people involved in some form of support for offshore conflicts through financing terrorists or recruiting terrorists. These people represent a clear and present danger to our safety. We know that ISIL's leadership has called for its acts of terror to be enacted in the Western nations that oppose its appalling, immoral means of domination.

In a world such as this, we cannot afford to be complacent. We certainly cannot afford to live with a legal infrastructure which is dated to the extent that it limits the capacities of our intelligence services to protect us—for this was the essential finding of a bipartisan review by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. It has always been the case that there are people who stand in direct opposition to all that is humane and decent. Yet today, in our rapidly shrinking world, such dark creatures have the capacity to threaten us by means of so-called home-grown terrorism, which is in fact not home grown but transnational. It is a form of imported extremism enabled by our shrinking world.

Fifteen years ago there was no such device as a smartphone, and now we can barely live without one. Every day, new social networks are spawned capable of spreading both love and hate. Right now, today, such technologies enable men to execute the most heinous of crimes against humanity and distribute disturbing images of these acts on a global scale. They intend that such disturbing forms of promotion inspire similar acts and terrify their opponents.

Yet the agencies that have been charged with our protection have been operating in a framework which has not been prepared for this ever-evolving environment. This is not to denigrate the great work of our security intelligence agencies. They do tremendous work on our behalf. But we must acknowledge that our environment has changed. We now have an opportunity to modernise our laws to remove the unintended binds on our defenders' ability to act, whilst at the same time protecting the rights and freedoms for which we stand. I wholeheartedly believe that now is the time to act and that the measures proposed in the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1), which was enacted this week, are balanced and effective and contain safeguards which protect our cherished liberties.

On 12 September, the then director of ASIO, David Irvine, raised the Australian terror alert to high. Further evidence of the need to act was witnessed in the terror raids carried out in September in New South Wales and Queensland and earlier this week in Melbourne. Further evidence, also, was the stabbing attack on two policemen by a teenager who had the ISIL flag on his person.

Australia's largest anti-terrorism offensive in our history provides some indication of the speed at which our security situation is changing. To respond to these very real threats, the government has announced new anti-terrorism laws in three stages. The national security legislation amendment legislation which, as I mentioned, was passed this week enhances our ability to gather relevant intelligence, enables greater interagency cooperation and empowers our agents with the right skills and protections. I would like to draw the House's attention to some of the elements of this act which I believe are worthy of note.

Firstly, the act will remove unnecessary bureaucracy, which only retards our ability to respond to threats. Before the changes contained in the act, ASIO was required to obtain a separate warrant to conduct separate elements of an investigation. This included separate warrants for tracking, listening devices and internet monitoring. Under the changes in the act, it is eminently possible to accelerate our ability to respond to threats by seeking one warrant, whilst maintaining the minimum statutory thresholds for individual warrants. In this way we can speed up our response without sacrificing our safeguards. As well as high thresholds in the statutory criteria for the issuing of warrants and requirements for ministerial level, the issue of warrants will continue to be subject to independent oversight by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

Secondly, ASIO officers must, from time to time, engage in covert activity. In order to be genuinely effective, they may need to take some action that could be considered illegal. After all, an undercover operative would not look terribly credible if they only appeared willing to engage in strictly legal activities. Yet our ASIO officers were not given the same level of civil and criminal immunity from prosecution as other agencies enjoyed. So this act has addressed this imbalance and empowers our covert operations against domestic threats. But, once again, it is important to note the inherent protections in this act. It demands pre-authorisation in order to receive legal protection. It excludes entrapment activities and serious offences against person and property, or civil wrongs involving the causation of death or serious injury. Notably, there is no protection in the act for the practice of torture, for such activities are unacceptable to the Australian public and to the government.

Thirdly, before this act there were absurd practical limitations on ASIO's ability to share information with other organisations and enterprises. It now seems foolish to shackle ourselves with such restrictions, so this act outlines changes that clarify and improve the statutory framework for ASIO's cooperative and information-sharing activities. ASIO is now able to work more closely with its foreign intelligence counterparts, ASIS, enabling both organisations to better protect us.

Fourthly, the theme of information sharing is extended with the provision to be inserted that confirms that ASIO may cooperate voluntarily with the private sector to perform its statutory functions. Furthermore, the act will remove limitations on ASIO's ability to refer certain criminal acts to other agencies, including those that threaten the lives of agents in the field, such as revealing their identities. Leaving such gaps would only enhance the risks to the agents who already risk their lives to ensure that we are safe. Such a situation is no longer tolerable. In order to further enhance the safety of our officers, the act has further pragmatic elements to allow ASIS to provide training in self-defence and other forms of protective security training to ASIO officers and to those who are cooperating with it.

The package of measures which I have outlined strikes an intelligent and practical balance between enhancing our security, protecting our agents and maintaining safeguards to our liberty. Further measures are also included in the act to address the changing technology environment. In today's world, leaked information can be globally transmitted at the touch of a button. The leaking of secret information is a serious threat to the security of our citizens, for it lets those who wish to do us harm know our plans to protect Australia and thus act to counteract them. To address such risks, the act addresses the legislative gap on penalising those who disseminate covert information by implementing a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment for those who deal with intelligence related records, including copying, transcription, removal and retention. This information in the wrong hands could have dire consequences for our nation. Currently no offences such as these exist.

Furthermore, there are now greater penalties imposed on intelligence officers who leak secret information, with a maximum jail term of 10 years. Before this act, the maximum jail term sat at just two years, which is minimal given the significance of the crime. I would like to congratulate our security intelligence agencies for the job that they do to protect our citizens. The legislation has been brought before the parliament to enhance that capacity. The suite of measures in this bill and in other bills to be brought before the parliament will do just that.

We need to make sure that we enhance the ability of our security services to protect us in a world that is shrinking both physically through transport and ideologically through digital communications. The laws, changes and acts that we have announced strike the right balance between enhancing our effectiveness, protecting our agents and maintaining safeguards to our liberty—liberty that we all cherish in a free and democratic country, Australia.

11:59 am

Photo of Michael DanbyMichael Danby (Melbourne Ports, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

More than a year ago, on a low-rating ABC program I raised reports in the French press, particularly in Le Monde, that Australia had foreign fighters who might be returning from Syria. Since then, this issue has become front-page, indeed daily, news. I do not claim to be a seer but I learnt much from my stint on the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security prior to being Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts in the last government, including learning much from the various officials of the various agencies including ASIO and the AFP.

Particularly, I want to pay tribute to the former director-general of ASIO, Mr David Irvine, whose balanced and moderate presentation both in the public media and elsewhere were so interesting to me and so resonant with the Australian public. He of course pointed out that there are currently a number of returnees from the fighting in Syria, tens of whom presently live in my home city of Melbourne.

The Economist pointed out that in terms of terrorists fighting with ISIL, per capita Australia ranks fourth in the world. We are, to use the Australian boast, 'punching above our weight' in a most unwelcome area.

To paraphrase the editor of The Economist, Edward Lucas, spies—unlike those in most countries—are responsible to their elected leaders and supervised by judges and law-makers. Covert agencies in the West, including Australia, are no longer unregulated as they were in the past. Quite understandably, people in the past had fears, particularly about the political agendas of some of their security agencies, including here in Australia, with what seemed particularly to people on our side of politics to be the biased political nature of some of these agencies. They are of course now subject to legislative and judicial control in a much more regulated and a much more welcome way than they were in the past.

Government agencies in Australia, if we are looking at this area of national security, are constrained by a vast amount of legislation already, particularly by the Attorney-General of the day, the non-partisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which has been having public hearings this last few days, and the former Attorney-General Nicola Roxon who undertook a year-long inquiry into many of the changes that have been thought of and legislated in these recent days.

I think both the intelligence committees and the Attorney-General's are very zealous in not being embarrassed—if that is a good motivation—about the activities of these agencies going too far and it is very good constraint on their behaviour.

In Australia we also have an enviable international reputation in this area, because of the woman who appeared before the public inquiry this morning, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security—not just as an individual but in that particular role. That role does not exist in many other countries.

Judges issue warrants. We have all of the kinds of systems that rightly should be put in place in a democratic society in order to constrain the legitimate activities of security services and to see that they act in a democratic way. Now, thanks of course to Labor and particularly to the energetic activities of the shadow Attorney-General, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor has been restored—a position that otherwise might have been eliminated by the so-called elimination of red tape in the government's cutbacks that they foreshadowed with the budget. I might leave it there and resume my remarks in the adjournment debate.