House debates

Thursday, 2 October 2014


National Security

12:04 pm

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

In resuming my remarks on the issue of national security, there has been much coverage given to the critics of the now anti-terrorist legislation, best exemplified in today's The Sydney Morning Herald headline, 'security laws pave the way for a police state'. They are not my views nor the views of the vast majority of people in this parliament. My views will not be reported from this speech.

Unfortunately, the highly developed and indeed intricate views of the shadow Attorney-General were barely reported yesterday. In his speeches and remarks he explained the many caveats that would, for instance, exclude journalistic reporting of secret or security matters. He is working very effectively to see that the government is held to its own rhetoric of being open to excisions in this area and that journalists pursuing legitimate stories will not be constrained in their reporting.

However, in a general sense, we might be concerned about the reckless leaking of intelligence secrets. We face new circumstances. A conflict, not of our making, with an unspeakably evil group like IS—I much prefer the Arabic name Da'aesh. People in that part of the world use that expression because it describes a group that seeks to impose its view on other people without consultation.

Let me focus on one narrow area. Let's remember the crusade for privacy, which is one of the paradigms used against the legislation that was passed over the last two days, particularly proffered by the Snowden-Assange-IPA axis, to defend the rights of citizens in democracies like Europe, Australia and the United States. Following some of Mr Snowden's leaks, one of the most disgraceful things that happened was that interceptions done by the West in northern Iraq, in Mosul, were leaked to the international media. As a result of that, national public radio in the United States reported that 'it was discovered that al-Qaeda did not just change its seven-year-old encryption software; it was totally rewritten.'

I question the motivation of someone who would leak this kind of information on our interception capabilities of telephone traffic of al-Qaeda in Mosul. This has nothing whatever to do with privacy. This simply undermines the activities of the Western countries assisting Iraq, in northern Iraq, to prevent the activities of al-Qaeda. Isn't it coincidental that, just some months later, after Mr Snowden's revelations, al-Qaeda and IS encrypted all of its telephone traffic in a way that made them invisible to what we were doing? That is the big mystery of what happened in the last few months. How did IS roll into northern Iraq and Mosul without all of the people who are responsible being able to pick this up? What on earth does it have to do with the privacy concerns of Western publics in Melbourne, Manhattan or Manchester? To put it bluntly, it is extremely likely that, after seeing Snowden's expose of intelligence capabilities, al-Qaeda modernised and updated its software to avoid detection. Selective leaking of how Five Eyes countries intercept in the Mosul area was questioned not by me but by the Christian Science Monitor's Dan Murphy, who publicly asked: 'How does this have anything to do with preserving the privacy of Western publics?'

The purpose of the legislative changes in the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill and the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 is to help us stop people in Da'aesh bringing their new skills to Australia. The kinds of numbers that I talked about are in The Economist: 250 people. They explain why the Australian parliament is legislating to enhance the security of all Australians, including those who could not care less about the Greens, IPA or Edward Snowden. (Time expired)