Senate debates

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Intelligence and Security Committee; Report

6:08 pm

Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Chair of Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on the review of the relisting of five terrorist organisations.

Ordered that the report be printed.

I move:

  That the Senate take note of the report.

On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I am pleased to present the committee's report entitled Review of the relisting of five terrorist organisations. This report reviews the relisting of five previously listed terrorist organisations: Al-Shabaab, Hamas's Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Kurdistan Workers Party, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Having completed its review, I can advise the Senate that the committee does not recommend disallowance of the regulations for any of these five organisations. As with previous committee reports on listings and relistings of terrorist organisations, this report identifies issues relating to the current nature and reach of each of the organisations with particular emphasis on developments since the committee last reviewed these organisations. This is the first relisting of al-Shabaab; the fourth relisting of the Kurdistan Workers Party; and the fifth relisting of Hamas's Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The committee was satisfied that each of these groups continues to engage in terrorist activities which could be a threat to Australians or Australian interests either here in Australia or overseas. I should note for the Senate that in reviewing the evidence in support of the listings the committee draws in very large measure on the statement of reasons which is prepared by ASIO in conjunction with the Attorney-General's Department. However, completion of the statement of reasons would normally be at least one or two months prior to the committee writing its report, so in order to take into consideration the very latest information about each group the committee often refers to information on Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre website to support the evidence provided in the statement of reasons. I know that is of particular interest to Parliamentary Secretary Feeney who is an avid reader of the Jane's work.

Let me speak briefly about each of the five terrorist organisations. First, al-Shabaab's objective is the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia based on Islamic law and the elimination of foreign 'infidel' influence. Second is the Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades which were officially established in 1991 to provide Hamas with a military capability. Originally, the Brigades were organised secretively, comprising compartmentalised cells that specialised in terrorist attacks, assassinations and kidnappings inside Israel. Since Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2007 and took up a governing role, the Brigades have been forced to develop, at least partially, into a more traditional military force. The Brigades operate predominantly in Gaza with limited representation on the West Bank.

Third is the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK. The Kurdistan Workers Party objectives have changed over time, in line with Turkey's evolving political environment. The organisation now calls for autonomy for Kurds within Turkey and seeks to promote and advance the right of Kurds living in Turkey, specifically the right to maintain ethnic identity. The PKK has used violence to achieve its objectives.

Fourth is Lashkar-e-Taiba. It is a Sunni Islamic extremist organisation based in Pakistan that uses violence in pursuit of its stated objective of uniting Indian-administered Kashmir with Pakistan under a radical interpretation of Islamic law.

Finally, there is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. That is a Sunni Islamist Palestinian militant organisation committed to the destruction of the state of Israel. Accordingly, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad refuses to participate in the political process and rejects the possibility of a negotiated settlement to the Israel-Palestine problem.

The committee recommends that the regulations relisting these five organisations as terrorist organisations not be disallowed, and I commend the committee's report to the Senate.

6:16 pm

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support the remarks of Senator Faulkner. In the time available to me let me just make a couple of brief points. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security—on which both Senator Faulkner and I serve—has always acted in a bipartisan fashion in the discharge of its statutory functions and it has been entrusted by the national security agencies whom it oversees—including, and relevantly for the purposes of this report, ASIO—with a high level of confidence. So this is not a government recommendation; it is a committee recommendation which all members of the committee participate in.

I wanted to stress that point because I think it is very important that the public know that these decisions to either list or to extend the listing of organisations on the basis that they are engaged in terrorist activities are decisions that are not made lightly. They are made by the committee, fully informed by intelligence, and they are approached in an entirely nonpartisan way. They are decisions which are made under provisions of the Commonwealth Criminal Code—specifically section 102.1 of the Criminal Code—which were introduced by the Howard government.

It is significant, I think, that the initial listing or the decision to renew the listing of these various terrorist organisations has been made since the powers were enacted by the parliament under both governments. Al-Shabaab was initially listed as a terrorist organisation by the Rudd government in August 2009, and that decision had the support of the coalition in opposition. Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades was initially listed as a terrorist organisation in 2003 and has been relisted as a terrorist organisation now on five occasions—three times by the previous coalition government and now for the second time by the Labor government. The listing of the Kurdistan Workers Party was initially made in December 2005 by the Howard government, extended in September 2007 again by the Howard government, extended in September 2009 by the Rudd government and now extended under the Gillard government. The listing of Lashkar-e-Taiba was initially made in 2003 by the Howard government. That listing was three times extended by the Howard government and is now being extended for the second time by the Labor government. Finally, Palestinian Islamic Jihad was initially listed by the Howard government and it was relisted on three occasions by that government and is now for the second time being extended by the Labor government.

There is a very high standard or threshold of satisfaction required both by the Attorney-General and by the parliamentary committee before an organisation is listed as a terrorist organisation. I also want to stress the point—and I am sure Senator Faulkner would agree with me—that there is no element of political censorship in a decision to list an organisation as a terrorist organisation. The considerations involved concern the decision based upon intelligence shared with the committee that there is a genuine and well-grounded apprehension that the organisation is engaged in terrorist crimes or potentially engaged in terrorist crimes so that to allow that organisation to operate freely would be to give the sanction of the law to what amounts to a criminal conspiracy.

There have been a number of rather foolish things said in the last decade or so about the new powers initially introduced by the Howard government and continued largely in the same form by the Labor government about the effect of these powers on freedom of association.

The reality is, as we all know, that there is no right of free association and there is no right of free speech for the purpose of the prosecution and planning of a serious crime. The law of criminal conspiracy has been a part of the criminal law of Australia and the Anglo-Saxon legal system which we inherited as long as there has been a criminal law. The law of criminal conspiracy goes back before the Norman conquest in the English legal system. So listing organisations whose advertent, conscious, deliberate and studied purpose is to organise acts of criminal terrorism against our community is to do nothing more than, in a more modern and more sophisticated way, give effect to the same principles as have for a millennium persuaded communities that there should be a law against criminal conspiracy.

It is with great caution, as I said before, that this issue is approached, because whenever one talks about proscribing organisations one must immediately step back and consider the implications for freedom of association and freedom of speech. So the provisions under which these organisations have been proscribed are as narrowly drawn as possible so as to reassure Australians that this is about proscribing criminal conspiracy, specifically terrorism, not restricting freedom of speech or association.

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired.