Senate debates

Monday, 23 November 2015


France: Terrorist Attacks

1:59 pm

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

by leave—In recent days, the world has been shocked and appalled by a wave of attacks by Islamist terrorists on innocent people in the Middle East, most particularly in Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq; in Africa, including in Nigeria and more recently in Mali; in Turkey; and in France. Every one of those attacks is horrifying. For most Australians, I dare say the shock was most particularly felt from the attacks in Paris on Friday 13 November, since so many of us have fond memories of that city. We acknowledge it to be one of the great centres of Western civilisation—the city of light, a bastion of liberty and one of the world's greatest centres of culture.

As has been said by many, this was an attack on freedom everywhere and on all humanity. People of goodwill, of all religions and none, around Australia and around the world are united in condemning this barbarism for which there can be no excuse and for which there can be no toleration. I echo comments made by the Prime Minister this afternoon in the other place in expressing the condolences of the Australian government and people to the people of France, and to all the victims of the attacks in other parts of the world as well.

We salute the inspirational courage and resolve of the French people. We mourn with them, just as we mourn for the victims of terrorism everywhere, including here in Australia. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the French people and with other people around the world in our resolve to defeat this evil. Our cooperation with France and with our other friends, which is already close, will be closer still.

In responding with utter resolve, with the eternal vigilance which is the price of liberty and with careful, considered thought and action, we will not allow these attacks nor any others to destroy the freedom and humanity for which we stand. These attacks give no reason for us to reduce our commitment to helping those who flee the barbarism of ISIL and other terrorists. Indeed, they demonstrate all the more graphically why it is right and necessary both to stand resolutely against ISIL and also to help as best we can its many innocent victims, including the 12,000 Syrian refugees we have rightly committed to take, and who will, of course, be subject to our usual thorough security screening.

Here at home, we know that we too continue to face the risk of terror. We have suffered three fatal terrorist attacks in a little over a year and our alert level rightly remains set at 'high'. We will, as we must, strengthen our counterterrorism laws in considered ways, and we will work ever harder with community leaders to prevent and remedy the extreme radicalisation which breeds terrorism. We also know that we have security intelligence services which are second to none in the world, appropriately supported by the government and by the parliament. As the Director-General of Security at ASIO, Duncan Lewis, has pointed out, they have disrupted six attempts to attack Australia and Australians since September of last year. As Director-General Lewis also says, all Australians can contribute to the defeat of terrorism by continuing to go about our lives in a normal way. To do otherwise, would be to give in to the threat, and that we will never do.

Protecting Australians and protecting freedom is, as the Prime Minister reminds us, a global battle. We stand together with the people of France and with all freedom-loving people in the battle against terrorism and in our solidarity with its victims. I thank the Senate.

2:04 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—The opposition joins with all in this chamber in our condemnation of all acts of terrorism, including recent terrorist attacks in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed in recent attacks, and we acknowledge the pain and suffering of victims. We commend military, law enforcement and emergency personnel that respond to acts of terrorism, and those who work so hard to prevent attacks taking place. We join with the government in encouraging all to maintain the values of tolerance and inclusion, which terrorists have assaulted with such awful consequence.

In the past few weeks, the world has been witness to a spate of despicable criminal acts. Murderous acts have resulted in the death of hundreds of innocents. In Egypt, on 31 October, a Russian airliner crashed over the Sinai Peninsula, almost certainly due to an explosive device. All 224 passengers and crew were killed. In Beirut on 12 November, we saw bombings outside a mosque and a bakery, killing many people and wounding more: a dreadful terrorist atrocity. And, of course, there were the dreadful events in Paris on 13 November: a coordinated shooting and bombing attacks at six locations in the heart of one of the great cities of the world and one of the world's oldest democracies—attacks which killed 130 people and injured over 300, including amongst the wounded a young Australian woman who was in the audience at the Bataclan theatre. We give thanks that she survived this ordeal. And most recently we saw events in Mali in West Africa, with people killed by gunmen in this latest attack.

Fourteen years ago, at the first sitting of the Senate after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Faulkner, stood in this place and observed that 'the fight against international terrorism is our fight'. I again say that today. The fight against international terrorism is our fight. Australians recognise that fact. We recognise that these attacks are attacks on our values—the values of freedom, democracy and peace, the values of tolerance and mutual respect for different cultures and different religious beliefs.

When terrorists attack people in Europe, in the Middle East or in Africa, they not only put at risk Australians who are visiting those places but they also attack our values, Australia's values. That is why Australia will stand with the people of France, Lebanon and Mali as they recover from these attacks and as they bring those responsible to justice. It is why Australia needs to be part of the fight against terrorism around the world. And it is why we need to work in our own communities to confront the messages of intolerance and hatred and to protect our young people from those who would seek to recruit them to this poisonous ideology.

For the opposition's part, I again express our profound sympathy for those whose lives were taken in these latest attacks, to those who have suffered injury and trauma and to those who have lost loved ones. I want to place on record our thanks to the officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who have provided consular support to Australians caught up in these terrible events. I again take this opportunity to place on record the opposition's support for Australian law enforcement, security and emergency services personnel—and for our community leaders and community workers—involved in the fight against terrorism at home and abroad.

2:08 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—Sadly, Australians are familiar with mourning the dead and supporting the injured from acts of extremist violence. We remember the Bali bombings in 2002, when 202 people were killed and many more injured, among them Australians, Indonesians and people from more than 20 other countries. Just like in Bali, the attacks in Paris, in Beirut and in Bamako have broken hearts and torn neighbourhoods apart. To the families and friends of those killed, to the injured and their loved ones, we send our deepest sympathies for your loss, your pain, in this horrendous and senseless violence.

The recent wave of attacks brings the number of extremist violence incidents around the world this year to almost 300. We remember the victims of those attacks in Nigeria, Egypt, Mali, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, France, Iraq, Turkey, the Philippines, Ukraine, Israel, Libya, Pakistan—and the list goes on. Today we stand together to honour the lives of those killed and injured in the recent attacks in Paris, in Beirut and in Bamako. The actions of criminal groups perpetrating extremist violence are designed to scare, to silence and to suppress any manifestation of belief or culture that differs from theirs.

In taking time to reflect on lives lost and harmed, we remain steadfast in our resolve to defeat the threat of extremist violence and we remain steadfast in our resolve that democracy—predicated on liberty, on respect for diversity, on inclusion, on global cooperation—is essential for maintaining our way of life and rising to the challenge to defeat the criminals behind this violence. But let us also remember that to give into fear, to opt for division, is to hand a victory to these criminals. Hatred is the problem here; it is not the answer. Our thoughts today are with the people of Paris and all of the cities and towns across the world affected by this senseless violence.

2:11 pm

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I rise to associate the Nationals with the remarks already made in this place and offer my condolences to those impacted by these devastating events. The appalling terrorist attacks the world witnessed in Paris on 13 November have devastated not only France but also the world over. I personally and on behalf of the Nationals extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those 130 people tragically killed and the more than 350 injured. These are deliberately shocking and horrific attacks by individuals shamefully associated with a perverted interpretation of justice and religion. We have also seen devastating attacks in other parts of the world. The recent attacks in Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria and Mali are crimes that have been perpetrated by a similarly perverted and insidious ideology.

In these times of great hardship and sadness, a natural human response can be one of hatred and distrust. But these are the times, more than ever, that we as Australians must come together and hold true to our principles. We must continue to live by those values which our enemies so jealously despise, to live and promote our freedoms, to uphold our values and to celebrate what makes our country unique—that is, its welcoming and celebration of all cultures. We must all be particularly conscious that these terrorist attacks are not the action of a religious or cultural group as a whole but of a radical minority group that represent only their perverted world view.

Countering terrorism and violent extremism is a priority for all Australian governments. Collaboration between everyday citizens, police, state and federal law enforcement, intelligence and security forces is vital to countering and preventing violent extremism. This is a plea not to spy on one's neighbours but rather to get to know them, to come together and to keep our eyes, hearts and communities open. We must be diligent but not divisive, cautious but not changed. And we cannot forget those we have lost or who have been impacted by these terrible and appalling attacks. The Nationals offer our condolences to all those affected by these terrible atrocities, their families and their communities.

2:14 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I support the comments of my colleagues and wholeheartedly agree with their sentiments. I stand in unity with the people of France, Egypt, Mali, Pakistan, Lebanon and so many other nations that have been victims of terrorism. We must repudiate unequivocally, unambiguously, what these attacks represent. The death of each victim is a tragedy, but these deaths in particular are murders with the most evil of motives. It demands strong and appropriate responses from governments.

Last Monday I had a chance to give my condolences personally to Christophe Lecourtier, France's ambassador to Australia—a good man, who does his country proud, who was still visibly shaken by those events. He expressed that the places where he would go to have dinner with his friends, listen to music or to a sporting match were subject to terrorist attacks where people just wanted to go about their lives.

In making this statement, I also want to join in a plea for unity and I think that the comments of everyone here today, our Prime Minister and our opposition leader reflect that plea for unity. I also want to quote a few words from broadcaster Waleed Aly, who is perhaps Australia's most prominent well-known Muslim who, on Network Ten, using quotes from ISIL's own publications and its strategy of dividing Western nations along religious grounds to foster what in their sick and twisted minds call the final great war, said:

This evil organisation has it in their heads that if they can make Muslims the enemy of the West, then Muslims in France, England, America and here in Australia will have nowhere to turn, but to ISIL.

He went on to say:

I'm angry at these terrorists. I'm sickened by the violence. I'm crushed for the families that have been left behind … I won't be manipulated.

We all need to come together.

He also said:

… because it's exactly what ISIL doesn't want.

Our strength is our unity in our decency and our repudiation of these evil acts.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Could I ask senators to join me in a moment of silence in respect of the dead.

Honourable senators having stood in their places—

I thank honourable senators.