Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Ministerial Statements

National Security

5:08 pm

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

On behalf of the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, I table a ministerial statement on national security.

5:09 pm

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

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I want to be clear that the primary motivation of the criminal groups and individuals threatening national security and perpetrating the extremist violence around the world is just that—a threat to our national security. Their primary motivation is to perpetrate this terrible violence right across the planet. These people seek to impose their will and world view through the most heinous of crimes—crimes that are designed to scare, to silence and to suppress any manifestation of culture, belief or thought that is different from theirs. Their tactic is to divide us and to generate and perpetuate fear and suspicion. In doing so, they attempt to erode the very nature of our democracy.

As we remember and honour the lives of those killed and injured in recent attacks in Paris, in Beirut, in Bamako, in the Russian airliner brought down over Egypt and in the hundreds of other incidents around the world in this year alone, we must redouble our efforts and commit again to those principles that we hold dear—democracy, respect for diversity, inclusion—of course recognising that global cooperation has to be our first response. Violent extremism does not respect or distinguish between national borders. If there is one lesson we have learnt from the recent tragic events, it is that making the world safer from these horrendous acts requires a high level of diplomacy and cooperation between nations.

Like many Australians, I am deeply concerned by the conflict in Syria. The facts are staggering. The UN has said that 250,000 people have been killed in Syria since 2011 and an estimated 7.6 million are internally displaced. Four million people have fled the country. The Greens have said all along that, without a clear plan—a plan that outlines our objectives, our exit strategy—military action is just adding to the chaos in that country. We, like many others, believe that a US led coalition is not going to achieve much for Australia's or indeed the world's national security interests. As the President of the US himself has said only recently, they do not have a clear long-term strategy for countering IS. Their past military involvements in Iraq, since 1991, have been spectacularly unsuccessful and indeed a disaster for the region.

Unilateral military involvement in Syria is unlikely to provide a long-term solution and it risks greatly increasing the appeal of IS to young people. This is a disgraceful organisation, and the barbarity with which it acts is appalling, but the response needs to be a comprehensive, multilateral strategy with our allies, including the Arab League, working with the United Nations to achieve a number of objectives—objectives that are not as simple as simply sending in ground troops and that might not fit as neatly into a two-minute sound bite as some of the interventions we have heard, as unhelpful as they have been, from the coalition of yesterday's men, people like Kevin Andrews and the former Prime Minister himself.

What is required here is a comprehensive response, closing the Turkish border and preventing the flow of weapons and foreign fighters from joining IS or Daesh, cutting off the organisation's money and supplies. This is critical. The financing of terrorism is what keeps these organisations going. We cannot engage in an arms race and keep sending more of our military to face more of these weapons. We need to work to ensure stability in Syria. We know that there has been a power vacuum that has allowed radicals and foreign backers to take hold. Of course we have to assist in the rebuilding efforts—the rebuilding of hospitals, housing, schools and other vital infrastructure.

We also have to face up to the reality that huge inequality, poverty and disenfranchisement all contribute to the problem by providing fertile ground for the recruiters to the criminal cause of violent extremism. That is why the Greens believe that an international response must include a commitment to address the social and economic conditions that enable it to thrive. Reversing our trajectory on foreign aid would be a start. At the same time as these conflicts continue unhindered, we are now on track to see our lowest contribution to foreign aid in 30 years. The Greens advocate increasing Australia's foreign aid budget to reach 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2025, a commitment already reached by countries like England, which we know has faced greater economic pressures than the pressures we are facing here in Australia right now. The Millennium Development Goals target of 0.7 per cent was intended to be reached this year but we are further away from it than ever. Now is the time to get back on track. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we should demonstrate our genuine concern by lifting our contribution to foreign aid and ensure that we not just increase the level of aid but also its effectiveness. Using foreign aid, for example, to expand our detention centre network is a shameful use of money.

Tackling violent extremism is incredibly complex. It requires a considered response. We have to work with the international community to make Australians and the citizens of all nations safer from violent extremism. Australia clearly already has comprehensive protections with regards to community safety. We have laws that stop a person from travelling in and out of Australia, that prosecute a person for supporting terrorist activity overseas. We have laws that restrict a person's movements and communications without charge, that subject them to surveillance and that revoke the citizenship of dual nationals on the basis of past convictions—just to list a few. But we are not persuaded that new citizenship laws will offer any further protections against the threat of terrorism and we are concerned that they might make the threat of public safety at home and overseas worse. We believe that the safest place for people convicted of terrorism charges—that is, criminals—is in jails rather than roaming the world. We do support a strong domestic policing response here in Australia and we agree that our security agencies should be equipped with the powers and resources to do that job. But we also believe that investment in programs that support families and communities that are vulnerable to the insidious influence of recruiters and extremism is critical.

We have called for the establishment of a centre for social cohesion to develop key preventative programs to help stop young Australians from becoming radicalised, to work with communities, to work with young people to unite the nation rather than divide it. We think that such a body fostering social cohesion can bring together government, law enforcement agencies, academic researchers and indeed people who were previously recruited to the cause so that we can work together to build resilient and cohesive communities. I hope that our parliamentary colleagues will support this action for an important piece of national security infrastructure. We all do agree in this place that we have to rise to the challenge to defeat the criminals behind extremist violence. We agree that violence anywhere is unacceptable and that lives all over the planet are equally valuable but we also believe that we need to look at new ways of addressing the problems and to support our values of respect and inclusion. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.