Thursday, 1 August 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs. Will the minister outline to the Senate how the Morrison government is demonstrating it is on the side of Australians who chose strengthened national security at the election?
I thank Senator Rennick for the question. On this side of the chamber we are committed to keeping Australians safe from the threat of terrorism. We understand that the fundamental priority of your Commonwealth government must be the security of the nation and the security of the people. We have actually passed 17 tranches of legislation since 2014, when the terrorism threat level was raised to 'probable'. The government is proud of the work that it has done in this place, in the last fortnight in particular, to make our nation more secure. In fact, today we passed further legislation.
We are facing some of the greatest threats our nation has ever experienced. One of these threats is returning foreign fighters. Since 2012, around 230 Australians have travelled to Syria or Iraqi to fight with or support groups involved in the conflict. Agencies assess that there are around 80 Australian men and women currently in Syria and Iraq who have fought for or otherwise supported Islamic extremist groups. The advice of our national security agencies is that many of these people are likely to seek to return to Australia in the very near future. The government's temporary exclusion orders legislation ensures that, if an Australian of counterterrorism interest does seek to return to our country, it is with adequate forewarning and in the hands of the authorities. This is critical national security legislation, and I thank senators for their support. I also thank the Senate for their support in passing today the government's ASIO Amendment (Sunsetting of Special Powers Relating to Terrorism Offences) Bill 2019.
Senator Rennick, you are part of a government, as you know, that makes no apology for taking strong action to keep Australia and Australians safe. Senator Rennick, you would be aware that there are individuals and groups who are actively seeking to wreak havoc in our community. Since 12 September 2014, when the national terrorism threat level was raised, there have been seven attacks and 16 major counterterrorism disruption operations in response to potential attack planning in Australia. Around 230 people in Australia are currently being investigated for providing support to terrorist groups involved in the Syria-Iraq conflict, including through funding and facilitation or seeking to travel to join these groups. The most important responsibility of a government is to protect its citizens, and that is what we are doing.
What has been on display over the last two sitting weeks is that the Leader of the Opposition cannot get support for critical national security legislation from the extreme left of his own party. What we have seen over the last two weeks is that the opposition's approach to national security has become a chaotic mess. The No. 1 priority of a government must be the security of its nation. Under the Morrison government, we will never, ever make an excuse for putting the security of our nation and the security of Australians as a No. 1 priority.