Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 July 2024

Matters of Urgency

National Security

4:22 pm

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is a really disappointing motion from those opposite. I have to say that I'm pretty disappointed with Senator Scarr for engaging in this politicisation of security issues.

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Multicultural Engagement) Share this | | Hansard source

I have a point of order: imputation of motive in terms of me pursuing this as a political matter as opposed to a matter of national security—

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Scarr. There's no point of order. Senator Walsh, please continue.

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is by its nature politicisation of security issues. As a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I can say that this motion complete ignores the formal, considered and appropriate ways that terrorist organisations are, in fact, listed in this country. It is not the Senate that makes these decisions, because these matters of national security go well beyond this chamber. They go beyond politics. It is not for the Senate to decide whether to list an organisation as a terrorist organisation. It is not up to Labor senators, Liberal senators, National senators, Greens senators or other crossbench senators to decide when to list a terrorist organisation. There are legal processes for this set out in the Criminal Code. It is the law that sets out the processes that need to be followed. The law sets out how these decisions are appropriately then scrutinised by the parliamentary joint committee. These processes must be followed.

Critically, decisions to list terrorist organisations under the law, under the code, are informed by the advice of our intelligence and security agencies. These agencies serve the Australian people. They are not there to pander to the whims of senators in this place. They are there to serve the Australian people, to keep Australia safe and to keep Australia protected. Those opposite are well aware of this. The process for dealing with this matter is the one that must be followed, not this political motion in this chamber today. And the process will be followed.

The government has been clear. The government has of course condemned the hateful comments made by the members of this group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. These disgraceful statements and the glorification of terrorism have no place in Australia. That is why it is so disappointing that those opposite want to deal with the issue in this way. When they were in government they of course followed the processes appropriately, just as this government does, too—and just as any government should. And I think they respected those processes then, when they were in government. So they should respect them now, today, as well.

At the time, the then Attorney-General, George Brandis, rejected listing this organisation, and he followed the process. The decision was based on the strong view of ASIO at the time that the group did not fit the definition of a terrorist organisation in the Criminal Code. That was the process then. It's the same process now. The parliament has set up this process through the Criminal Code. At that time, back then, the Leader of the Opposition, when he was the Minister for Home Affairs, correctly said that the government relies on the advice of our intelligence and security agencies in deciding whether to list Hizb ut-Tahrir. That is exactly what is being done in this matter today.

If those opposite don't have the confidence in our intelligence and security agencies, they should say so, because they know that these decisions are made beyond this chamber, as agreed to, in this parliament. But, regrettably, we see—and we see it all too often—that those opposite just can't pass up the opportunity to politicise issues that really should be beyond politics: issues that should be about working together to keep people safe, to meaningfully address issues that may cause harm or that divide our community, to make sure that that doesn't happen. That is the responsibility of both sides of politics as parties that form government.

So, while this process is undertaken and we let our national security and intelligence agencies do their important work, we need to remind ourselves that the issue being debated here is not exclusively dealt with by listing this group as a terrorist organisation. There are a range of mechanisms in place to keep Australians safe, and that is what this government will do.

4:27 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Unlike the previous speaker, I actually thank Senator Scarr for raising this important matter in such a timely manner. And it's due to the lack of guts, I should say, from the government, who won't call it out. That's why there are so many problems around the world, especially in Britain, at the moment, with this organisation spreading its tentacles around the world. By any reasonable measure, Hizb ut-Tahrir is an extremist terrorist organisation with goals completely out of step with Australian values. The best example of this is the infamous video which came to light in April 2017 depicting members of this group endorsing husbands beating their wives into obedience and submission. That's more than a simple cultural difference. It's an endorsement of a violent act, illegal in any Australian jurisdiction. Let's hope it doesn't become compulsory if they ever get control of our parliaments.

There are now 813,000 Muslims in Australia—3.2 per cent of the population. But I must add, in no way am I saying that law-abiding people of the Muslim faith are terrorists or associated with Hizb ut-Tahrir. But Hizb ut-Tahrir have gone much further in recent times. They have celebrated the murder of more than a thousand Israelis on 7 October last year. They promote the genocide of Israelis and Jewish people across the world.

Thanks to the profound weakness of this Labor government, they are inciting gullible and ignorant university students to celebrate murder and genocide as well. This mob calls for the establishment of a global caliphate ruled by sharia law—again, completely incompatible with Australian values and our Constitution. Go and ask Britain how it's working for them. Muslim countries like Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan have banned it, as have most Arab nations. Even they can see the danger that this group represents.

Why is Australia so blind to the threat posed by this mob and others that promote Political Islam? Last month, a story in the Age revealed the Australian Taxation Office had given charity status to an organisation led by a Hizb ut-Tahrir member. Have we given tax breaks for terrorism funding? This week, we heard news of a Muslim political bloc being formed to target Western Sydney seats held by Labor ministers in order to force the ALP to recognise the terrorist state of Palestine. They've announced candidates and, no doubt, they will leverage the high number of Muslims living in those electorates.

In fact, two of those electorates, Blaxland and Watson, I mentioned in a previous speech in 2017 for their high Muslim populations. I said that Labor's dependence on the Muslim vote was frightening. As we can see, Labor today is hopelessly compromised on an issue that Australia can do absolutely nothing to change: the conflict between Israel and the terrorists seeking to destroy it. I've been warning Australians about this for years. In my first speech in the Senate, in 2016, I warned that Islam does not support democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly nor, especially, the separation of church and state. I said Islam supports a theocracy. I said it doesn't separate religion from politics. I said it may be a religion, but it's also much more than that. It has a global political agenda and a system that dictates and regulates every aspect of a Muslim's life. It is a system they plan to impose on all of us. I warned that we were importing Islamic extremism that had led to the Australian tragedies like the Lindt Cafe siege, the murder of Curtis Cheng and the stabbing of two police officers in Melbourne.

At the time, we were also exporting Islamic extremism, with radicalised Australians rushing to Iraq to join the maniacs in Islamic State. Pictures of an Australian child holding a severed head shamed our nation and appalled the civilised world. Equally appalling to many Australians is the appeasement and coddling of Islam while the majority religion in our country, Christianity, is routinely demonised and persecuted. 'We can't offend the Muslims,' say the proponents of multiculturalism, but Christians are fair game. I have repeatedly warned Australians about the dangers of allowing unrestricted migration of people from countries where this ideology is dominant. Political Islam has no place in Australia, and everyone in this parliament has an obligation to kick it out.

This parliament has no legitimacy if it does not stand up to Political Islam. This parliament has a constitutional, moral obligation to reject, resist and outlaw any movement which seeks to overthrow our democracy and fundamentally change our way of life. A good start would be by listing Hizb ut-Tahrir for what it is: a terrorist organisation. (Time expired)

4:32 pm

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I commend Senator Scarr for bringing this urgent motion to the Senate, because there is an urgent need for the Albanese Labor government to stand with our allies and investigate the listing of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation, particularly in light of the group's praise for the Hamas October 7 terrorist attack on innocent Israeli citizens—a horrific massacre—and the revelations, in more recent times, that Hizb ut-Tahrir members sought to radicalise students on our campuses and in fact infiltrated the pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Sydney.

I very strongly say that I condemn Senator Walsh for reflecting on Senator Scarr as she did in this debate. It is wholly inappropriate and a complete falsehood to reflect on Senator Scarr's motivation in bringing this very important issue forward for debate. The fact that she questioned the coalition's, and particularly Senator Scarr's, support for our security and intelligence organisations is, frankly, disgraceful. Senator Scarr has a long history of being an incredible advocate not just for the rule of law but for our security and intelligence organisations. So for Senator Walsh to go the political attack as she did is completely inappropriate.

The terrorism listing rules in our country are very clear. If any group is involved in promoting, fostering, encouraging and even praising terrorist activity, that is grounds, under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, for such an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation. This debate is about highlighting the importance of this issue in the Australian Senate. How dare members opposite reflect on our intentions to ensure that this receives the highest priority from this government?

We have seen deeply disturbing revelations, particularly as exposed by Nick McKenzie and other reporters in the Age, in the Sydney Morning Herald and on 60 Minutes, about the infiltration of the encampment at the University of Sydney which, frankly, are shocking. Then, of course, we saw the University of Sydney, rather than stand strong, appease those protesters by entering into a most improper agreement with that group of students under circumstances where that should never have happened. Even worse, as we now know, the university was put on notice that members of this extremist group were on the campus from as early as 6 May, yet the university took no action.

On behalf of the coalition I have also called for the Albanese government to urgently investigate all revelations concerning the infiltration by this extremist group at the University of Sydney. It is very concerning that the Minister for Education, Mr Clare, has not raised concerns about this at all, just as he never condemned the encampment and never directly condemned the encouragement of children chanting 'intifada' at the encampment at the University of Sydney. So we continue to call for an urgent inquiry into how this happened. How could one of our most prestigious and oldest universities allow these extremists onto their campus and not take any action? We have asked urgent questions in relation to this.

Everyone on a university campus deserves to be safe, everyone in our country deserves to be safe, and we need to see that the government does not compromise our safety in any respect. This is a very important motion. Again, I commend Senator Scarr for bringing this to the Senate, and I call on the government to take this seriously.

4:37 pm

Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support Senator Scarr's motion. I'd like to firstly address the comments by members of the government as to the reason for them not supporting this motion, claiming that for members of the Senate to raise this is somehow politicising the issue.

I served on the intelligence and security committee for nine years and was involved in the listing or relisting of a number of terrorist groups. Whilst the coalition was in government, the coalition members of that committee were calling for the listing of Hezbollah, for example, even though agencies were indicating that they didn't support that action for a range of reasons. But, with the support of members of the Labor Party—now the government—members of the coalition called, outside the committee and through committee reports, for the listing of the entirety of that organisation, which was eventually done.

This parliament—this Senate—has a role, just as it does in civil control of the military, to ensure control of the representatives of the Australian people over the legislative basis and the actions of our national security agencies. In a case such as this, where the element of glorification of terrorist acts is not specifically listed—as it is in the UK, which gave them the ability to outlaw this particular group in question, Hizb ut-Tahrir—it's quite legitimate for members of this parliament to call for legislative change to enable that listing to occur.

It is the case that this parliament has acted in the past where we see foreign influences affecting the safety and unity of Australian people and, particularly, bringing foreign concepts and ideas into our universities. The Confucius institutes, which have been the matter of some contention over the years, are a good example of that. They have come under appropriate scrutiny, and universities have been required to register and be transparent about their relationships, and that has substantially reduced the influence of those institutes in shaping the conversation, the views and the attitudes of both lecturers and young Australians. So it's quite appropriate to highlight where we see what is considered by any reasonable standard to be a malign influence on our university campuses, affecting the thinking, the behaviour and the actions of both students and academics.

We are not alone in that. There are some people who would say that any such discussion about a group that has a religious identity is somehow vilifying that particular group, but I note the fact that around the world a range of nations have banned Hizb ut-Tahrir—not only the United Kingdom and places like Germany but Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Turkiye. They have all banned this group because the Islamist agenda crosses the line not only between religion and politics but also of the use of violence to see their will enacted. That's why it's important to also realise that, whilst it's not our approach, you can see nations like Morocco, a 99 per cent Muslim country, that have banned certain teachings, particularly Wahhabist teachings, because of the association with the Islamist view and the violence. They've also banned the manufacturing, importation or sale of things like the burqa because of the association with that teaching.

Even in relation to the glorification of this kind of violence and the teaching that goes along with it, the AFP have written in their guidance to parents about how to identify radicalisation and extremism in children—the fact that, even in things like games, any socialisation or glorification of this kind of violence can lead to radicalisation. So Australians should be concerned, and I support the call for the government to look at what is required under legislation to ban this organisation and also for the responsible agency, whether it's Treasury or the Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, to look at the DGR status that was awarded to a group that is closely linked with Hizb ut-Tahrir to make sure that we are not allowing any of these groups to establish themselves and remain as a malign influence in Australia.

4:42 pm

Photo of James PatersonJames Paterson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Cyber Security) Share this | | Hansard source

Social cohesion has been tested in Australia, more than at almost any time in our history, since the events of 7 October. Hamas's decision to launch a terrorist attack on Israel, killing more than 1,200 Israelis and kidnapping hundreds more, has had profound reverberations here. On one level, that is natural and understandable. The Jewish community is, of course, deeply distressed by these attacks, which saw the most Jews killed on a single day since the end of the Holocaust, and the continued holding of innocent hostages in Gaza. It's also understandable that Australians with connections to Gaza are also greatly concerned by the loss of life there, including of innocent civilians, as the IDF has attempted to remove Hamas from power and free the hostages. In a pluralistic, multicultural democracy, conflicts overseas always have the potential to be flashpoints for domestic disharmony and contention. But our ability to navigate these differences of opinion is made much harder by extremist groups who seek to weaponise foreign conflicts for their own reasons.

One such group is Hizb ut-Tahrir. Thanks to the investigative reporting by Nick McKenzie and his colleagues at 60 Minutes, we now have a much better understanding of the operations of this group. They have successfully infiltrated the pro-Palestinian protests in Australia since 7 October, especially the university based encampments. They are using them as an opportunity to recruit and radicalise students with extreme rhetoric and their hateful ideology. They have propagated vile antisemitism, and they openly seek to undermine our democratic institutions.

For many years, it has been argued that this group and their conduct are awful but lawful, that they might be extremists but they are non-violent. If that ever were true, there is good reason to doubt it now. One imam associated with Hizb ut-Tahrir is Sheik Ibrahim Dadoun. On 8 October, long before any IDF response in Gaza, he spoke at a rally in Western Sydney to celebrate Hamas's attacks. He said:

I'm smiling and I'm happy. I'm elated. It's a day of courage. It's a day of pride. It's a day of victory. This is the day we've been waiting for.

He's not alone in that view. As Alexi Demetriadi of the Australian revealed last week, Hizb ut-Tahrir issued a media release in Arabic on 7 October. It has since been deleted from their website, but it praised the brave Muslims of Palestine and urged Israel's neighbouring Muslim countries to attack and eliminate Israel.

Australia's counterterrorism laws are clear. It is of course an offence to directly participate in a terrorist attack or recruit or fundraise for a terrorist organisation, but the criteria to be listed as a terrorist organisation is also broader than that. It includes advocacy of terrorism. As the Attorney-General's Department explains, advocacy includes someone who counsels, promotes, encourages or urges the doing of a terrorist act, someone who gives instruction on the doing of a terrorist act or someone who directly praises the doing of a terrorist act whether there is a substantial risk that that praise might lead someone to engage in a terrorist act. It is for reasons similar to this that our close partners in the United Kingdom took the decision to list Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation under their own regime in January. As UK home secretary James Cleverly said, HUT is 'an antisemitic organisation that actively promotes and encourages terrorism, including praising and celebrating the appalling 7 October attacks.'

Disturbingly, on Sunday in the Herald Sun, James Campbell reported HUT was shifting its activities from the UK to Australia because we had inadvertently become a safe haven for their global activities by failing to proscribe them. It is for these reasons that the Australian government must urgently commence its own investigation into whether HUT meets the criteria for terrorism listing here. On behalf of the coalition, I offer the government bipartisan support for listing Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation. If the government believes that our current terrorism proscription regime is not fit for purpose and can't capture groups like HUT, we should immediately consider reforming them so that it does. We would of course work with the government in a bipartisan way to address this. But, if the government does not act, we will, because nothing less than our social cohesion is at stake.

I also want to address the comments by Senator Walsh directed to Senator Scarr during this debate. I'm very happy to compare my credentials or Senator Scarr's to anyone opposite on supporting our security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies. But we're a liberal democracy. We are not a security state, and it is entirely appropriate for the elected representatives of the people in this place to give voice to their concerns over these issues and to ask questions about whether or not our laws need to be reformed to better protect our country. That's exactly what we're doing.

Question agreed to.