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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13214


Dr STONE (Murray) (11:43): I think many Australians are proud that Australia, a nation of only 23 million people, is, with the USA and Canada, consistently offering the highest number of resettlement opportunities to humanitarian refugees—and we have been in this position for many years. Recently we have determined to take an additional 12,000 humanitarian refugees from the Daesh, or ISIS, created war on Iraq and Syria.

We are also second only to the USA in commitment to efforts to fight these terrorists' movements. Australia is playing an important role in the global coalition led by the USA by supplying some 300 ADF personnel to help train the regular Iraqi army so they can reclaim and hold territory as part of the Building Partner Capacity mission. We are providing around 80 ADF personnel to support the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service in an advise-and-assist role; and we are contributing to coalition air strikes on Daesh targets in Iraq in support of Iraq ground forces' efforts to retake areas captured by Daesh. So far, we have trained more than 2,100 Iraqi army personnel and some 800 personnel in the counter-terrorism service, and our Air Task Group has conducted more than 480 air strike missions over Iraq and Syria.

On 13 November—just a few days ago—we saw the cowardly attacks on unarmed, defenceless civilians in Paris. They were targeted and shot down or blown up by Daesh adherents with warped minds, who believe that if you do not convert to their religion and their inhuman values then you should die. France was one of the first modern nations to fight to oppose tyranny. Its constitution and its country's culture acknowledge and loudly proclaim its citizens' rights to personal and religious freedom within the rule of law and democracy for all. In the exercise of free will for all people, the French champion human rights, especially the equality of men and women in all things. It is no wonder France and other western democracies are the object of such hatred by adherents to the Daesh ideology, based as it is on cruelty and intolerance. Daesh even beguile their loser and hapless recruits, including some 120 from Australia, by claiming that killing yourself as you murder defenceless victims is some form of glorified martyrdom, far preferable to the pursuit of global peace, individual freedom and respect for the right to life of all.

Just a few days before the Paris massacres, I chaired a special forum here in Parliament House, organised by our UN parliamentary group and in conjunction with the UNHCR regional office. The intention was that we put on the record and acknowledge the extraordinary contributions of these countries nearest to Syria, as we heard firsthand of their efforts and the extreme challenges presented by the Syrian refugee crisis. These nearest neighbours are now carrying an unsustainable burden on behalf of all of us as they offer an open door and haven to the refugees from the conflict. The key participants in this forum were: the diplomatic representative of Turkey, Her Excellency Mrs Gulseren Celik; Her Excellency Mrs Rima Alaadeen, Ambassador of Jordan; and Mr Milad Raad, Charge D'affaires of the Embassy of Lebanon in Canberra. Mr Thomas Albrecht also presented the UNHCR position.

The Daesh created Syrian conflict has triggered the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. The total number of people needing assistance is more than 13½ million, with 6½ million internally displaced. Over the last five years Jordan has accepted over 1.4 million refugees, with 647,000 registered with the UNHCR. Only 100,000 live in refugee camps; the rest are accommodated in villages, towns and cities—wherever they can find shelter. They now make up 21 per cent of Jordan's total population of 6.7 million people. Today, they have the world's biggest refugee camp. In fact, it is the fourth largest city in Jordan. The country has a budget deficit due to the expenditure on the needs of these refugees. In 2015, it will be 3.5 per cent of its GDP. This is typical of the other countries, such as Turkey, which is next door, and Lebanon. These countries are disappointed that, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been committed—and Australia always has its cheque in the mail—on average, only 30 per cent of the funds that are committed ever reach those countries that have that special need.

I say now is not the time for parliamentary debates about the ins and outs of this conflict but, rather, it is time to put our effort into special briefings to the opposition when they need them. It is time, as a country, to unite, to condemn the tyrannous conflict in Syria and the behaviour of Daesh, and to commend, acknowledge and support those neighbouring countries which are carrying such a heavy burden providing refugee haven and support.