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Social Security Amendment (Supporting Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas) Bill 2011
- Parl No.
- Question No.
Bushby, Sen David
Social Security Amendment (Supporting Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas) Bill 2011
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- Start of Business
- Social Security Amendment (Supporting Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas) Bill 2011
- Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2011-2012, Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2011-2012
- Parliamentary Counsel and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012
- National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Charges) Bill 2012
- Broadcasting Services Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2012
- Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012
- Migration (Visa Evidence) Charge Bill 2012, Migration (Visa Evidence) Charge (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012
- National Water Commission Amendment Bill 2012
- AUDITOR-GENERAL'S REPORTS
- QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Friday, 22 June 2012
Senator BUSHBY (Tasmania—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (09:44): I rise to speak on the Social Security Amendment (Supporting Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas) Bill. Australia, quite rightly, owes a huge debt to those who are victims of terrorism, as well as to their families. This bill is essential in honouring Australians whose life has been affected by those who seek to destroy Australia and its way of life; by those who choose the killing and maiming of innocent people as their means to attempt to achieve their twisted political aims. In support of this bill I will talk briefly about the threat of terrorism to Australia, its prevalence and why some formal recognition of those that are victims of such atrocities should rightfully be included in Australia's legislation.
Terrorism itself is not a transparent subject; nor does it have an agreed-upon definition in the international community. Terrorists are not subject to the rules of international law, as lone terrorists, collective terrorist groups or terrorists as a whole are not recognised as an international entity with a governing body. This means that, essentially, nations are dealing with an unknown enemy that is outside the moralistic international rules of war that governing nations generally adhere to, with the consequence that terrorist attacks are one of the deadliest threats to a nation's sovereignty.
Whilst there may not be an international definition of what constitutes a terrorist, there is general agreement within the international community about what constitutes a terrorist attack. A terrorist attack is one that is dangerously high in lethality and is conducted with the aim of causing the highest amount of destruction that it possibly can. They generally have a high level of collateral damage and the perpetrators are spurred on by political or moral ideals that contrast with those of the intended victims. This is particularly the case when one is dealing with the threat of terrorism from Islamic extremists, who desire to live in an Islamic superstate—a desire that conflicts with the presence of the West. It is this group of individuals that poses the greatest level of threat to Australia, which is exacerbated by our lack of means to deal with the issue within international law.
The Western world's attention was sharply refocused on the threat of terrorism in 2001 by the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon and by the attempted attack on the White House, more commonly referred to as 9-11, although the threat of terrorism had been in existence for a long time before that. Following those incidents many subsequent terrorist attacks were implemented against various Western nations. To date, over 300 Australians have lost their lives in terrorist related attacks since 2001. A number of terrorist groups arose out of the confusion that reigned after 9-11, which had provided the international focus to bring disparate groups together in their hatred of Western ideals, thereby spreading their networks across the globe. The extremist groups that conduct these attacks are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to orchestrate their attacks so as to cause the most collateral damage. At times, this includes the use of children and the deliberate sacrifice of their own lives. The rise of international terrorism is all the more lethal in the globalised world; new technologies that can cause greater numbers of casualties arise, and a larger terrorist network allows a greater number of targets to be identified.
We are dealing with extremist ideology. This extremist ideology is not bound by any social morals or rules of war, nor are the perpetrators signatories of any treaties. This is a war where there is an uneven playing field, because Australia and our allies are bound by such principles—as we should be. Terrorists' extremist views are absolutist in their actions. Their actions are intended to have the maximum effect that they possibly can; this effect is measured in the amount of collateral damage caused and/or the degree to which their victims have been maimed. Make no mistake, these extremists have targeted Australia.
Terrorist groups exploit the wealth of the Western world to embed feelings of distrust and envy. Those feelings are then manipulated in such a way as to encourage membership of disgruntled, lower socioeconomic individuals who feel that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain in the afterlife if they take as many of the Western heathens with them as possible. Also manipulated to recruit members are various events in which the Western world can be spun as a negative perpetrator—for example, Western support for Israel, the war in Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan. Given Australia's involvement with these events, it is no surprise that various groups, including the highest funded terrorist organisation, al-Qaeda, have named Australia as a target in which the state must be abolished. Australia values everything that these extremists individuals despise, such as religious tolerance, freedom of speech, the rule of law, principles of equality and, above all, a modern, pluralistic, non-sectarian, democratic government.
Although the number of incidents in the West may seem to have fallen, the threat is growing, as terrorist groups continued to make links across the globe. To give an example of this, al-Qaeda has admitted that it continues to have links to Jemaah Islamiah, a terrorist sect located in Indonesia and its geographical neighbours. It is well-known that al-Qaeda has trained many of the JI members in training camps, provided logistical support for many of its planned operations and provided substantial aid. This partnership has taken the lives of Australians in the past, such as the Bali bombings in 2002 that claimed the lives of 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Despite the excellent work done by our enforcement and intelligence agencies, the threat to Australians from organisations such as al-Qaeda and JI remains. As such, it is appropriate and prudent that we acknowledge this threat and plan for its potential outcomes, which is why I support the need for some form of recognition of those who have lost their lives in these attacks and the ongoing effect it has had or may have on their loved ones. Such tragic loss of life arises not because of their own personal actions or their own characteristics but because of what they represent. They are targeted because of their way of life, because they represent the Australian way, a way characterised by the principles of freedom for all and equality—principles that are anathema to these extremists.
Because of the deeply political motives behind their targeting, Australian victims of terrorism pay the price for an attack on all Australians. Accordingly, all Australians need to acknowledge the price, as well as the price paid by their families and loved ones—the people who are left behind. In stating that this country needs to acknowledge these victims and their families, I am not implying that this country has not taken this responsibility seriously in the past. Government has always provided necessary practical assistance, such as Centrelink payments, medical assistance and so on. However, this country needs to go much further than we have and provide formal recognition that clearly demonstrates our support and commitment to these individuals for the sacrifices they and their families have made. Australia needs to recognise the impacts that these attacks have on the lives of those affected, whether it is medical, psychological or financial, and ensure appropriate compensation is in place to ensure that these impacts can be redressed by government, so far as is possible.
What this bill proposes is not much different to that in the victims of crime legislation available to victims of crimes committed within the states and territories. It takes that concept and translates it into a federal recognition of crimes committed against our citizens that have resulted in the death or maiming of an individual outside our borders. It is an appropriate way for the community to acknowledge these terrible events that have befallen our fellow citizens, and the sacrifice they have made, not through any fault of their own but because they represent a way of life we all enjoy and believe in. It is a means through which this country can acknowledge their loss and show our support for their eventual wellbeing. It is appropriate that we acknowledge that those who are victims of crime overseas, in this case terrorism, are just as detrimentally affected by such events as those who suffer as a result of criminal acts within our borders, and they should be treated accordingly.
The sad reality is that the threat of terrorism is not going to go away. Indeed it is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future. This threat will be persistent and, tragically, may grow in lethality as sects grow in numbers and experience. It is essential that this chamber recognises this as fact and acts accordingly to show its support.
The coalition, I am proud to say, has taken a lead on this much needed bill and moved a very similar bill prior to the government introducing this one. The coalition recognises that the victims of these crimes, as well as their loved ones, face a massive irreversible loss, and a national recognition of that loss and sacrifice is an important way that the community can demonstrate its support, sympathy and understanding. In saying that, I am fully aware that monetary compensation will never replace their loss or adequately pay for that sacrifice. But it may assist them to deal with some of the financial consequences that inevitably do flow following such a loss. The bill should be supported.