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Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Page: 106


Mr BYRNE (4:32 PM) —by leave—As deputy chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I rise in support of the chair, particularly in view of the relisting of Hizballah’s External Security Organisation. I will make some comments amplifying the reasons why the recommendation has been made to relist this organisation for proscription.

With respect to the evidence that was received by the committee of ESO’s activities, there has been some discussion about the fact that ESO is a clandestine organisation, and thus it is very difficult to identify it as an organiser of terrorist acts. But, clearly, in the words of ASIO in particular with respect to ESO, ESO has global reach which has been detected in countries around the world. ESO has mounted international terrorist attacks and there is no reason to believe the organisation has relinquished this worldwide capability. When the committee relists an organisation, it looks at its capacity for and engagement in terrorism. Despite the lack of evidence of recent ESO activity, we took evidence from ASIO which effectively says that, in its view, ESO maintains its capacity to undertake significant terrorist attacks.

In February 2007 there were renewed reports that the suspected ESO leader was undertaking contingency planning for future attacks. It was assessed that such planning included identification and surveillance of prospective targets. In its final conclusions about this matter, the committee sought confirmation from ASIO that it was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that ESO is still a dangerous organisation. ASIO was quite unequivocal that ESO continues to prepare and plan for terrorist acts. It is ESO that is responsible for planning and coordinating Hizballah’s international terrorist related activities. The absence of terrorist operations against Western interests during the past decade reflects a calculated policy decision rather than any lack of capability. Obviously this was the terms of the recommendation arising out of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security. The recommendation was unanimous.

Because I suspect that this will probably be the last report that is tabled in the House with the member for Fadden as chair, I would like to take the opportunity to say, as deputy chair of the committee, that it has been a great honour and privilege to work with him. As chair of this committee he is impartial. The task of the committee is not easy; it is onerous—particularly because of the chair’s recent battle with illness. To be able to resume chairing the committee with equanimity, intelligence and fairness is a great tribute to him as a person.

When he reflects on his life and time in parliament he should reflect on the Intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction report, a very seminal report which led to the realignment of our intelligence agencies for the betterment of our national interest and national security. On behalf of Labor members of the committee, I wish you well in the future. You should have great pride in what you have achieved as chair of the committee.