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Monday, 26 October 2009
Page: 10962

Mr BEVIS (8:49 PM) —On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the committee’s report entitled Review of the listing of Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

Mr BEVIS —One of the regular functions of the committee is to look at proposed listings and relistings of organisations. As the member for Berowra just noted, it is an important function that all members of the committee take particularly seriously. The implications of listing do have impacts, potentially, on Australian citizens and we look carefully at these matters.

As this and other reports have identified there are a number of considerations that the committee takes into account. These reflect considerations that ASIO itself takes into account, which of course do not replace the requirements of the act but are nonetheless useful tools that we and the committee, in previous parliaments, have adopted. One of those considerations is whether or not the organisation in question has been involved in peace and mediation processes. The committee found no evidence whatsoever to support the view that al-Shabaab is involved in any peace or mediation processes—indeed, far from it.

The al-Shabaab organisation has been involved in a significant list of terrorism related activities, a number of which are documented in the report. I will mention just one. On 13 April this year, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on which an aircraft carrying a United States congressman came under mortar fire when departing Mogadishu airport. There are a number of examples of those sorts of attacks on African Union military bases and on the use of improvised explosive devices, and the kind, from an organisation that publicly proclaims its commitment to terrorist related events.

In August 2008, al-Shabaab released a video by al-Qaeda in East Africa network operative, Saleh Nabhan, in which an al-Shabaab spokesperson and Nabhan appeared together. In the video, Nabhan pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, encouraged Muslim youth everywhere to go to Somalia to wage jihad and was shown instructing recruits at an al-Shabaab training camp in Somalia. I think by any reasonable test al-Shabaab certainly complies with the provisions set out in the act.

There is one matter that I should report to the House on in respect to this listing. Members would be aware that in August of this year five people were arrested in Melbourne and charged with offences arising out of an Australian Federal Police investigation. There were some concerns to be addressed to ensure that the proceedings we were embarked upon did not in any way impact on those court proceedings. Assurances and advice were sought by committee members in respect of that matter. The Attorney-General’s Department advised:

This listing has nothing to do with assisting us to prove the charges with which we have charged these people. Where the listing is important is the potential for the need for the legislation in relation to other people in the future.

The committee quite properly sought to ensure that its consideration of this matter, both its timeliness and its substance, did not in any way affect an ongoing matter before the courts and received those assurances from the Attorney-General’s Department. Accordingly, the committee does not recommend the disallowance of the regulation listing al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation.

I again place on the record my thanks to the committee members and the secretariat for the work they have done in reviewing these matters. I guess it is true to say that some of these are more taxing than others when looking at the detail, background and implications. I am quite sure that the overwhelming majority of Australians would share the view that the committee presents here that supports the listing and does not recommend the disallowance of al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation.