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Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Page: 4429


Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (20:15): Over the last 15 years the rights and liberties of the Australian people have been progressively cut away in the never-ending so-called 'war on terror'. We have seen successive prime ministers reduce our privacy, restrict our freedoms, including freedom of movement, and erode the rule of law. These are rights that thousands of Australians have fought for, and in many cases have died to protect and enhance, including some of my ancestors. Every time we give away more of our precious rights we hand another victory to those who wish us harm. We are losing the so-called war on terror, just like we are losing the so-called war on drugs. Unfortunately, at least the war on the environment is going well.

At the same time that the Labor and Liberal parties jostle each other in their eagerness to hand over more of our hard-won rights—and we see it again, again and again in this place—they also join forces to throw away our independence, to march in zombie lockstep with the disastrous foreign policy experiments of the United States. There has not been a war in the last hundred years that the US has fought and that Australia did not. Given that the US is now led by a stooge of Russia, installed in the White House by Vladimir Putin in a massive impact of the US election late last year, frighteningly, it looks like this will continue.

We have seen in recent history how stupid and how counterproductive the foreign policy experiments of Australia and the US, along with others, have been. Remember the invasion of Iraq, based on the lie of weapons of mass destruction, which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, many of them civilian, completely destabilised the region and in fact has created the preconditions for violent extremists to flourish. Remember the arms deals with Saudi Arabia, one of the world's biggest state sponsors of violent extremism?

Following the tragic, awful loss of lives recently in places like Melbourne, Manchester and London, we are seeing Prime Minister Turnbull choose to go down a very familiar path, a path trodden very eagerly indeed by the man he overthrew, Tony Abbott—a path of demonising people of different cultures and skin colours; a path of eroding yet more of our hard-won civil and human rights; a path that risks undermining the multicultural, harmonious society that we enjoy; a path that risks setting Australians against each other. If we as Australians choose to walk down this path with Mr Turnbull and his allies in this place, we risk a less-stable world, a country where suspicion and mistrust rule over trust and harmony. We risk losing the welcoming and laid-back country we pride ourselves in being. We risk looking upon strangers with suspicion and we risk assuming the worst in people. We risk no longer enjoying the simple things the way we should, like going to the beach, going to the footy or going to concerts in the park. We risk throwing up our shutters and refusing to help those who desperately need our help. This is the path being offered by the people whose choices have led us directly to the situation we find ourselves in now—the same people who have been consistently wrong about foreign policy and consistently wrong about how to counter violent extremism for well over 15 years now.

But there is another path—a path where we can hold our heads high and not listen to those voices which seek to sow hatred and seek to set us against each other. That is because the truth is that those people have no answers other than fear and division. We have to choose to continue to enjoy the things that make this country so fantastic and one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world, where we can enjoy mixing with people of different colours and religions and we can enjoy our beautiful environment, going to the footy and going to have fun in our cities, in our towns, in our forests and on our beaches. If we want to make those choices, we have to welcome people who were not born in this country, and we have to give them every chance to succeed in Australia. Those are the values that we cherish as the people, and we should not give them up without a fight. We certainly should not let them be eroded continually by the Labor and Liberal parties, who march in zombie lock step on those issues in this place.

We will have to stand up and defend those rights and freedoms, and the Australian Greens will. We will have to not sit silently when big politics conspire to take them away from us. We are the only Western democracy in the world without a charter of rights. We desperately need one so that we have something to use when governments come knocking to take away yet more of the rights that we fought so hard to create. We need a new white paper not on defence but on countering violent extremism so that we can measure calmly and cohesively whether this ongoing erosion of our human civil rights is actually making us any safer as a country and as a people. We need to make the government, be it Labor or Liberal, justify those ongoing erosions, if it can, so that we know that the rights, the freedoms and the liberties that our forefathers fought so hard to protect and enhance are indeed not being traded away for nothing.