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Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Page: 3694

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«Sharrouf» , Mr «Khaled»

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (14:27): My question today is also to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. I refer to the case of convicted jihadi terrorist «Khaled» «Sharrouf» , who, despite being under surveillance—his passport was cancelled and he was on airport watch-lists around the country—on 6 December last year, walked straight past Customs officials at Sydney Airport and onto a flight out of Australia. I refer to the recent allegations that Mr «Sharrouf» is fighting with the terrorist organisation ISIL in Iraq. Can the Attorney-General explain how Mr «Sharrouf» was able to leave the country and join up with one of the most extreme terrorist organisations in the world?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:28): Thank you very much indeed for that question, Senator Stephens. The Australian government can confirm that Mr «Sharrouf» departed Australia in December of last year using his brother's passport. It is assumed that he departed Australia with the intention of travelling to Syria. Mr «Sharrouf» is currently being investigated by Australian authorities, including state and federal police, regarding both his departure under a false identity and his alleged involvement in offences against the Australian Criminal Code and the Foreign Incursions and Recruitment Act. It would not be appropriate for me to comment any further on the matter.

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (14:28): Thank you for that response, Minister. Can the minister advise how the Australian public can actually have any confidence that Mr «Sharrouf will not return to Australia as easily as he left?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:29): The Australian public can have entire confidence that this government is absolutely determined to take whatever steps are necessary to protect Australia's national security. As I have said in this chamber on several occasions in response to questions from both sides, it is a serious crime against Australian law, punishable by up to 25 years imprisonment, for a person to participate in a foreign civil war, including participating as a war fighter in the Syrian civil war or in the conflict in northern Iraq. As well, there are other provisions of the Criminal Code that have an extraterritorial operation and which apply to Australian citizens participating in violence in foreign lands. The Australian government will be vigilant and it will give the agencies the resources they need to ensure that our national security is protected and that any Australians who breach these laws are brought to justice. (Time expired)

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (14:30): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware that the details of this bungle were actually confirmed in the final report of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor? How can the government justify abolishing the monitor, which has demonstrated its value in reviewing the operation, effectiveness and implications of Australia's counterterrorism and national security legislation?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:30): I hate to sound a discordant note to my friend Senator Stephens, but I am surprised to hear a Labor Party politician spring to that defence of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. When the Labor Party was in power, the Labor Party did not respond to a single report produced by the national security monitor. When the coalition came into government in September last year, we were left with a backlog of unresponded-to reports, which we are in the process of responding to. There are a suite of measures in place whereby legislation, including national security legislation, is kept under review, including by the PJCIS; the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee; and, ultimately, the Australian Law Reform Commission. (Time expired)