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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15781


Mr CIOBO (4:57 PM) —I rise to speak on the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2003 and related bill. It is a fact that the world's safety environment changed on September 11. It is also a fact that the Howard government responded swiftly to this new environment, introducing a raft of legislation designed and targeted towards reducing the global terrorist threat to Australians and to Australian interests. Given that the bulk of the legislation the Howard government introduced was passed in July last year—and the Leader of the Opposition has in fact alluded to this—it begs the question: why are we back in this chamber debating legislation when, in effect, the legislation should already have been dealt with? The answer to this question is very clear: we are back in this chamber today debating this legislation because of the failure of the opposition's amendments.

The opposition made the government introduce a number of amendments to the raft of legislation we introduced in July last year. As a consequence of opposition-enforced amendments, we are now debating this legislation to try to correct a problem the opposition brought about. It is because of the opposition's political opportunism that we now must look at changing the listing process in order to list organisations such as Hezbollah. Make no mistake about it: I am very pleased to go back to the people of Moncrieff—as the Leader of the Opposition suggested I should do—and tell them the very reason why we are debating this legislation again. I will make it very clear to them that the reason we are debating this legislation in the chamber is that the member for Hotham—the Leader of the Opposition—and the opposition failed to get a workable framework in place in legislation that would enable the government to deal expeditiously and appropriately with terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah.

The Leader of the Opposition made a big song and dance about the fact that one of the bills we are discussing today reflects a private member's motion. He failed to mention that the private member's motion is a direct reflection of the legislation introduced by the government into this chamber prior to the private member's bill. So let us turn the focus back to where it should be: on the rank political opportunism of the Labor opposition. The Labor opposition have stalled, in the first instance, a workable framework that would have allowed us to list Hezbollah. They have said they will not support the government's policy position of unlinking the listing of organisations from the listing process of the United Nations Security Council. Further, the Labor opposition want a solution whereby, each and every time we seek to list a terrorist organisation, we will have to do it through legislation.

The Leader of the Opposition commented that he and the Labor Party are trying to develop a workable solution—I believe his words were `a practical solution'. How practical is it if, each and every time we seek to list an organisation that presents threats to Australians and Australian interests, we need to do it through legislation? It is ridiculous in the extreme for the Labor Party to claim that they are concerned about making sure we develop a practical framework. They are not concerned with developing a practical framework, because if they were they would support this government's move, through the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2003, to undo the need for the United Nations Security Council to list an organisation in order for it to be listed in Australia.

It is also absurd in the extreme for the opposition to claim they are working in a proactive and constructive way. They are being nothing but cheapjack political opportunists. We see this time and time again, and the Australian people should recognise it for what it is. The fact is that the Criminal Code Amendment (Hizballah) Bill 2003 we are discussing today is a bandaid measure being forced upon us by the opposition. The real focus of this debate should be the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2003, which would provide a practical framework and enable the Howard government to work in a proactive way to ensure that, as terrorist organisations posing a direct threat to Australians and Australian interests are identified, the Attorney-General is in a position to list these organisations. That should be the core focus of this debate.

Despite claims from the Leader of the Opposition that the Labor Party are concerned about this issue and are not trying to be political opportunists, it is very clear that they are. Why? Because if they were as concerned as they claim to be they would be supporting the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2003. Their objection to this bill—albeit on the pretence of civil liberties—is hollow. Let us look, for a moment, at the pretence the opposition put forward that allowing this bill to pass through this chamber will lead to a situation whereby the Attorney-General will have all sorts of sweeping new powers. The fact is that there would not be a rash of sweeping new powers to the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General already has powers under existing legislation to list terrorist organisations that meet specific and strict legislative criteria. In addition, the decisions the Attorney-General makes to list—and this is a fundamental point—are disallowable by the parliament and are also subject to judicial review.

When the Leader of the Opposition claims the Howard government is on some kind of rampage and is trying to take freedoms off the Australian people, let the Australian people realise just how hollow those claims truly are. The opposition have not mentioned—not on one occasion—the fact that they are disallowable instruments. They also have not mentioned that they are subject to judicial review. They do not mention it because they do not want the Australian people to know the Howard government already has safeguards in this legislation to protect civil liberties and Australian freedoms.

The opposition leader did say one thing I agree with: we will not defeat terrorism by taking away our own freedoms. That is very true. And I can say to the people of Moncrieff, the people of the Gold Coast and the people of Australia that the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2003 does no such thing. It puts in place a practical, workable framework, and it is a far cry from the so-called solution the opposition have put forward, whereby each and every time we wish to list an organisation we have to put a bill through parliament. That is absolutely absurd.

I turn to the Hezbollah organisation. What do we know about Hezbollah? Why should it be listed? We know it is a Lebanon based, Iran-backed, Shiite-radical organisation. It has a 20-year history of attacks on Western and Jewish targets. In essence, Hezbollah has a world view predicated upon the Khomeini style revolution that it would ideally like to take place throughout the world. Its world view is of a massive confrontation between Islam and the West. Also, there are very clear links that indicate why Hezbollah is a clear and present threat not only to Australians but to all Western democracies.

We know that in the early 1980s Hezbollah were responsible for the truck bombing of a US marine barracks. The result of that was the murder of 241 marines. Hezbollah were responsible for suicide attacks on the US Embassy in Beirut. They were responsible for the hijacking of TWA flight 847, in which they murdered a US Navy diver on board. More recently we have also seen links that show Hezbollah were involved in attacks on the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s, as well as the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

The fact is that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation with a worldwide network of cells. We believe those cells to operate in countries such as the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Pakistan, and we can only hope that there are no cells in existence in Australia. We also suspect that Hezbollah operatives were involved in helping to smuggle al-Qaeda operatives out of Afghanistan and into Iran. It is a situation that is profoundly and deeply disturbing. It is very clear that Hezbollah is an organisation that needs to be listed—that needs to be the focus of the appropriate intelligence and security agencies.

I would like to highlight to the Australian people one of the mottos of Hezbollah. A banner displayed in April last year outside the front of the office of Hezbollah's representative to the Lebanese parliament in Nabatiyah, Lebanon, stated: `Killing is our habit. Our dignity, which is martyrdom, comes from God.' The whole focus of this organisation is on murder, in the belief that with the murder of innocents comes martyrdom, and with martyrdom comes life ever after and all of those types of things which, unfortunately, extremist elements of Islam subscribe to and seek to propagate. We see, for example, in Hezbollah's manifesto, which was first published in the `Open Letter from Hezbollah to the Downtrodden in Lebanon and the World' in February 1985, that their world view is that they have a role to play against the West—the West and particularly the United States being considered the `Great Satan'. Hezbollah's manifesto says:

We are headed for dealing with evil at the roots and the roots are America. Imam Khomeini, the leader, has repeatedly stressed that America is the reason for all our catastrophes and the source of all malice. By fighting it, we are only exercising our legitimate right to defend our Islam and the dignity of our nation.

... ... ...

We see in Israel the vanguard of the United States in our Islamic world. It is the hated enemy that must be fought until the hated ones get what they deserve.

How absolutely chilling. The Leader of the Opposition claims that, in order to combat this type of approach—in order to combat this world view—we need to address its cause. In my view, the Leader of the Opposition shows a significant naivety in believing that terrorism comes from oppression or from socioeconomic disadvantage. There are certainly others much more educated than I in these matters who can indicate that those types of conditions foment and help breed beliefs that echo the remarks I just read. But, importantly, it does not matter whether you are socioeconomically disadvantaged or whether or not you are educated. The reason I say that is twofold. The first part is the anecdotal evidence. We saw on September 11 highly educated, well-remunerated, well cared for individuals commit the types of acts indicated by the two quotes I just read out. They did so because unfortunately people like these al-Qaeda operatives—and this applies as well to Hezbollah and to Jemaah Islamiah—are blinded by passion about what they see as the great threat to Islam.

I stress that my speech is not an attack on Muslims or an attack on Islam. The vast majority of people are reasonable and balanced in their views. But there are extremist elements, and those extremist elements present a very real threat. It is not a threat because of the Iraq war; it is a threat that exists because their world view says the enemy is the West. Our ideals—Western democratic values—are the enemy. For as long as our values are predicated upon liberty, they will exploit that liberty in order to maximise the damage and harm they can cause because, unfortunately, these terrorists take the view that the more Westerners they kill the greater will be the rewards for them.

Australians should not be misguided. This is not about playing on Australians' fears; it is about recognising the new world framework in which we operate in order to truly combat this new terrorist threat that exists around the world—a threat we have seen manifested in Bali, that we see manifested in Saudi Arabia, that we saw manifested recently in Iraq with the car bombing that killed the ABC journalist, and that we saw grossly manifested on September 11. This, unfortunately, is the new threat paradigm. In order to appropriately deal with this new threat paradigm it is absolutely crucial we have workable legislation in place, not policy predicated on passing a bill through this House each and every time we need to list an organisation. Instead, we need to de-link—we need to remove the requirement that listing by Australia be linked to listing by the Security Council.

The fact is, because of Labor opposition, Australia is the only country I know of that has this ridiculous requirement where, before we can make decisions about Australian threats, Australian interests and the safety of Australian people, we have to run off to the Security Council of the United Nations and have them list an organisation as a terrorist organisation. The opposition's position is very clear. They would sell out the Australian people and Australians' rights about which organisations we can list. They will sell it out to the United Nations Security Council.

We on this side of the chamber have no problem with having a link there, insofar as it also provides us the opportunity to make our own decisions. The Australian people need to understand what the opposition and the Leader of the Opposition are focused upon. If the Leader of the Opposition had his own way, Australians and the Australian government would not have the right to make a decision to list an organisation off our own bat, unless that organisation were already listed by the Security Council of the United Nations. Unfortunately for the opposition, there may well be many instances in which the Security Council does not fully appreciate the threats that are posed to Australians. In that instance, under the opposition model we cannot list an organisation.

What we are trying to do is to break that link so that we can list an organisation and to give the Australian government back its right to make decisions that serve the Australian people. The opposition are opposed to granting the Australian government that right, and they say that their reasons for opposing it are that they do not want to trample civil liberties and they do not want to give sweeping powers to the Attorney-General. That sounds fine on a prima facie basis, but let us scratch that surface. As I indicated already, when you scratch that surface you see their argument is flawed and fundamentally hollow. It is flawed because ultimately the decision remains with this parliament. Under our model, listing is a disallowable instrument and it is subject to judicial review. The opposition know that, but they do not say it.

Both of these bills are important to the safety and security of Australians. I urge all in this chamber to support them. I also recognise that the Hizballah bill would not be needed but for the opposition's intransigence and stubbornness on this issue. I urge all members to support both bills.