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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15805


Mr DANBY (6:50 PM) —I would like to focus in this debate particularly on the Criminal Code Amendment (Hizballah) Bill 2003, and I will conclude with some remarks about the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2003. Last year the federal parliament passed an act allowing the Attorney-General to ban terrorist groups that were listed by the United Nations. Labor supported that legislation, which included groups such as al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah, which are as a result banned in Australia and had been listed by the United Nations. Hezbollah is undoubtedly a terrorist organisation, but it is not listed by the United Nations. I believe the government should be pressing for the United Nations Security Council to list this organisation as a terrorist organisation, but I am very pleased—and I think the Australian people should be very pleased—that in the meantime this parliament, in a non-partisan way, is taking direct action to preserve the security of the Australian people.

There is good cause for banning Hezbollah in Australia. As the member for Griffith said, it has a long record of attack on civilians, including the kidnapping in Lebanon of Westerners in the 1980s, the hijacking of TWA flight 847 and two attacks in Argentina, one of which was a particularly bloody attack that killed 95 Argentines at the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires.

As Mr Gunaratna, the independent analyst-expert on terrorism has said, Hezbollah is a particular problem in our part of the world because it has demonstrated its reach here, with its involvement in a major terrorist incident in Thailand. Also, the Singapore government expressed grave concern that Hezbollah was recruiting Singaporeans to attack Western shipping in the Singapore Straits. An international campaign has been undertaken to have Hezbollah listed as a terrorist organisation, with the United States having already proscribed it as a foreign terrorist organisation in 1997. Similarly the United Kingdom and Canada have also legislated in the way Australia is doing now. In my view, it is a shame that in that context the UN Security Council does not undertake its responsibilities in this particular area because of the Syrian presence on the UNSC.

The Bali bombing has shown us here in Australia that we cannot afford to take Islam-ist—and I use that word very carefully—terr-orism as a threat only affecting other people and not us. `Islamist' is a word that en-ables us to understand that these are people who are abusing one of the three great monotheistic religions with a kind of totalitarian ideology that uses this religion as a cover for their political activities. Indeed, Hez-bollah is not a political organisation or a political party. Its purpose in Australia is neither to contest elections nor to engage in debate but to find recruits and to raise money to carry out terrorist attacks on civilian targets—as I have said, perhaps in our region or perhaps, even worse, in Australia. It seeks to build a base with some small elements of the Aust-ralianIslamic community through fear and intimidation. Given its overseas record, it may be planning to attack here in Australia.

These concerns that I have are not simply those of an opposition backbencher. They have been expressed very clearly by the AttorneyGeneral, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate—all of whom, we trust, have access to information that other members of parliament and the general public do not have. But they are advised that this organisation operates here and is a real and present danger to the Australian people.

I want to examine a bit further the claim that some people have made, including in debates I have had on radio, that what we are doing is focusing on merely a political party. In my view, Hezbollah is far from a Levantine civil rights organisation. Its head, its spiritual mentor, as the member for Griffith said, recently encouraged young people to export suicide bombing across the world. This makes it, in my view, the second most dangerous international terrorist organisation. Nasrallah told Lebanese TV recently that:

... martyrdom operations—suicide bombings—should be exported. I encourage Palestinians to take suicide bombing world-wide. Don't be shy about it.

Nasrallah said this on Al-Quds Day, as it is called in that part of Lebanon, and it was broadcast on Al-Manar Television in December 2002—very recently. The representative of Hezbollah in the Lebanese parliament said, in January this year, that it was an illusion to say that he was just a politician. He said that he and all of the other members of Hezbollah are `principally fighters'. They are not involved in politics for the extension of political rights of the people of Lebanon; they are involved in carrying out the vision of Hezbollah which, as I have just explained, was expressed by Sheikh Nasrallah.

Both the leadership of opposition and the government have received security briefings that state unequivocally that Hezbollah is a real and present danger in Australia. This has been confirmed by Mr Gunaratna, who says Hez-bollah is an active terrorist group already in Australia. Hezbollah, as I say, dismisses the idea that it is solely a political party. It says:

... all the fighters are simultaneously politicians and fighters.

This was said by their representative in the Lebanese parliament and reproduced in the French Lebanese publication Magazine on 9 November last year.

Hezbollah's international operations director, Imad Mughiyea, is the second most feared terrorist in the world, after Osama bin Laden. Mughiyea runs Hezbollah operatives in the Middle East, Europe, South America, South Asia and the United States. It is for this reason that this country is acting, like the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, to pass the Criminal Code Amendment (Hizballah) Bill 2003 in this nonpartisan way.

At the beginning of the week I had the honour to second the Leader of the Opposition's private member's bill that would have specifically banned this organisation. I am pleased that the government agrees with us that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. We were opposed to an overarching bill, but I am very pleased that the Prime Minister, the AttorneyGeneral and the government have created this specific bill dealing with this specific problem with Hezbollah. Again, I think this is something that the Australian people should be very pleased with—that the Leader of the Opposition, the opposition and anyone who receives a specific briefing about the threat to Australia or Australians act in a very responsible way as soon as they receive that information.

One of the problems with the issue of Hezbollah is that we are dealing here, I fear, with the issue of state sponsored terrorism. This is an issue that is different in some degree from al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah, which seek via a sort of international franchise operation to establish an Islamic caliphate in Muslim regions of the world.

I particularly wish to recount to this House something that most people in this country will be absolutely unaware of—and that is events in an Argentinean court last week. In 1994, a suicide bomber by the name of Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a member of Hezbollah, entered Argentina via the grey zone on the Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay tri-border area. He phoned his family in Lebanon and told them he would soon be `reuniting with his dear brother', who was killed five years earlier in another suicide car bombing. Last week, on 27 May, almost nine years after the bombing, the Argentinean Judge Juan Jose Galeano signed four international extradition warrants relating to four Iranians suspected of organising this terrorist attack. They are: Mohsen Rabbani, who served as the so-called cultural attach in the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires although, according to the Italian magazine Panorama, he actually worked for the Iranian secret service and was responsible for the entire Latin American region; Ali Fallahian, a former intelligence minister under the Ayatollah's regime; and two other associates, Ali Akbar Pervaresh and Ali Belesh Abadi. According to the charge sheet, Rabbani operated on the spot and organised the terrorist attack in its entirety. Fallahian gave the order from Tehran to execute the attack.

The most disturbing fact about this activity of Hezbollah—in Argentina, against Argentinean citizens, that killed 95 people—is that, according to Judge Galeano, the Iranian government appeared to be directly involved in this terrorist attack. According to the Argentineans, the decision was taken at the highest levels of the regime in Tehran on 14 August 1993 during a meeting of the Iranian national security council, involving the most senior figure, the supreme leader, Ali Hoseini Khamenei; former President, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; former foreign minister Velayati; and the head of the intelligence service in Khamenei's bureau, Mohammed Hijazi. Naturally, Fallahian, the former Minister for Intelligence, also attended the meeting.

I will come back to the real ruler of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei in a second. The results of the Argentinean investigation pose considerable complications for Australia, as they do for any Western country in the international sphere. For if Iran has provided support at the highest level for terrorist activity, it is more and more difficult for us to treat the Ayatollah's regime in a way that is as dispassionate as we would like to be, given the fact that Iran is such an important country and a country that we as Australians would like to have good relations with. The Italian magazine Panorama has a view that I share when it says that Imad Mughiyea is the most wanted international terrorist after bin Laden and that this deed in Argentina sets the Iranian regime completely apart from the rest of the international community.

The Hezbollah debate led me to discover a recent report in the New York Times that Hezbollah from Lebanon was distributing a dehumanising game to young people in Australia that encouraged them to participate in suicide bombing and attacks on Westerners. The game is called Special Force.It is produced by the Hezbollah and is aimed at propagating Hezbollah's values, concepts and ideas, according to the designer of the game, Bilal Zain. This game is part of Hezbollah's elaborate propaganda efforts to brainwash people and inculcate hatred of the people it perceives as its opponents. It is very disturbing that some of the current affairs television programs outlined some months ago that some young people in Sydney—and particularly one young person—were denied passports by the Australian government because the government had good reason to fear that they would become involved in those kinds of dreadful activities such as suicide bombing, even though they had been brought up in Australia. I lay the blame on Hezbollah for these kinds of games as part of its indoctrination.

It is not idle speculation that this game, Special Force, was particularly developed by the Iranian government. As I said, the distributor and designer of Special Force said it was to be distributed here in Australia. After doing some research, I discovered that a company called Noorsoft is listed on its web site as the distributor of this particular Hezbollah game. Noorsoft is a subsidiary of the Computer Research Centre for Islamic Sciences. If you look at Noorsoft's web site, that becomes clear. What is the Computer Research Centre for Islamic Sciences? It in turn was established by the Iranian government in 1998 `under the supreme direction of His Highness Ayatollah Khamenei', the person who unfortunately really runs the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Last week, some engaging moderates from the Iranian parliament visited this parliament. It is deeply disturbing to me to discover that the mullahs, led by a key hardliner like Ayatollah Khamenei, are using their control of the Iranian government to encourage extremists worldwide, including here in Australia. I believe the Iranian people have very different views from those who would like to export terrorism to countries friendly to Iran, like Australia. This was evidenced when speaking to the parliamentarians. It is evidenced every day by people who read about events in Iran and understand that the overwhelming bulk of the Iranian people, who vote for moderates like President Khatami and the vast majority of the people in the Iranian parliament, do not want this activity to be undertaken on behalf of their country. It is nonetheless a problem for all countries of goodwill like Australia in dealing with Iran. We have to somehow strike a balance between understanding what state sponsored terrorism, like that I have described, means for our country at the same time as wanting good relations with Iran and encouraging moderation in Iran.

Many people have been arrested in Iran recently. They include the Iranian reform strategist Abbas Abdi and the 72-year-old human rights intellectual Siamak Pourzand, both of whom I have raised in questions. The Iranian government has recently banned 50 newspapers, confiscated satellite dishes, shut down privately owned Internet service providers and even murdered some dissident intellectuals. This is a very depressing picture, but it is not an entirely depressing picture, because of the votes that the moderates attract in the Iranian parliament and the very encouraging demonstrations of young people. Fifty thousand young people recently demonstrated in Isfahan and Tehran, to the extent that the Ayatollah's regime had to restrict the police to barracks because they would not crush the demonstrations of young people, some of whom were the youngsters of those very police officers.

I conclude by explaining that, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, this is the first tier of our two-tier approach to listing organisations through the Security Council, which has dealt with al-Qaeda related terrorist groups. This mechanism was agreed by the government in the package of antiterrorism legislation last year, as the Leader of the Opposition said in his speech, and commended by the Prime Minister for getting the balance right. So far, 13 terrorist organisations have been listed by the Australian government under this mechanism.

The second tier, which we have presented here today, is the specific legislative amendment to the criminal code, the Criminal Code Amendment (Hizballah) Bill 2003. Labor's agreement to backdate this to the 29th shows that bipartisan cooperation can ensure legislative protection when parliament is not sitting. The most encouraging thing about this legislation is that it shows that both sides of Australian politics are responsible. Whenever the opposition is aware of threats to the security of Australians it acts without fear or favour to represent the best interests of the Australian people. All of the newspaper editorialists and talkback commentators who have been encouraging this parliament to do this should take heed of the opposition's actions.