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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15816


Mr ANDREN (7:40 PM) —It is a very active crossbench; I am glad I got the call. We are considering two quite separate issues in this cognate debate on the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2002 and the Criminal Code Amendment (Hizballah) Bill 2003. Let me deal first with the Criminal Code amendment relating to Hezbollah. There are at least three branches of this organisation, so it is important to designate just which branch we are dealing with here. The first branch is based within Lebanon and provides a range of social welfare and education programs, especially in the Palestinian communities of southern Lebanon. These services are funded by organisations and charities around the world, no doubt including resources from Iran, which is also accused of supporting terrorist activities. There is a military wing of Hezbollah which has achieved heroic status within southern Lebanon for liberating the region of Israeli forces. It takes a role as a security force in the region. A third wing of Hezbollah is the international terrorist wing held responsible for attacks on civilians around the world, including the October 1983 suicide attack on US and French marines in Beirut, the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner and two attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in 1992 and 1994. More recently there have been accusations that Hezbollah is recruiting Singaporeans to attack Western shipping in the Singapore Straits and, the reason for this bill, a reported threat to kill Australians in the Middle East over our involvement in the Iraq war.

While the UK, as does this bill, draws a distinction between the domestic Lebanon based Hezbollah and the external security organisation, Canada, after enormous pressure from the United States, has imposed a blanket ban across all branches of Hezbollah. This presumably means that a Canadian trying to donate to a Hezbollah charity for the children in a refugee camp is an associate of a terror organisation, which is hardly the recipe to develop a greater understanding to break down the anger and hatreds that support the terrorist cause or those who oppose and fight the struggle against terrorism around the world.

In discussing terrorism and the current threats to Western targets, it is important to put in context the rise of Hezbollah as a freedom fighting organisation as well as a terrorist one which ultimately forced the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon. There is a historic tie between the Shias in Lebanon and Iran, so the accusation of new links and terrorism only links are not accurate. However, Hezbollah's ideological ideals see no legitimacy for the existence of Israel, and that is where I find difficulty, for there can be no solution to the Middle East crisis unless the Israelis and the Palestinians, and their supporters on each side, concede the right of both countries to exist within the fairest possible borders.

The struggle against Israel in Lebanon was just; the struggle by Hezbollah against Israeli injustices is just. But its determination to oust Israel from the Middle East is, in my humble opinion, not only unjust but unrealistic. Worse, it fuels the irrational extremism of terrorism from both sides, and I use `terrorism' deliberately in relation to both sides. If this assessment passes judgment on the cruelty, futility and senselessness of suicide bombings, it also passes judgment on the futility, cruelty and senselessness of the Israeli occupation, provocative settlements program and the often unbridled human rights atrocities it conducts on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Under laws passed by this House last year, a group must be declared a terrorist organisation by the Security Council before it can be proscribed here. The government has not applied for Hezbollah's listing because Syria sits on the Security Council until the end of this year as one of its non-permanent members. One wonders why there is now such an urgency to introduce this legislation covering Hezbollah, given comments from respected members of the local Lebanese community. Lebanese Muslim Association spokesman Keysar Trad says that a ban on the group would be alarmist. The chair of the New South Wales Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, says that there is nothing new in local support for Hezbollah.

The Leader of the Opposition says that ASIO briefings have convinced him Hezbollah's international wing is a threat. The Attorney-General is on record saying that the government believes there are no active terrorist cells in Australia. ASIO has apparently advised that there is no link between Hezbollah and the Taliban or al-Qaeda, which means there is no way open to seek the listing of the organisation by the UN. According to a parliamentary research paper on Hezbollah, claims of a relationship between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda are viewed with scepticism by non-US intelligence and diplomatic sources in the region.

Where does the truth lie? I suspect it lies partly in this government's continuing justification of its involvement in Iraq. I say `its involvement' because it was not representing millions of Australians in doing so. The Prime Minister had no authority to invoke the gratitude of all Australians when he praised his coalition of the willing allies in the post-invasion triumphalism. The research paper says:

Hizbollah as a whole is listed as a banned terrorist organisation in the US and Canada, whereas the UK has specifically only proscribed Hizbollah's `external security organisation' presumably affording some legitimacy to Hizbollah's political wing.

And, I would suggest, to its genuine educational, social and charity wing—in the best interests of those in the refugee camps of southern Lebanon. Given that Australia and Australians have become a heightened target by dint of our involvement in America's foreign policy and economic excursions, I can only support this legislation insofar as it is targeted at Hezbollah's operations external to the Lebanon. If we are serious about not seeing new recruits for the worldwide martyrdom that Hezbollah has exhorted of young Muslims, surely we have to at least give the impression that the West is even-handed in its dealings with the Islamic world. I do not believe the United States has a clue how to go about this, and it is encouraging in the extreme to see any progress towards a Middle East peace with America the honest broker.

Quite simply, the Arab world does not trust an Israel oriented America to be any honest broker at all. When the British Prime Minister was discussing reform of the Security Council last week, which is no doubt due for modernisation, he mentioned Japan and India as two possible recruits for the permanent membership. I have no argument with that. But where I ask—and no doubt do millions of Muslims—is the Muslim representation in all this? Try looking at the world from an Arab perspective and you begin to understand the anger, frustration and despair that are so easily exploitable by those who take the extreme path of terrorism. Even-handedness, in which Australia once had a role before it threw its lot in with a partisan approach outside UN sanction, is the only way. I believe that smaller nations such as Norway and New Zealand hold the key to brokering honest outcomes. If we have a discredited and marginalised United Nations, we have the rule of the strongest, and that breeds further terrorism. In this respect, I endorse the comments of the member for Brand in relation to our need to engage in our neighbourhood and not just react.

I am in no such mood to support the second of these bills, the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2003. This bill removes the requirement that an organisation be first identified in, or pursuant to, a decision of the UN Security Council before it can be specified in regulations as a terrorist organisation. This bill is designed to circumvent earlier legislation passed by this parliament that specifically required the UN proscription first. The government claims that the UN Security Council route is unsatisfactory and now wants to list rather than proscribe nominated groups. The end result is exactly the same and gives the Attorney-General unfettered powers. Who can tell the mind of any future Attorney-General in this area? In the past, would the African National Congress have been so listed? In the context of a perceived threat against Indonesian interests in this country, would Fretilin or those who had contact with it over the years prior to 1998 have been so listed? There is huge potential for the listing net to be cast widely.

While a person or group can seek a judicial review, such a review only allows the question of law to be considered, not the merits of the case. Rather than this legislation, the Attorney-General of the day should come into this parliament and argue for the legislative listing of an organisation or individual case by case. There may be a short-term problem in the states having referred antiterrorism powers to the Commonwealth. At least one state, South Australia, enables its premier or governor to approve a change in Commonwealth law, as I understand it. Other states need to define the role of the Commonwealth in their terrorism referring legislation, but apart from that there is nothing to prevent an Attorney-General seeking parliament's approval for a case-by-case listing of organisations.

In this regard, it might be advisable to look at New Zealand's legislation where the Prime Minister can designate an organisation. This designation operates for a period. If the government wants to review it, it must persuade the High Court. Another model is that, instead of the executive government making the regulations, a court should make that decision. In the US, UK and Canada, while the executive has the primary role, supervisory control is vested in the judiciary. This, I suggest, removes as far as possible the listing of organisations from the political processes of the day. The Northern Territory debate over its criminal antiterrorism legislation is a good example. There the process moved from acting on the advice of the executive council for the tabling of proscribed organisations to one where control of the process was surrendered to the courts. It was argued that the original arrangements had strong potential for interference with human rights. I would suggest that the public would be far happier trusting the judiciary on this matter than the political processes.

This bill tries to revive plans already rejected by this parliament to proscribe any group nominated by the Attorney-General. The parliament, including some of the government backbench, believed then it would give the country's highest law officer—but, importantly, a politician, with all the political implications that implies—far too much arbitrary power. Nothing has changed. We need only one of these bills and one of the processes; we have that with the Criminal Code Amendment (Hizballah) Bill 2003. I completely reject the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2003 but, with a certain scepticism, accept the government's argument on Hezbollah in an environment that continues to be cynically exploited for pure political purposes.