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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19888

Mrs ELSON (2:33 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister inform the House of Australia's contribution to the international campaign against terrorism since September 11?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for Forde and I appreciate the interest she shows in international relations. As the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have pointed out, this is the anniversary of the terrible and evil events of September 11, 2001. That day did not so much change the world as change the way we view it. Issues such as the threat of terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the problem of failed states had all been issues before September 11, 2001. But, after that terrible day, a lot of us around the world understood that those issues needed to be dealt with more decisively and effectively than had been the case in the past.

Two years after September 11, Australia is at the forefront in the global fight against terrorism. No fewer than 100 Australians have been killed in acts of terror in the last two years. Our resolve is firm. Terrorists hate all we stand for, they have no respect for the religion they purport to uphold and they have no respect for moderate Islamic governments. In the two years since that fateful day, over 3,000 al-Qaeda suspects have been detained in 90 countries. In excess of $A220 million in terrorist assets have been frozen. In Afghanistan, Australia has helped to remove the Taliban from power, destroying terrorist bases and disrupting al-Qaeda operations. In Iraq we helped to ensure that the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein would never again be able to use weapons of mass destruction against its neighbours and its people. The threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists is greatly diminished without Saddam Hussein.

Australia responded very strongly to the threat of terrorism in our region. We were instrumental in listing Jemaah Islamiah with the United Nations. That has led to the freezing of Jemaah Islamiah assets and restriction of the movement of Jemaah Islamiah members. About 200 members of Jemaah Islamiah have been arrested in the region since that time. We have established a network of bilateral counter-terrorism arrangements that have strengthened practical, operational level cooperation. This cooperation is seeing terror attacks prevented, terror networks disrupted and charges laid against 24 Jemaah Islamiah members for the Bali bombings. We have helped countries to build their capacity to fight terrorism through law enforcement, border and transport security, intelligence cooperation and antiterrorist financing.

We have taken a lead role in forums like APEC, which brings together the heads of government of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, and also a lead role in the ASEAN Regional Forum to drive the counter-terrorism agenda. Early next year we will be co-hosting with Indonesia a regional ministerial summit on counter-terrorism.

Finally, I think it is important to accept that we still have a great challenge in the war against terrorism, and the Prime Minister has made that point very clearly. Of course we do have a long way to go, but my point is that we are making progress. We do not underestimate the terrorists. The audio and video footage of bin Laden and his No. 2, al-Zawahiri, shows that al-Qaeda remains intent on further terrorist attacks, although those statements do not require a change to our existing threat levels here in Australia. This is not a new struggle. This is the age-old clash between moderates and extremists; between tolerance and intolerance. It will be a long struggle but the government will sustain action with both purpose and vigour.