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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21734


Mr SOMLYAY (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Attorney-General. Would the Attorney-General please advise the House of action taken by the government to list terrorist organisations of concern to Australia? Would the Attorney-General further advise the House—

Honourable members interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! I invite the member for Fairfax to repeat the latter part of his question; I could not hear it.



The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Grayndler!


Mr SOMLYAY —Would the Attorney-General further advise the House if there is any impediment to the government's responding quickly?


Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) —I thank the honourable member for Fairfax for his question, because it is demonstrably clear that our present arrangements for listing terrorist organisations are not in Australia's interests. The government take our responsibilities for protecting Australians very seriously and we are committed to ensuring that every possibly measure is taken to deal with terrorist threats. While we have been able to move to list 14 terrorist organisations, we have been constrained in our ability even to consider listing a number of other organisations that we are advised represent a potential threat.

The current requirement that the terrorist organisation be identified by the United Nations Security Council before it can be listed prevents quick and independent action to deal with threats to Australians and Australia's interests as they arise. If you want to look for examples, they are not too hard to find: one is Lashkar-e-Taiba—LET—and Hamas is another which has not only been raised on this side of the House but has been raised by members opposite, as I have observed from time to time. They are just two examples of organisations that we would consider listing but we cannot because the United Nations Security Council has not listed them. The fact is that while—



The SPEAKER —The minister will not respond to interjections. The member for Denison is out of order.


Mr RUDDOCK —The fact is that a number of countries, notwithstanding the inability of the United Nations Security Council to get around to it, have listed these two organisations—those countries include the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Quite frankly, we believe that we should not be held hostage to the United Nations in relation to these matters; we believe it is a question of our sovereignty, the integrity of Australia—



Mr RUDDOCK —yes—that should be able to determine what is in Australia's interests and how those issues should be dealt with. It is for that reason that we have a bill before the parliament at this stage. It has already been through this chamber; it is in the Senate. It does require the consent of the states because it involves legislation for which certain undertakings were given to the states to agree to further changes. The Prime Minister has written to the state premiers advising them of the advice that we have received in relation to Lashkar-e-Taiba, because we have had advice that it is an organisation of potential concern. He has also advised them about the concerns that we as a government have about Hamas and he has sought their support for the bill. We believe that the proposals in that bill clearly safeguard Australia's interests. They are stronger; they are at least the equivalent of those in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. We believe that the premiers and chief ministers, if they will set aside party politics and cooperate in relation to this matter, can support measures that are clearly in the Australian interest, in the national interest, and ought to be enacted as soon as possible.