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Tuesday, 4 November 2003
Page: 21930


Mr RUDD (4:06 PM) —The one question which is alive in this whole debate is: what does the government that talks about national security all the time actually do about national security all the time? I have got to say that the to-do list on national security as far as this government is concerned—going back 24 months and more to September 11; going back 12 months and more to Bali—is a very long to-do list indeed, in terms of the things to be done as opposed to the things to be talked about. If you look at that list, it is a very long list. What have you done about managing the explosion of terrorist organisations in South-East Asia? The government told us that, if we invaded Iraq, the best way of reducing the terrorist threat would be to remove the Saddam Hussein regime. What have you done? You have invaded Iraq.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—The member for Griffith will address his remarks through the chair.


Mr RUDD —Has it reduced the terrorist threat? No, it has not. What the government has done as a result of the invasion of Iraq is increase the number of terrorists kicking around South-East Asia and kicking around Iraq. What you get from the Iraq invasion is not a reduction of the terrorist threat, as promised by the Prime Minister before the war, but precisely the reverse. That is the first practical dividend of this government's policies on counter-terrorism: `Vote for us, go to war and get more terrorists in the neighbourhood.'

The second one is airport security. The shadow minister for transport and infrastructure talks about this—


Mr Martin Ferguson —And maritime security.


Mr RUDD —and about maritime security a lot. With airport security, more than two years after September 11 and more than a year after Bali, we still cannot look people around this country in the eye and say, `When you go to an airport in Australia you can be guaranteed that when you put in your checked luggage it is going to be X-rayed.' This is a disgrace: a government which talks about national security all the time but does nothing about national security, as if you can float through on the basis of rhetorical extravagance in the hope that you are never actually found out in terms of what you have left undone.

Enter Monsieur Brigitte, because this is profoundly undone, in the worst tradition of Inspector Clouseau. What have we got with this Brigitte case? We have a government which, frankly, has much to answer for. It says we have a visa checking system for enhancing and providing for the security of this country. In fact, what we have turned out to have is something more like a terrorist facilitation system. What has been revealed through this, Minister, is a system which is so full of holes that literally anybody could get into this country, with the exception of those people happening to be on a global Interpol terrorist watch list. If, elsewhere in the world, countries have got a domestic database which looks after these things then that is of no relevance to your concerns. You say it is beyond our purchase to gain access to them.

In terms of the responsibility of the government to guarantee national security, you say, `I wash my hands; I cannot do anything further about it.' I think the Australian people expect more of you than that, but that is precisely the response we have had today. We have had arrogance; dismissal; the minister saying, `Can't do anything about that'; and, of course, the stock in trade of this minister—the politics of distraction. He says: `We're not going to talk about how Monsieur Brigitte got into the country in the first place; we're just going to talk about how we got him out of the country. We're not going to talk about the importation of Monsieur Brigitte; we're going to talk about the exportation of him.' In terms of the public discussion, this is a government that is about exporting terrorists, not importing terrorists. Frankly, it does not wash with the Australian people. They have listened to your rhetoric for a couple of years—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Griffith will address his remarks through the chair.


Mr RUDD —and they would actually like to see a bit of information about what is happening on the ground.

If we look carefully at the minister's defence today, we see that it goes along these lines. First of all, there is the great and impeccable `kids overboard' defence: `We did not know.' Remember? That is what you said today, Minister. You said, `We did not know.'


Mr Martin Ferguson —Replay the video.


Mr RUDD —Yes, we should replay the video. You said: `We didn't know; the Australian officials at the time did not know that there was a problem with Monsieur Brigitte. End of problem. It is just like we did not know that there may have been a problem with the kids being thrown overboard story, and therefore that is not a problem either.' We have heard that one before, Minister, and do you know something? We do not cop it this time either.

Let us go to the core of the argument which he advanced. This is the reciprocal argument: we cannot do anything in this country unless there are reciprocal arrangements with another country to have access to the domestic terrorism databases of that country. This is a very interesting argument indeed, because what the minister is saying is that he is deeply, suddenly, impeccably and universally concerned about the civil liberties of the poor denizens of the French republic. I find this somewhat counterintuitive, given what we have heard from this minister in the last couple of years, but suddenly every Francois, every Jacques, every Albert and their civil liberties are of direct concern to Monsieur Ruddock opposite.

I find that a little beyond belief, but here is the rub, Minister. What system do you have in place with the United States? Because you have an intelligence-sharing arrangement with the United States, you have got a system whereby, if you have a suspicion about a person—it does not have to be proven; it just has to be a suspicion about a person—you provide that information and that name to the relevant authorities in the United States. Is that true? It is true. The question I ask the minister is: if that is possible with the world's oldest democracy and the oldest republic, what about the world's second-oldest republic—the French republic? Why can't we do it with the French as well? If you have a system with the Americans whereby, if you have a suspicion about a person being a possible terrorist, you can let them know, then why can't we do that with the French? I do not understand. You argue this principle of reciprocity, but surely it must apply universally. If it works elsewhere, why cannot it work with the French as well?

While we are talking about the French, did you like the third element of the minister's defence today? It was that the reason we have this fantastic relationship with the French, which has worked so impeccably that it ensured we went ahead and issued a tourist visa to a known al-Qaeda suspect, is that we have a government which never bags the French. Pardon! Je m'excuse! I seem to recall that only a few months ago we had a debate about a war somewhere. Was it in Iraq?

Opposition members—Yes!


Mr RUDD —I thought there was a government in France which was taking a policy direction that was somewhat contrary to the direction being taken by those opposite. Do we recall in this chamber the Minister for Foreign Affairs and other ministers, not to mention members of parliament and senators, having the odd thing to say about perfidious Francois—the French?

Opposition members—Yes!


Mr RUDD —Wasn't there a statement in the Senate by one of your senators, Minister, that we haven't been able to trust them since Agincourt? Wasn't there a statement like that? So do not come the raw prawn with us—


Mr Martin Ferguson —It's the raw frog!


Mr RUDD —Do not come the raw frog with us and expect us to believe that somehow it has all been just tickety-boo between Canberra and Paris. Frankly, the political relationship between Canberra and Paris has been in a sad state of disrepair for some time. If you spoke to French diplomats in this town from time to time you would know that.

On the Brigitte affair itself, I have got to say this: look at the facts. French intelligence had Brigitte under surveillance from about 1998 or 1999. He was then placed on the French national terrorism database and referred to on that database as being a member of a Salafist organisation called Call and Combat—that is how he is listed on the French national terrorism database. But it is of no concern to this minister, because we could not or should not have access to this. This is an illogical argument. So then we had Monsieur Brigitte toddling off—not to the embassy in Paris, as the minister has told us today, but to his travel agency in Marseilles. He goes and sees the travel agent and says, `I'd like to go down to Australie for a bit.' Pas d'probleme, Mr Willie Brigitte! Off you go for six months, because there are no checks in place. And you, Minister, say you cannot do anything about that!

This is where the rubber hits the road, Minister. I asked the foreign minister this question in this place today: What have you done about this now that we have had the Brigitte affair? Your government issued a tourism visa to a known al-Qaeda suspect to come to Australia for six months of frolic, fun and activity with terrorist organisations here and marry a member of the Australian Defence Force who, you told us today, has had no connection with the security apparatus of the Australian armed forces. We will leave that to one side for the moment. That all having happened, you say, `We shouldn't now go back and have a look at everyone else we've issued a tourism visa to.' I find this remarkable.

Minister, I put a very plain question to you today. You have had this system whereby you have no access to the national terrorism database of France, you have had a bucket load of visas issued since September 11 and Downer says that he is not going to bother to go back and look at what has happened with each of those visas by asking the French government, `Can I cross-reference?' This ultimately establishes the proposition: what other governments beyond France does this apply to as well? Do we not have access to the German national terrorism database, the Italian national terrorism database or the Spanish national terrorism database? This is a government which talks about national security day in and day out, but the record on Brigitte, the record on terrorism, the record on airport security and the record on maritime security suggest that yours is a government of rhetoric, a government not concerned about the reality, a government that talks about national security, a government which does very little about national security on the ground. (Time expired)


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—I would ask the member for Griffith to have a look at his speech tomorrow to see the number of times he did not abide by the standing orders of the parliament by addressing the chair or by addressing members by their seat or by their title. I am sure he will be able to rectify that.