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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6667

Dr KELLY (Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support and Parliamentary Secretary for Water) (6:27 PM) —I endorse the comments of my colleague the member for Fadden on this important bill, the Autonomous Sanctions Bill 2010. It is a pleasure to speak on the bill which is another tool in the armoury of the Australian government in our efforts to improve the circumstances of peace, freedom and democracy, to alleviate conditions of those suffering from oppression and to prevent those who would seek to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction in a world so threatened by such developments.

This bill will provide greater flexibility in the range of measures Australia can implement, thus ensuring Australia’s autonomous sanctions match the scope and extent of measures implemented by like-minded countries. Through this mechanism, we can work together with countries such as the United States on making sure such sanctions are effective. It will also assist the administration of, and compliance with, sanctions measures by removing distinctions between the scope and extent of autonomous sanctions and UN sanction enforcement laws.

The framework under which the regulations will be set up in this legislation will enable that flexibility to occur, with each set of regulations containing specific measures to be imposed in response to a particular situation. Dealing with these matters by regulation provides for the degree of flexibility that we need to respond to international developments in a timely way. It will also enable the government to harmonise its administration of autonomous sanctions and UN sanction enforcement laws, simplifying compliance arrangements for those entities whose business requires a regular and active engagement with the operation of such laws.

The regulations may make provision relating, amongst other things, to proscription of persons or entities, restriction or prevention of uses of, dealings with and making available assets as well as restriction or prevention of the supply, sale, transfer or procurement of goods or services. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has to be satisfied that the proposed regulations will facilitate the conduct of Australia’s relations with other countries or with entities or persons outside Australia or otherwise deal with matters, things or relationships outside Australia.

The offences under this legislation, for those who contravene the sanctions law, will involve a conviction with a possible maximum of 10 years jail and also a fine, which could be the greater of three times the value of the relevant transaction or transactions, if this can be calculated, or 2,500 penalty units. The consequences of contravening these sanctions are now identical to the contravention of Australian laws implementing the relevant United Nations Security Council sanctions under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945. These sanctions laws will restrict the trade in a narrow class of goods and services, such as military and security goods and services, to specific regimes. They will also restrict financial transactions involving designated members or supporters of those regimes that the Australian government assesses are facilitating the repression of populations or the commission of regionally or internationally destabilising acts, including the acquisition or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The contravention of such restrictions is thus directly comparable to the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations Act.

The use of sanctions is a contentious issue and has been for many years. A good colleague and friend of mine whom I served with in Iraq has produced a seminal text on the issue called Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism. Her name is Meghan O’Sullivan and she subsequently became an adviser to the National Security Adviser in the United States. It is relevant to refer to something she stated in that work. She said:

… the use of sanctions must be appropriately coupled with that of other policy tools. Sanctions on their own will result in little more than raised expectations, ones that are almost certain to be disappointed. Imposing sanctions in itself does not constitute a foreign policy strategy; sanctions are policy instruments that need to be combined with other tools in order to form coherent and effective strategies.

I can only endorse those words. Sanctions are one of a range of approaches that must be taken to achieve success. There are many historic examples of where that has been the case, where sanctions have been successful—for example, in dealings with Libya and in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia, back in the nineties.

One of the most important examples when looking at the impact of sanctions is the situation that applied in Iraq, which I had a very close association with. We are aware that the sanctions regimes that were put in place after the first Gulf War in 1991 were aimed at preventing Iraq from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein at the time sought to exploit that situation, however, by transferring the pain of sanctions to his own population while attempting to use his revenue from oil to develop weapons capabilities and to also satisfy his own lust for power.

Later on, the United Nations introduced the oil for food program, which was meant to ameliorate that situation for the population. This of course became a notable incident in our own history through the Australian Wheat Board saga. That was an issue that I became closely involved with, as we were going through the material and examining the sources of information that revealed the extent of the contravention of the oil for food program in Iraq. That became a sorry saga of note which was also delved into by the Cole commission of inquiry. It is a matter of record that it was a great travesty that this country went to war to enforce sanctions which were in fact being actively undermined by the Australian Wheat Board, which was putting into the back pocket of Saddam Hussein around $300 million. That was going into his war chest at a time when we were sending soldiers in to fight Saddam Hussein. It was a travesty of a situation in this nation’s history.

The effects of the sanctions regime in Iraq were catastrophic in many ways. Other than creating the effect that was sought, in limiting Iraq’s ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction, sanctions created a criminalised economy, particularly the spawning of a widespread smuggling regime in relation to oil. It became a primary responsibility of mine to try to defeat that while I was in Iraq. Sanctions also helped to destroy a diversified economy, which made it very difficult in the reconstruction phase post the combat phase in Iraq, and we subsequently went to war with Iraq in 2003.

On the positive side, the effect of the sanctions did in fact keep $250 billion, approximately, out of the hands of Saddam Hussein during that time and slow him down in his attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The episode in Iraq is quite an interesting example of where sanctions can have positive and negative effects as a policy tool. It shows that they need to be complemented by other policy actions.

One of the primary purposes of being able to introduce this Autonomous Sanctions Bill is to target, in particular, oppressive and abhorrent regimes. One of the primary examples of that in the world today is Iran. Just recently we have seen the introduction of yet another United Nations Security Council resolution, 1929, imposing new sanctions against Iran. They have had a terrible record of not complying or being honest in their dealings with the International Atomic Energy Agency. This concerns their attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction—that is, nuclear weapons—and to weaponise their nuclear capability.

The ongoing failure of Iran to comply has led to this latest resolution, which strengthens obligations on states to prevent the supply to Iran of any goods or services that could contribute to Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear industry and missile delivery and technology programs. There are additional obligations on states to prevent the supply of military equipment and related services to Iran. The resolution also targets, importantly, Iran’s transport and financial sectors, as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in response to its role in Iran’s nuclear activities and the development of nuclear weapons delivery systems. This resolution includes new financial sanctions against 41 individuals and entities in Iran.

Australia will impose sanctions additional to those outlined or required by UN Security Council resolution 1929, in particular against one individual and two organisations that assist Iran in its violation of its obligations under the Security Council resolution regime. We have been imposing autonomous sanctions on Iran since October 2008, so this will now bring to a total of 21 individuals and 20 organisations subject to our autonomous sanctions. The additional organisations include Bank Mellat and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line. The individual now included is General Rostam Qasemi, the commander of the Khatem ol-Anbiya Construction Organisation, a company owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. These are important inclusions in the sanctions regime.

To date we should note that there have been four financial institutions that have been included as special targets under the UN sanctions regime 1747, 1803 and 1929 and these include Bank Sepah, Bank Melli, Bank Saderat and the First East Export Bank. But the United States Department of Treasury has expanded that out further to designate another 17 Iranian banks, charging them with the use of deceptive financial practices to support terrorist groups and their nuclear program.

I have seen research which indicates that there are probably another 44 international banks providing corresponding banking services to those 17 banks designated by the US treasury department. This highlights the need for us to be able to promote a broader application of these sanctions, to promote broader measures, to promote broader compliance and to tighten that net in relation to the Iranians financial services. I would call upon all Australian banks—and there is some suggestion that there are Australian banks associated in these correspondent banking activities—to have a look at their relationships, and how they may relate to other Iranian financial institutions they ought not to be dealing with, in order to pursue the international goals that we have.

Let us be absolutely clear about the nature of this Iranian regime and why these sanctions are so important. It really does dishearten me that we see certain quarters of the Left in this country take it as a fashion statement to vilify Israel, for example, but do not pay due heed to, or demonstrate against or take other action to target regimes in the world like Iran and North Korea. Since the travesty of the 12 June elections last year in Iran we have seen a new wave of massive human rights violations, massive detentions without trial, extrajudicial killings, rape, torture and beatings on a massive scale whereby the Basij militia as well as the Revolutionary Guards have been involved. We have seen the great frustration of the creative genius of the Iranian people through the repressive activities of this heinous regime.

But it is not just the massive violations of human rights that this regime is responsible for in its own country; it is what it is responsible for all around the Middle East. I watched first-hand how Iran was engaged in activities promoting terrorism and insurgent activities in southern Iraq, for example, where they were involved in funding and supplying weapons to Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia forces and other insurgent groups. Iran was responsible for the permeation of the insidious improvised explosive device known as the EFP or explosively formed projectile or penetrator, which is now much more prevalent around the region and is such a lethal weapon against even armoured vehicles. This insidious weapon has certainly been sourced from Iran.

But of course it is not just in Iraq and Afghanistan that we are seeing this appear. Iran has also played a very bad faith role in its promotion of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and, of course, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. They have been actively involved in supplying weapons to those groups as they have been involved in supplying weapons and promoting instability among Shiite minorities throughout the region. In my dealings as Director of Middle East and Strategy Group within the defence department, it became very clear to me that many regimes, in fact all regimes in the region, were much more concerned about the intentions and activities of Iran than ever they were or would be in relation to Israel. They are certainly deeply disturbed and alarmed about Iran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran is a greatly destabilising force in the region and the in world in general. Their promotion of the Islamist extremism is abhorrent and we do need to confront it as aggressively as we possibly can.

This brings me to their activities to smuggle weapons into Gaza and into southern Lebanon, which relates to the incidents that we have seen recently in the unfortunate circumstances of the Gaza flotilla. We need to be aware that Israel does face the massive influx of weaponry from Iran through these various smuggling attempts, including very heavily through marine activities. Not long ago we saw the interdiction of the MV Francop, which contained 320 tonnes of ammunition destined for Hezbollah. Not long ago the Karine A was apprehended, which contained 52 tonnes of ammunition and weapons. These were high-calibre rockets and other weapons systems aimed at terrorising the population of Israel, indiscriminately targeting civilians. There is widespread smuggling that happens by land through Sudan and Yemen into Egypt and the Gaza Strip through tunnels, which Egypt is now taking vigorous action to prevent through closing off those tunnels. It was perfectly legitimate for Israel to be concerned about the smuggling of weapons, in particular through maritime means.

I will not comment on the situation that evolved in relation to the Gaza flotilla incident. This is subject to further inquiry and investigation. We should all reserve judgment until that investigation and inquiry is finished, as indeed was our position in relation to the SIEV 36 incident, where there were five lives lost and 51 injured. We must allow these processes to occur before we rush to judgment. We do know a few facts about this incident, which we should bear in mind. Certainly we know that claims of passive resistance may be in question. As far as I know, Mahatma Gandhi was a passive resister. He never shot anyone in the stomach, never beat anyone to a pulp with an iron bar and never stabbed anyone. We must query questions of passive resistance in circumstances where these things occur.

Also, we should be completely eyes-open about some of the aspects of the involvement of elements in that flotilla. For example, two of the vessels were operated by the Islamic NGO known as IHH. This organisation has a long history of having been involved in and connected with Islamist fundamentalist activities. I would commend to anyone a reading of the Danish Institute for International Studies’ deep analysis of IHH activities. This is a highly credible paper that was issued in 2006-07. This IHH organisation has been raided in the past by Turkish authorities, which revealed that the leaders of IHH were purchasing automatic weapons from other regional Islamic militant groups. Their bureau in Istanbul was thoroughly searched and local officers were arrested. Security forces uncovered an array of disturbing items, including firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions and a jihad flag. After analysing and seizing documents from IHH, Turkish authorities concluded that detained members of IHH were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya.

IHH President, Bulent Yildirim, directly conspired in the mid-1990s to recruit veteran soldiers in anticipation of the coming holy war or jihad. In particular, some men were sent into war zones in Muslim countries in order to acquire combat experience. An examination of IHH’s phone records in Istanbul showed repeated telephone calls in 1996 to an al-Qaeda operations house in Milan and various Algerian terrorist operatives. IHH played an important role in the al-Qaeda millennium bomb plot for Los Angeles airport. One of the French intelligence experts has detailed:

The IHH is an NGO, but it was kind of a type of cover-up … in order to obtain forged documents and also to obtain different forms of infiltration for Mujahideen in combat. And also to go and gather [recruit] these Mujahideens. And finally, one of the last responsibilities that they had was also to be implicated or involved in weapons trafficking.

We should be well aware of what was involved here. The Israeli authorities had, of course, repeatedly offered to move that humanitarian material itself into the Gaza Strip. It did offer to do that once these vessels were seized, but Hamas—using the population of Gaza to hostage—refused to receive that material.

It only takes a reading of human rights reports on how Hamas behaves in the Gaza Strip to understand that that is also a repressive and brutal regime that must be neutralised. I also state on the record here that my absolute commitment is to a two-state solution in the Middle East, but I absolutely defend—to the last breath in my body—the right of the six million Jews of Israel to survive and not be annihilated by Iran or others who make that threat as part of their fundamental charter.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Bronwyn Bishop) adjourned.