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Thursday, 9 February 2012
Page: 674


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (11:10): I appreciate the opportunity to speak today on the Nuclear Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. There is no doubt that, as the member for Melbourne Ports said, this bill has bipartisan support. The coalition certainly backs this and we see the reason why. Out in the world, there has been recognition of the need to deal with these sorts of issues. With this bill, we see the implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. We in this country have always been very clear on this and have been very supportive of keeping these sorts of problems away from our own shores and working as part of the world community to make sure that the world is as safe a place as absolutely possible. So, yes, we certainly welcome this bill.

The world is a risky place. There is instability out there. There are countries and nations, there are organisations and there are political groups in this world that are not very positive and which pose a risk, whether that risk is through an intention or threats to commit harm or whether it is through corruption or at any point poor security. Where nuclear weapons and nuclear capacities are involved security and a lack of corruption is required. We must acknowledge that threat, so it is right and proper that this country adopts this bill and works as part of the world community to do as much as it can about nuclear terrorism. We support the measures contained in this amendment, because we do live in a dangerous world. There are threats posed by states and non-state actors. The threats are posed not solely by ideologies or Islamists but also by even older concepts such as the sheer pursuit of power.

The member for Melbourne Ports spoke quite extensively about Iran. I think that when we talk about nuclear threats to the world Iran figures prominently. It would be wrong to speak on this matter and not raise the issue of nuclear proliferation, because it remains a relevant point. In particular, with regard to the impending nuclear power Iran, much has been said about the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, it is right that we acknowledge the threat that the leaders of that power present. We know that Iran is a Shiah majority nation. Iranians are not, however, Arabs. As a result, Iran does struggle for wider credibility in the Arab Middle East. Its task is made more difficult because it has few natural Shiah friends. Currently, it has Syria, although perhaps that friend will not last much longer. We should keep in mind that the quick fall of the Syrian government and President Assad are highly desirable, but what is also desirable and required is that, unlike the concept of the Arab spring, which has proved to be an illusion with regard to democracy, in any fall of the Syrian regime liberal democracy needs to be promoted and that there has to be very hard work to promote it. This is unlike Egypt, where we saw a flicker of liberal democracy—but that was snuffed out fairly quickly by the highly organised Islamists represented by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The threat in Syria, as in many places in the Middle East, is that one regime can be easily replaced by an Islamist regime and that is certainly not a step forward, and provides no benefit and no security for those in the region. With regard to the relationship between Iran and Syria, there is no doubt that the fall of Syria would be a massive defeat for Iran. I think we should desire that as a good outcome. The Iranians do have some friends in the Middle East. They have the support of Syria and supply from Syria. They also have friends in Lebanon, the Hezbollah, whom they help to supply with weapons, and that other well-known terrorist organisation, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. Apart from those limited friends, the other nations in the Middle East are predominantly the Sunni Muslims and they are Arabs.

It is well-known that Iran desires to lead the Muslim world. Iran pursues that leadership and pursues concepts such as the world caliphate, uniting all the world under Shiah Islam and the return of the Mahdi to exact justice on the world at the end of time. These are concepts that they talk about. To achieve that leadership, they are pursuing an anti-Israel agenda to get publicity and credibility with Arab nations in the Middle East, and they seek a nuclear warhead to match the delivery systems they already possess. They seek leadership in the Muslim world through power and the threat of a nuclear missile that will, they believe, allow them to control the sea lanes of the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz.

It is certainly my view that Iran is likely in the next 12 months to develop nuclear weapons and be able to deploy them. It is wise to be aware of this, particularly in the case of the United States and Israel. Consideration should be given to what action should be taken to address this threat. It is also my view that a nuclear armed Iran is unlikely to be able to be negotiated with and the stability of the gulf and its shipping would most definitely be threatened. Furthermore, an emboldened nuclear Iran may well feel that proliferation of nuclear capacity to its friends may also further its leadership in the wider Islamic world. Certainly in the near future, barring action from the US or Israel, the threat of nuclear terrorism will become increasingly likely.

From an international perspective, the pursuit by the current regime in Iran of hegemony in the Middle East, their pursuit of leadership of other countries, is most definitely their agenda and through nuclear weapons we can see that agenda being progressed. They are not a reliable member of the international community. They are not a safe or even, in my view, mentally stable organisation. If they seek to negotiate, we can only acknowledge that as a means to delay. If they want to talk it is a means to delay and take advantage of the turn-the-other-cheek mentality of the Western world, giving them more time before they are called to account.

Israel certainly understands that threat and they understand the time frame. I think the United States is a little too optimistic and is prepared to let these time frames slip out to 18 months or even a couple of years, during which action may be required. In my view and from the information that I have received, the crunch time for this issue is going to be within the next 12 months. That is a difficult issue, obviously, for the world. I believe the steps that are required will need to be taken within 12 months. That is scary. That will be a little bit difficult, but we should stand by our friends and realise that what will need to be done will need to be done and that we should be on the right side. In the end, what will happen in the Middle East if Iran gets this sort of leadership position or this sort of power position is not the sort of thing we want to contemplate. I believe that action will be required in the future.

We also know there are some radical views out there. Already Iran has been more than happy to support and back the worst sort of people—as I mentioned before, Hamas and Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. We can easily see that that sort of attitude towards the terrorists in the Middle East can be expanded to other parts of the world. You might well see the regime in Iran, if they do achieve that success in the Middle East and in the gulf, reach out to the radical Islamists in Indonesia. That is very much on our doorstep. It is something that we need to think about and realise that action is going to be required on. I have talked mainly in a broader global sense with regard—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): I was going to mention that, when you are talking about a bill, occasionally referring to the bill does help the chair.

Mr SIMPKINS: I acknowledge that, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I intend to be more constructive on the bill from here. I said that the influence of an emboldened Iran may come into South-East Asia. We know that already in Australia there are those who have travelled overseas to undertake terrorist training through Yemen. Last year I referred to some 55 people who are unaccounted for, having gone through Yemen, and who are suspected of being involved with terrorist training. An Australian citizen who is going to travel overseas for that sort of training, might well think involvement with the regime in Iran or its agents would be in their best interests and would further the pursuit of their objectives. When we look at the home-grown terrorist concerns within this country, we need to be mindful that the geopolitical influences of emerging nuclear powers might well be able to influence to some degree inside Australia as well.

As the member for Cook said earlier in his contribution on this bill—and I certainly agree with this—we need to be very careful about the way parallel societies could exist in Australia under the guise of cultural identity. I know that maintenance of a person's culture from their homeland is an important thing and it gives strength to people as they come to adjust and integrate into Australia. When we have places, countries, states and non-state players out there in the world seeking to take advantage of those who might feel disaffected or detached from Western liberal societies then we do need to think about that and we do need to think about making sure those ethnic or religious groups in Australia—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Cowan told me he was going to get back to the legislation. About now would be a really good time to do it.

Mr SIMPKINS: I think that the bill is about access to radioactive materials or devices, and the ability to reach out to disaffected groups within Australia by those people who have access to devices and nuclear materials is exactly the sort of link we need to consider—the fact that there might be those out there in the world who offer the capacity to those inside the country who want that capacity and are prepared to utilise that capacity. That is the point I was trying to make. We should be very careful. Those groups that might want to maintain their language and culture to the exclusion of English and the positive traditions of the last two centuries might seek to lock in their isolation from the mainstream and from the opportunities our nation offers. That would be a disservice to Australians of ethnic origins and to our country. Without a doubt the coalition supports this bill. Obviously we need to be vigilant here in Australia and we need to give due consideration to what is happening around the world.