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Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Page: 8


Mr BYRNE (Holt) (12:45): I'll be brief. I thank the shadow Attorney-General, the Leader of the Opposition in this House, the Attorney-General and the chair for their indulgence in allowing me to speak on the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 and related bill. I note that my friend and colleague the member for Denison wants to speak shortly about these matters too.

I speak today to those abroad who have listened to discordant voices in the course of this debate about our nation's sovereignty. I speak to those who have listened to representatives who have served in this place or other legislatures in this country who provided false hope or false comfort to those who may wish us harm. Today you are hearing the true voice of this nation and of this parliament. We effectively speak with one voice—a stentorian voice destined to be heard everywhere by those who wish us well or wish us harm.

Our nation has a right to defend itself. It has a right to protect and defend its democratic structures, its way of life and the freedom of its people—all of its people, wherever they have come from, near or afar. When you come to this country and become a citizen, you are entitled to the full measure of protection that this country affords. This legislation must offer these protections to you, and, after the exhaustive processes undertaken by the PJCIS, it will.

The perception of autocratic regimes about democracies like ours, the United Kingdom's and the United States's is that the openness of our societies creates weakness and that this weakness can be exploited. This is an act of historical folly that seems destined to be repeated unless common sense and a study of history prevail. Also this misconception could not be further from the truth. Our openness is our greatest strength. Our way of life and our expression of it are also our great strengths. It has come from centuries of struggle and sacrifice from many different nations and many different cultures. Its foundations were laid thousands of years ago by societies whose light still burns bright today and whose impact reverberates throughout our laws, our values, our art and our culture. We are the children and heirs of this foundation and tradition, and we must not squander this hard-won inheritance. Because even through this openness we can be slow to respond to threat, when that threat is revealed something ignites in our democracy: a thirst and an unquenchable desire to protect that democracy and our way of life, whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifice, with the full measure of devotion.

I am from the party which gave this nation one of its greatest treasures—Prime Minister John Curtin, a humble man who stood tall and proud for our country in the darkest days of World War II. He stood tall. He stood for our nation alongside giants such as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Our Prime Minister, who was described as a one-time mild-mannered trade unionist, addressed his nation's first direct radio broadcast from Canberra to American citizens on Friday, 14 March 1942. Praising the people of America during peak-hour broadcasting, Prime Minister Curtin spoke of their shared commitment to total warfare and the importance of preserving Australia as a democratic bastion between the US west coast and Axis enemies. 'I say to you,' he said, 'that the saving of Australia is the saving of America's west coast.' He also said:

I speak to you from Australia. I speak from a united people to a united people, and my speech is aimed to serve all the people of the nations united in the struggle to save mankind.

He stated:

We fight with what we have and what we have is our all. We fight for the same free institutions that you enjoy. We fight so that, in the words of Lincoln, 'government of the people … by the people, shall not perish from the earth'. Our legislature is elected the same as is yours; and we will fight for it, and for the right to have it, just as you will fight to keep the Capitol at Washington the meeting place of freely-elected men and women representative of a free people.

He further stated:

Be assured of the calibre of our national character. This war may see the end of much that we have painfully and slowly built in our 150 years of existence. But even though all of it go, there will still be Australians fighting on Australian soil until the turning point be reached, and we will advance over blackened ruins, through blasted and fire-swepted cities, across scorched plains, until we drive the enemy into the sea. I give you the pledge of my country. There will always be an Australian Government and there will always be an Australian people. We are too strong in our hearts; our spirit is too high; the justice of our cause throbs too deeply in our being for that high purpose to be overcome.

These great words echo down throughout the years to this day. The laws that we debate today may be imperfect, as other speakers may highlight, but they state and embody bipartisan intent. It is our job as legislators and Curtin's heirs to fulfil our commitment to those in our clandestine services, our law enforcement agencies and the Attorney-General's office that we seek these powers to keep our nation safe. We in this parliament, together, have ensured that there are reviews and safeguards required to offer protection as needed. With that in mind and with Curtin's words echoing in my ears, I commend these bills to the House.