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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9911


Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (11:12): I move:

That this House:

(1) welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to contributing to humanitarian aid in Iraq, including through airdrops;

(2) commends the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection for:

(a) their commitment to working with our allies towards a solution, including having reaffirmed the strong state of our bilateral defence and security co-operation with the United States;

(b) strengthening our national security by providing a further $630 million over four years to boost the counter terrorism capacity of our security and intelligence organisations;

(c) their commitment to prosecuting those Australians who engage in terrorism-related activities and to strengthening our ability to monitor, arrest, and prosecute people who have been involved with terrorist groups abroad; and

(d) setting aside a minimum of 4,400 resettlement places in the 2014-15 Refugee and Humanitarian Program for ethnic and religious minorities fleeing the humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria;

(3) recognises that:

(a) Christian Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yazidis, and Mandaeans are minority religious and racial groups in Iraq, and are subject to ongoing violence, intimidation, harassment and discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds;

(b) hundreds of thousands of Christian Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yazidis, and Mandaeans have been forced to flee their homes in northern Iraq; and

(c) a growing number of Australians are travelling to Iraq and Syria and other conflict zones where their aim is to do harm and bring back deadly skills to Australia, and the threat from these extremists is real and growing;

(4) condemns the violent and barbaric killing, intimidation, harassment and discrimination of Christian Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yazidis, and Mandaeans in Iraq at the hands of the terrorist organisation, Islamic State (also known as ISIS); and

(5) calls upon the Australian Government to:

(a) continue to focus on the humanitarian aid mission; and

(b) work closely with our allies to ensure that more people are not exposed to the brutal zealotry of the Islamic State.

This motion calls upon the Australian parliament to do two things: to continue to focus on the humanitarian aid mission in Iraq and to work closely with our allies to ensure that more people are not exposed to the brutal zealotry of the Islamic State. In moving this motion, I note that events have moved rapidly in the past few weeks and we have seen the government put forward a strong series of responses for what has been occurring. We have also seen support from large segments of the opposition. We of course welcome the Leader of the Opposition and those people in the Labor Party who support the government in its strong response to this very important issue.

Like all Australians, I have been appalled and shocked at what has been going on in Iraq. Many of us here have been talking about the minority groups, and this motion canvasses most of those minority groups who have been affected by the brutal zealotry of Islamic State. We have seen beheadings of journalists but also of local Islamic people, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Westerners—all sorts of people. This is indiscriminate killing by a great evil of people in Iraq and Syria. We have also seen those Christian groups—whether they be Assyrians, members of the Assyrian Church of the East, or the Chaldeans, the members of the Eastern Catholic Church who share common and ethnic heritage distant and apart from their Arabic neighbours in Iraq—particularly targeted by IS and their evil zealotry, and they have been forced to flee in large numbers. We have seen that there are about 1.4 million Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq. Their population has decreased in recent years to about 500,000, with over a decade of turmoil—this latest incident being the straw that broke the camel's back. We have seen over 60 churches bombed, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop kidnapped and murdered and other hideous atrocities against people's right to live freely and to practice their religion freely. The Yezidis, a small and ancient group of Persian faith, founded by a philosopher, are being hounded and hunted down by Islamic State, and they have greatly suffered as well. We have seen the results of the fleeing of all of these thousands of people to Mount Sinjar. They had been surrounded for many days and had to be relieved by American and Australian forces.

I note that in particular the government has assisted with humanitarian aid by sending RAAF C130J Hercules aircraft to deliver pallets of badly needed food and supplies, as well as $5 million worth of humanitarian aid provided to Iraq. I think all Australians welcome this humanitarian aid to people in very disastrous and dire circumstances, fleeing a great evil. The cargo included 150 boxes of high-energy biscuits and bottled water. It was enough to sustain thousands of people for 24 hours. We welcome all of these practical outcomes of Australian aid and assistance, which is directly saving lives and preventing great evil atrocities from occurring. I want to particularly thank the Hercules crews and members of the RAAF who are providing the humanitarian aid and assistance. They are doing a great job providing support for the people fleeing from terror.

I also acknowledge the Turkmen and the Shabak. There are so many groups and minorities. The nature of ISIS and the Islamic State is that they do not discriminate. They kill everybody who is not one of them, regardless of their background and religion.

We have seen all of these minorities persecuted: the Shabak, near Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, and the Mandaeans, who began fleeing Iraq under Saddam's rule. Their population has decreased to just a small group of 5,000. I was privileged to meet with the Mandaean community here in parliament house and hear directly from them about their surviving population in Iraq, which is suffering enormously under the ongoing ISIS onslaught.

It brings me to the situation in Australia. I want to commend all of these communities in Australia, whether they be the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Mandaeans, the Shabak or the Yezidis. There are communities here in Sydney, and you will see many Sydney members speaking on this motion, because those communities are predominantly settled in our biggest city, the melting pot that is Sydney. I have to report that all of them have come peacefully, live peacefully and work as good Australians to establish themselves here in Sydney. Hearing from them has been very important to the understanding of members of this House about what is occurring to their relatives, neighbours and friends and people they left behind in Iraq.

All Australians can be proud of the government's response with humanitarian aid. I know this parliament would endorse unanimously the ongoing support of humanitarian aid, in particular, and the humanitarian relief mission for people in such a state. The government has a suite of measures, including the response to terrorism, because the safety of our community is our highest priority. It is the highest priority of any government. The government is putting forward a package of measures this week to deal with the ongoing security environment here in Australia.

It affords me the opportunity to raise some matters occurring in Sydney in particular. I wholeheartedly express my support for the Lebanese Maronite in Parramatta, centred around Our Lady of Lebanon Church and Our Lady of Lebanon School. They have been a fantastic community of great Australians now for a number of generations here in Parramatta in Sydney. To hear that they were threatened in recent days by some youths with an ISIL flag who approached their church and their school, threatening to kill young people, is an abhorrent thing to occur on the streets of Sydney, especially as it concerns such a peace-loving community, one that has been a great success story for migration to Australia. I want to ensure they understand that they have the full support of everybody here in this parliament and of all people in Sydney, and that these kinds of acts of violence and terror on our streets are completely unacceptable and need and deserve the highest form of response.

I also want to commend Mr Abbas Aly, who is the Islamic leader of the prayer centre in my local community, the Annangrove prayer centre, who said on ABC Radio that he strongly supports the Team Australia mantra of the Prime Minister in describing the situation Australia faces. Mr Abbas Aly, the leader of the Annangrove prayer centre, supports the government and the Prime Minister, because he knows that these people do not represent the religion of Islam. The Islamic State is not the true representative of this faith. They have perverted it for their own purposes and, whether they be conducting these acts of terror in Iraq or whether they be threatening people here on the streets of Sydney, they are outside the normal bounds of the religion of Islam, and they are to be condemned. So I welcome Mr Aly's comments, both in condemning his fellow Muslims who have fallen from their true religion, and in supporting the government and the Prime Minister's important Team Australia summary of what is going on in this country today.

On a sour note, it is appalling to see a mosque in Sydney auction the ISIS flag. Whether or not this flag, as Mr Keysar Trad said, is somehow an ancient symbol of their religion that has been perverted by ISIS, or IS, symbols matter and it is very important that this debate not be confused by these sorts of acts, including the auction of an ISIS flag. I urge all Islamic leaders in Sydney to join Mr Abbas Aly in strongly condemning violence and in condemning IS, and also to refrain from using the symbols that have been used by this evil terrorist group in Iraq and its representatives here in Australia, because it is vital that the whole community understands that Islam condemns these acts and condemns these people here in Australia. The auctioning of this flag in Sydney, which was reported widely and shown on YouTube, was a very unfortunate event. I fully support Premier Mike Baird, who came out strongly to say that we would be taking action against anyone supporting ISIS and anyone giving support to terror in New South Wales and Australia.

This motion calls for greater aid. I think that is a worthy objective that we can all support. Human being are thrust into these conditions by great evils—a 'death cult' as the Prime Minister puts it, and it is a death cult, because these people do worship death. They are willing to blow themselves up, to kill themselves, for the sake of killing others. It is a death cult. It is vital that nations like Australia, the United States and all of the different countries that are forming a coalition, including countries in the Middle East, act to protect basic human rights. That is what this is about. It is worthy that we are sending forces to assist the international coalition in providing succour to people who are having their basic human rights violated. We strongly support the government and the government's attempts to eradicate radicalism and violence and to deal with those people here in Australia who, God forbid, are working to support the zealotry of the Islamic State.

Most of all today, we send a message to those minorities who have so successfully migrated here to Australia and formed such great communities in Sydney and our other cities. We support them and their fellow human beings in their difficult circumstances in Iraq, and this government and the Australian parliament is prepared to act.