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Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Page: 3886

National Security


Senator FAWCETT (South Australia) (14:10): My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. Can the Attorney-General advise the Senate what steps the Australian government is taking to keep Australia safe from the threat of returning foreign fighters and violent extremism?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:10): Thank you, Senator Fawcett, for the opportunity to inform you of the steps the government is taking to deal with the threat of returning foreign jihadists. As you would know, the terrorist group—

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator BRANDIS: I thought this matter had bipartisan support, Senator Wong.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, ignore the interjections. They are disorderly. Address your comments to the chair. On my left, there needs to be silence. On my right.

Senator BRANDIS: As Senator Fawcett would be aware, the terrorist group ISIL has lately taken over several cities in north-western Iraq as well as some of the border crossings between Iraqi and Syria. ISIL is a listed terrorist organisation in Australia under the Commonwealth criminal code. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies are working closely with international partners to combat the threat posed by ISIL and other terrorist groups operating in Iraq, Syria and the region.

Any Australians found to be members of terrorist organisations or to have been involved in terrorist activities overseas will be arrested, detained and prosecuted in accordance with Australian law. I can tell Senator Fawcett that we estimate that up to 150 Australians are believed to be involved in the conflict in Syria and now in Iraq. They expose themselves to punishment of up to 25 years imprisonment. And those penalties apply as well to persons who affiliate themselves with or provide support to those foreign fighters.

The government has also cancelled the passports of individuals who are assessed to pose a threat to our national security. The government will continue to use that tool to detour individuals from travelling overseas to engage in violent conflicts. The government will also shortly be bringing forward additional legislative measures.






Senator FAWCETT (South Australia) (14:13): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Could the Attorney-General inform the Senate what those additional legislative measures are?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:13): Yes, I can indeed. The government has decided to give effect to important recommendations of the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in its inquiry into potential reforms to Australia's national security legislation. I might remind honourable senators that the recommendations of that report, which was the work of the last parliament, had bipartisan support. In particular, I will be introducing legislation in the next sitting fortnight to give effect to the recommendations in chapter 4 of that report. They are the recommendations which deal with the powers of Australia's national security agencies. That legislation has been developed in recent weeks and, as I say, I will be introducing it in the next sitting fortnight.


Senator FAWCETT (South Australia) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the Attorney-General advise the Senate what role leaders of Australia's Muslim community can play in supporting the government's efforts?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:14): Members of Australia's Muslim community, in particular their leaders, play a critical role in helping communities to acknowledge the devastating events in the Middle East and in helping those communities to understand that it is illegal under Australian law for any Australian to provide support to those activities.

Yesterday I opened the National Imams Consultative Forum at Old Parliament House. I told the imams that the Australian government is taking strong action to protect Australia's national security and that part of that approach involves partnership with them to ensure that their communities remain committed and resilient and safe. The imams are committed to working in partnership with the government to raise awareness of these issues, to provide alternative pathways to individuals who might otherwise be minded to take action in response to the conflict and to raise awareness of the dangers of participating— (Time expired)