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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7299

Senator SANDY MACDONALD (4:11 PM) —I have seen Senator Faulkner come into this place and make some very powerful attacks, but today was not one of his best days. In fact, he even cracked a smile today, and I think that gives the Senate a very clear indication of the fact that Senator Faulkner's heart is certainly not in this debate. All I can say is that, from his own point of view, he is probably lucky that the debate today is not being broadcast, because he really should have given somebody else a few minutes of his 20 minutes. I think it is probably one of the weakest attacks made on our defence and foreign policy at a time when Australia has never had a more credible image in the world.

The motion that Senator Brown has moved is in line with his usual method of seeking publicity, which he does, I have to say, very effectively. He does so because the facts and the truth are of no relevance to Senator Brown. Any damage or collateral embarrassment to Australia is of no concern to Senator Brown. In fact, he is quite prepared to be an apologist for Australia, and he has a record of that. I think other countries look askance at comments made by Senator Brown or they take the opportunity to use his comments as a way of promoting their own political agendas. His views, while given wide publicity, have no resonance—and I think you made this point, Mr Acting Deputy President Ferguson, when you were speaking—with the vast majority of the Australian people. You said one in 10; I think it will be more like one in 100 or one in 1,000. If people actually knew Senator Brown and saw the sorts of policies that he promoted privately, they would not be bearing out the policies that he speaks about when he speaks about foreign affairs or defence matters.

To put what the Prime Minister said in a colloquial context which we all understand, I think I can put it this way: if some terrorist is going to hit you on the head with a stick, then it is incumbent on any Australian government, whatever its political persuasion— and I am sure my colleagues opposite would agree, or disagree on other issues—to defend its citizens. That is the requirement of any Australian government. There is nothing more or nothing less than that. If you have some clear indication that there will be an attack upon your citizens and you have the capacity and there are no other alternatives, then clearly it is incumbent on any Prime Minister, given the great responsibilities of that high office, to act accordingly.

A military response would never be the first call. It is simply not the Australian way. It has never been our record in our long and proud history of military involvements. We will work with our neighbours and our friends in forums, in the United Nations and wherever. We will pursue every opportunity of cooperation but, at the exhaustion of all those methods, it should be known that terrorists who might terrorise Australian citizens at home and abroad must be aware that they cannot hide; they cannot run. But they can hide, I am sure, with Senator Brown. I make no apologies for that. I am proud to be part of a government that takes a stand on behalf of its citizens in that regard, because there is no higher obligation on any government than to protect its citizens. There is no obsequiousness from our side of politics, but lots of it from Senator Brown. The attitudes given publicity by Senator Brown or by Australia and its citizens should indicate that there is no safety at all. There is nowhere to hide with terrorism and there is no benefit to Australia in providing an opportunity to give succour and support to potential terrorism.

Regional cooperation clearly remains the priority of the government, especially following the Bali bombings. The response and help of the Indonesian government is very much appreciated. The cooperation between the Indonesian police and the AFP, and the long-term mutual personal benefits that have been developed through this investigation and through the ongoing training cooperation, particularly in the forensic area, will be of immense benefit in the future. The AFP has been exceptionally diligent in developing this cooperation. The commitment to regional security cooperation supported by Malaysia and Singapore—and the recent detention by Malaysia of the 74 Jemaah Islamiah operatives that were alleged to have been planning an attack on the US, UK and Australian embassies—is clear evidence of this cooperation, and is ongoing.

I turn now to the points raised in Senator Brown's motion concerning the Prime Minister's comments. The Prime Minister's comments on possible pre-emptive action were in the context of a commentary on the issue in response to the John Bray memorial oration delivered by Senator Hill in Adelaide a couple of weeks ago. They are also in the context of the rethink of the long-standing rule of international law—the right of self-defence, which the United Nations recognises in section 51 of the UN charter. Senator Hill's speech focused on the general question of the evolution of international law to reflect new challenges to global security. Both that speech and the Prime Minister's recent comments discussed the general issue in hypothetical terms only. It is wrong to draw a conclusion from these remarks that the government has any specific plans for changing its direction of working cooperatively with the regional countries on the common problem of terrorism that we all face. (Time expired)