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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7931


Senator BROWN (4:26 PM) —There is no place in civilised society for people who take violence, explosives and death dealing and maiming measures against innocent citizens to pursue some point, dictum or dogma that they may have. We have to remain vigilant in this age of global transfer not only of information but also of people in a way which we have never seen before and which is going to increase. They are great advantages to people who are opposed to the views of others and who think that violence is going to solve problems in the human community. It will not. That is a message that also needs to go to the White House.

You cannot just look at this legislation in isolation. It is an effort—and I accept that from all parties involved—to meet the menace of terrorism. The Greens have a differing point of view about where the balance is set between the efforts of fanatics to bring fear and terror into our society and the rights of our society to have its freedoms and liberties upheld. As Senator Nettle has said, this legislation infringes on the latter as never before.

That said, let us look at some of the advice. No doubt ASIO's advice to the government has been very instrumental in this legislation being framed in the way it has. ASIO has also advised the government—as the CIA has advised the US government— that the impending invasion of Iraq and capture of Baghdad is fraught with the danger of increased terrorism as a result. It is part of the new political correctness that you do not discuss that aspect of the equation. But I am not going to be held captive by that new dictum, as is the doyen of new political correctness, Andrew Bolt, who would have it that you either go with the government in this matter or you go with the terrorists. That is fatuous. It is simplistic. It debases the argument and debate that we must have in a society like ours if we are going to find the right answers. However, we are not a society bristling with guns like the United States. We are a much softer target. It does concern me greatly that our Prime Minister nevertheless sees siding with the Bush administration in the United States in this matter of terrorism and in the matter of the invasion of Iraq— despite some recent separation from his previous line—as not being without consequence. It has huge consequences for the Australian community. We must note what ASIO has said.

If the Prime Minister opts to be part of the United States attack on Iraq to service the Bush administration's need domestically in the United States to say, `We have friends with us,' Australia becomes more vulnerable because of that. That is a price that the Prime Minister must size up in the coming months. Parliament is not going to be here to tackle him on that. If we are called back, it will be after the event that he has decided to send a contingent of Australians to Iraq. This is a matter of huge national importance. The Prime Minister has enormous responsibility on his shoulders for the lives of Australians—not only those going to Iraq but those travelling elsewhere and going peaceably about their lives in this country.

We should have an independent foreign policy; we should have an independent view of the world. In this country we should be looking independently at how we defeat terrorism, not only by trying to prevent it when people have it in mind but by trying to undermine it through getting at the root causes of division in this world—the greatest of which, I believe, is the gap between rich and poor in human society. There is a gap between those of us who live in extraordinary and unprecedented luxury and the billion or more people on this planet who are living in utter and degrading poverty. Australia would be very well placed if it were pushing for a new Marshall Plan to directly address that problem, but there is no hint of that from the Howard government. I think that is an enormous pity and something of great disservice to Australia.

I do not think President Bush is up to this, and it is a great disservice to the world that he is not. He ought to look at the history of the post Second World War situation and the magnanimity—in the full sense of that term—of the Marshall Plan that came from his own country to recognise that there are answers other than threatening to use nuclear weapons or to top the weapons of mass destruction usage by anybody else, be it Saddam Hussein or some other cruel manifestation of humanity in power around the world. The Greens, as Senator Nettle so well put our position, will be opposing this legislation.

Before I conclude, I want to say that there has been a sea change for me in this place in the last five months, and that is because of the presence here of my colleague Senator Nettle. She is a young and extremely devoted Australian. Her carriage of this piece of legislation, on behalf of the Australian Greens, has been admirable, to say the least. I congratulate her. She is a great addition to the Senate and she has obviously brought a great deal not just to the advocacy of the Greens point of view but to the debates in this chamber, as manifested in this debate about the ASIO legislation. I look forward to the coming years as we seek to balance the debate on matters like this and argue against the current and prevailing view that economic rationalism is the best credo for the world to manage its affairs with. It is not, and we have better alternatives.