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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14848

Mr DUTTON (1:41 PM) —I think all Australians in this day and age realise that we now live in uncertain times. Certainly that has been the case since the tragic circumstances surrounding the bombings in the United States in September 2001 and since the tragic circumstances in relation to the 88 Australians who were killed in Bali on 12 October last year. In debating this very important motion before the House today, it is important in my view that we mention that background, the context in which this debate is taking place and the circumstances in which these two people are being held in custody by the United States.

I want to take the time initially to acknowledge the very genuine and, I am sure, heartfelt concerns of the member for Denison and the member for Banks. I am sure that they reflect the views and concerns of the families of the people who are held in custody. I acknowledge those concerns but I ask those families, as I ask the members opposite, to recognise that the circumstances in which these people find themselves are a result of the allegations that they were a part of the al-Qaeda network, which was responsible directly for the deaths of more than 3,000 people in the tragedy on 9-11 in 2001.

The members opposite should also understand the mood in the United States at the moment—a mood which has existed in the United States for a couple of years, and perhaps even beyond that. I have spoken to the House before about a visit I made to the United States in January 2002, only a few months after the 9-11 bombings. I visited ground zero. For the benefit of this debate, the enormous feeling and sentiment which permeate right through the United States need to be understood. It is something that you can understand absolutely. This is not a traditional war that we find ourselves in; it is a war on terror, it is a war against the unknown, and it is a war against those who do not fight in traditional ways but who choose to fight in very unconventional ways. This makes very uncertain these times that we now find ourselves in.

It is very important in this debate for people to realise that this is not a conventional war, as we spoke about before. The war on terrorism will continue. We know there have been some recent terrorist attacks: a suicide bombing in Saudi Arabia only a couple of weeks ago, on 12 May, when 34 people were killed, including one Australian; another Australian was injured in a terrorist attack when eight American citizens were killed; five simultaneous terrorist attacks occurred in Casablanca, in Morocco, on 17 May, when 41 innocent people lost their lives; twin terrorist attacks targeting tourists killed nine people in Kenya in November last year; and a plane narrowly avoided being hit in a missile attack as it departed from Mombassa. All of this, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves today, really puts into some perspective the arguments and the justification from the United States for retaining custody of the two Australians in very unusual circumstances. I want to quickly touch on some points that were raised by the two members from the opposite side. I want to put some facts on the record.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 1.45 p.m., the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 101. I respect the fact that the member for Dickson may want to continue but the time allotted for the debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The member for Dickson will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed.