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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31699

Mr HUNT (4:10 PM) —In rising to address the Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2004 I note that it comes within a context of two things. Firstly, it comes within the context of a type of threat which is different to that which we in the West have faced over the last half century—it is a very different type of threat. Secondly, it comes within the context of the reason we face that threat, and we face that threat because of the very nature of who we are, what we believe in and how we practice that—that is, we are free societies that believe in free speech, freedom of movement and the basic freedoms of belief. So there is always a difficult and careful balance in protecting against the threat of those who would seek to destroy those societies while at the same time managing to protect the freedoms which are the very essence of what we are and the very essence of what those who would seek to cause havoc wish to destroy.

I want to put this bill, which I believe balances those challenges, in its historic context, to understand the magnitude of the threat we face today. I do not want to overstate that threat. I want to put it in the context of what we have seen in the last century. The history of the 20th century has perhaps been characterised above all else by a combination of dynamism on the scientific, social and economic fronts, against a series of threats which have been existential in their nature. There have been three great existential threats which we have had to face, as a society, as a set of beliefs and as Western civilisation over the last three-quarters of a century.

The first of those existential threats was posed by fascism. In essence, it was state sponsored racism combined with the most virulent militarism. It was a totalitarian ideology that attempted to conquer by force and to impose itself, and it did not shirk from exterminating not just individuals but entire peoples. The catastrophe which came about in the form of the Second World War witnessed over 40 million immediate deaths. There were 40 million souls who perished. Their lives were extinguished as a consequence of that ideology. It was defeated, but it was defeated at an enormous cost. It was defeated after repeated warnings by many throughout the 1930s that we had to take steps to deal both with the idea and with the force which was backing it.

The second of the great existential threats was in the form of aggressive militaristic nationalism, something which we saw in the First World War and—perhaps most notably from Australia's perspective—in the aggressive militaristic nationalistic regime which governed Japan's actions in China and in the Pacific during the course of the Second World War. This was a threat which Australia faced directly, and it was a threat which came from an ideology that equated nationalism and the superiority of a particular nation with the right to use force, with the right to conquer territory and with the right to exterminate freedoms in other societies—and even with the right to exterminate the very notion of those societies throughout Asia. Again, that was defeated. Unfortunately, it took the terrible cost and consequence of war to do so.

The third of the great existential threats which precede this bill and give it context is communism. The very nature of communism during the 20th century was, firstly, an absolute belief in the idea, secondly, that there could be no brooking of dissent to that idea, thirdly, that it would impose a notional absolute equality through absolute force and, fourthly, that it would seek to spread itself through the use of violence as a constructive force, under the mistaken and tragically false notion that it would assist human progress. For the most part, this force was defeated through resistance, recognition of the threat and acting early to prevent a repeat of the tragedies that befell the world through fascism and nationalism. Whilst those who suffered under the yoke of communism suffered an extraordinary burden, the existential clash, which perhaps could have manifested itself in a nuclear exchange, thankfully for all of us did not come to pass. The system was confronted, the idea was defeated and it collapsed under its own weight. There has been an extraordinary transformation, with only four societies still notionally adhering to that belief.

Where does that leave us today? I do not want to overstate what we face. I do not think that as a Western civilisation we face an existential threat, but I do believe that terrorism, in the form of a civil war raging within the Islamic world, brings us today a dangerous and corrosive threat. It represents the capacity of extremism to spread across the globe, to have an impact on individual societies, to try to cut away at their leadership or to wreak havoc amongst their population while at the same time trying to force them to diminish their own freedoms and decrease their own rights. That is the notion that we face today in looking at the threats which Australia—along with all of the other countries of not just the Western world, or the developed world, but also the Islamic world—has to address.

Let me try to explain this threat, because it underpins fundamentally the steps we take in this Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 2). Al-Qaeda's philosophy is simple: it is the idea of a Taliban style world with an absolutely extremist form of Islam—which is nothing more than a perversion of the beauty of that religion—and a 100-year vision or time frame. It is expansionist, callous and uncaring. That is in no way a reflection on Islam; above all else, it is an attack on the great religion of Islam. It is a direct and frontal assault on elements of that religion which, in many ways, represent some of the best things in the different religions in the world. With the growth of the al-Qaeda movement, which had a base in Afghanistan and manifested itself in the Taliban regime, we see an expansionary, violent force. (Quorum formed)

The 30-year goal of al-Qaeda is simple: its strategic objective is to take the four largest Islamic countries—Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia—and create chaos, drive out any international connections, break down the leadership and either cause the country to fragment or bring about a regime change and slip into the vacuum. That is the goal of al-Qaeda. That is what it seeks to achieve. In pursuit of the 100-year vision it has a very clear 30-year strategic vision. We see this in al-Qaeda's activities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia. As neighbours on the doorstep of Indonesia, we have witnessed tragic violence on our own people, on our own youth.

Then, beyond just the strategic step, we see that there is the nightmare possibility of terrorism, and this is why the bill that the Attorney has introduced carries such weight and such importance. The nightmare possibility we know, not just from interviews with people from al-Qaeda, but from their documentation, from their publications and from every element that we have discovered about them, is that they still aggressively seek to obtain some form of chemical, biological or, worse, dirty bomb capability—and they will use it. The nature of their attacks has been to use incendiary devices in crowded populations to bring about maximum human death and suffering. It is clever and utterly amoral activity. There is no concern other than to bring about human pain and suffering. So, if by any chance they are able to obtain access to chemical, biological or dirty bomb capabilities, they will use them.

As I predicted in the House a year ago, our Western cities are at risk. At that time I predicted that a Spanish city was at risk. Similarly, cities in the UK, France, Germany, the United States and closer to home are all at risk. Tragically, we saw in Spain that this prediction was accurate. It is a threat which we will continue to face during the course of our lives. That threat is there, and it must be confronted on two fronts. Firstly, it must be confronted in Afghanistan and the Middle East; and, secondly, within Iraq. These are staging posts. These are home bases for such activities. In Afghanistan, we have seen that the nations of the world combine to help drive the Taliban regime from being in control of that country. It had both an enormous human rights consequence, and it had an incredible role as a platform for the actions which occurred on September 11. So we have a responsibility to deal with a society such as that which occurred under the Taliban. We have a responsibility to rid the world of a platform at a state based level for a group such as al-Qaeda.

Secondly, in Iraq—the second great front; they are inseparable in terms of the action—we saw a society which was not only unparalleled in its abuse of human rights and in the savagery that it had carried out against its own people over the last decade, but which had also used and applied chemical and biological weapons against its own people and against its neighbours. Without a doubt, no matter what the other debates are, it was also working to develop new programs for chemical and biological weapons—and it had connections with a series of groups. Whether it was the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, the PLF, the Abu Nidal organisation or other terrorist organisations, the combination of chemical programs and terrorist organisations was there. History will tell whether or not there was a link with al-Qaeda, but we do not need to assert that. What we saw was an abusive regime and, in addition to that, an extraordinarily violent regime which was willing to use force, which was developing chemical and biological weapons, and which, without question, had links with all of those organisations that I have outlined. (Quorum formed)

What we are witnessing in Iraq today is an attempt by these very same people to undermine the prospect of a free society through bombings, through executions, through the attempt to create general chaos and inspire fear in those who would place themselves in harm's way, and through the systematic killing of leaders. That is what we have to fight against because it threatens to spread. The consequences of failure on the international front and here in Australia are significant. So we have to use hard power to respond and we also have to use soft power. We will not win unless there is a triumph of ideas. We will not win unless we are able to provide development. We will not win unless people are able to understand that we bring education and empowerment. We believe in the freedom of those countries in the Middle East. We believe in the validity of moderate Islam, and this bill is part of that. (Time expired)