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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11497


Mr NIKOLIC (Bass) (10:34): Most Australians would acknowledge that the terrorists in Iraq and Syria known as ISIL or Daesh are causing unspeakable harm to individuals, families and communities. Their barbarity has shocked the world. Daesh is trying to entrench itself in the Middle East and export its barbarous mayhem. The murder of Curtis Cheng on 2 October is the latest confirmation that the tentacles of resurgent terrorism have again reached Australia.

There have been many other disrupted attacks and actual attacks, and they are coming closer together. Warning times are reducing and, sadly, the perpetrators are getting younger. We have seen Australian suicide bombers in the Middle East. Over 120 Australians are currently fighting or engaged with terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, a further 30 Australians have been killed and close to 160 people in Australia are actively supporting terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. The fact that ASIO is undertaking 400 high-priority investigations indicates that there are many others at home that we need to be concerned about.

The point that I am seeking to make is that our fight against resurgent terrorism is as much a matter of domestic security as international security. That is why Australia is playing its part in the international coalition to disrupt, degrade and, ultimately, defeat Daesh. Our strategy has three pillars. First of all, we are using the military dimension of our national power to support the government of Iraq's response to the terrorist threat. We do this by training the Iraqi army and by striking Daesh targets with our Air Task Group. Secondly, we are applying the diplomatic dimension of our national power to advocate for political solutions. That includes supporting the efforts of UN envoy de Mistura and encouraging Syria and Russia to play a constructive role. Thirdly, we are responding to the pressing humanitarian needs generated by this conflict. Not only is this the right thing to do but it helps reinforce Australia's reputation as a good global citizen and prevents the refugee camps from becoming hotbeds of radicalisation.

With our Canadian, Turkish, American and Arab state partners, we are striking Daesh capabilities in both Iraq and Syria because we know that they cannot be defeated in Iraq alone. By limiting Daesh's freedom of manoeuvre and their ability to command, reinforce and sustain their murderous activities, we do support the collective self-defence of Iraq. Perhaps more importantly, we also subdue Daesh's narrative of success. Their failure to establish a so-called caliphate from western Syria to eastern Iraq is a powerful counter to their totemic appeal and ability to recruit, particularly amongst young people. Every time one of their brutal figureheads is killed, their territory is reduced or their freedom of action is curtailed, Daesh's aspiration for world domination are further exposed as a ridiculous pipedream.

So we have a strategy—and, I thought, a settled bipartisan strategy. Strategy is for the longer term. As someone who served on Australia's first deployment to Afghanistan in 2001, and as our first national commander in southern Iraq in 2005, our troops expect our strategy to be for the longer term. So I am puzzled by the call for another debate. Why would the Deputy Leader of the Opposition call for yet more debate on what was a settled bipartisan strategy? Who else speaks out against Australia's military contribution to the coalition in Iraq and Syria? The answer is that the loudest opponents are the Greens and the members of Labor's left faction, of which the member for Sydney is a prominent leader. So let's call this motion for what it is: a political bone designed to appease the hard-left members of the Labor left faction and their fellow travellers in the Greens party.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr NIKOLIC: I hear the interjections, but it is puzzling that the member for Sydney and her colleagues were not speaking up about national security when they were acting to cut defence spending to the lowest level since 1938. We apparently have debates only when it suits the member for Sydney.

Our troops in Iraq and Syria are putting their lives on the line. They need a parliament that backs a strategy for the long-term and with resolve. They will find this sort of ideological dog-whistling about strategy to the Labor left as a bitter pill indeed. I say to the member for Sydney, this is not about military strategy but about her 'kill Bill' strategy, which requires points of differentiation— (Time expired)