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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11498


Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (10:39): To return to reality, when Russia entered the Syrian civil war, Australia's Foreign Minister said that Russia's involvement in negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program had been positive, and:

If we use that as an example of Russia's preparedness to be part of a solution rather than part of the problem, then we can have some optimism that Russia's involvement is positive.

As the pattern of bombing of non-Daesh targets—just mentioned by the member for Bass—is established, these comments look more and more silly. The foreign minister has mimicked the false dichotomy put out by Russia and Iran that the West has to choose between Daesh and Assad. To argue in favour of a dictator who has murdered 200,000 of his own people is unethical—and it will never work.

Russia's intervention on the side of Iran and Hezbollah cements in place Iran's Shiite crescent from Lebanon, through Syria and Iraq, to Iran. How is this in the Australian national interest? It is just one of the reasons why the Australian government must debate this sudden pro-Iranian shift in parliament. According to news reports, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Syria are, at this moment, about to begin a massive ground offensive against their non-Daesh enemies in Syria. Qasem Soleimani, the viceroy who commands the Iranian forces in Syria, is coordinating this ground offensive. Normally the Australian government would have said something. Now? Nothing.

Since the one-sided deal with Iran, the foreign minister has re-imagined Iran as the region's saviour. This is idiotic and must be debated in this parliament. Since 1979, Iran has sponsored terrorism in almost every Arab country, as well as in Israel, South America, Europe and Asia. Instead of shunning Iran, our foreign minister, in April, when she became the first western foreign minister to visit Iran in years, says: 'Trade with us. Take our unwanted refugees. Open consulates. Let's share intelligence!' In the last fortnight, however, when Iraq, Iran, Russia and Syria announced an intelligence-sharing centre based in Baghdad, US Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Work said:

We were caught by surprise that Iraq entered into this agreement with Syria and Iran and Russia. Obviously, we are not going to share intelligence with either Syria or Russia or Iran.

Normally the Australian government would have said something—but again they did not.

The foreign minister must also explain the legalities to this House. Under autonomous sanctions legislation, Australia is not allowed to provide Iran, Syria or any of these countries with 'technical advice, assistance or training if it assists or is provided in relation to a military activity.' I remind the government that Hezbollah, which is founded, funded, armed and trained by Iran, is proscribed by the Australian parliament. When concerned foreign ministers gathered in Paris back in June to discuss how to handle Daesh, it was our foreign minister who embarrassed us by suggesting that they should be involved in the US led coalition. It was a suggestion immediately dismissed by all the other western foreign ministers.

Last week, an emboldened Iran fired off ballistic missiles capable of carrying warheads—in flagrant violation of UN sanctions. The US described it as 'a complete violation' and condemned it utterly. Normally Australia would have said something—but again we were silent. In August an adviser on international affairs to the Speaker of the Iranian parliament said:

Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate goal.

Australia in the past would normally have repudiated the Iranians. Instead we were shamefully silent.

Nothing the foreign minister says about the alleged benefits of cooperation with Iran is worth the dangers to Australian citizens of opening Iranian consulates in Sydney or Melbourne. If she wants intelligence, the foreign minister should just google 'Hezbollah, Iran and Argentina' or—instead of Argentina—Thailand, Lebanon, Singapore, Bulgaria, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia. In all of these places, Hezbollah has carried out or attempted to carry out terrorist attacks using the diplomatic cover provided by Iranian embassies and consulates to advance their shared poisonous ideology. Interpol has issued arrest warrants for senior Iranian officials. It is inimical to Australia's national security to allow Iran to establish a network along those lines in Australia.

We have no reasonable assurance that Iran is moving to stop its support of international terrorism. The government has become an unwitting, incompetent facilitator aiding and abetting the Iranian agenda. The foreign minister has been played for a fool and is clearly out of her depth. We need, as the member for Sydney said, a full debate on these matters.