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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9097

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (10:57): This is indeed a very important motion that is before the House, and I congratulate the member for McMahon on bringing it forward for debate today. This motion condemns the actions of the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and reaffirms the rights of Christians and other minorities to live their lives in peace and security, free from persecution and free from the threat of death. It calls on the Australian government to provide humanitarian and other assistance to help these people and to use our position on the UN Security Council to protect the rights of these minorities in Iraq, including the Assyrian and Chaldean Christian people.

The Islamic State was born out of al-Qaeda, itself an extremist group with violent jihadist tendencies committed to a world dominated by an Islamic caliphate. It is well funded through such things as kidnappings, piracy and wealthy supporters; and in recent times it has been focused on exploiting the tension in the Middle East, in Syria and in Iraq, to wreak terror and destruction. We have seen, day after day, images of beheadings, crucifixions and mass executions, and recently we have heard very disturbing reports that rape is also being used as a weapon of war.

Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental human right. To target people for their beliefs and for their religion is abhorrent and we are seeing that happen now, with the Islamic State wanting to destroy and—these words are not used lightly—commit genocide of these minority groups. Thousands upon thousands of innocent people have been killed in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. The thousands of people who have died have also included fellow Sunni Muslims. It is horrifying to all of us to know that the Islamic State now control large tracts of land in northern and western Iraq and in parts of eastern Syria. Their ambitions are, unfortunately, even greater than that. We must be mindful of the words of John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States, who said recently:

… no decent country can support the horrors perpetrated by ISIS, and no civilized country should shirk its responsibility to help stamp out this disease.

He went on to say:

Extremists are defeated only when responsible nations and their peoples unite to oppose them.

And that is what we are doing today. Australia has been asked by the United States to join international partners to help the anti-ISIL forces in Iraq, joining with the United States, Canada, Britain, Italy and France, to name a few. On Sunday, the Prime Minister, along with Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC, Chief of Defence Force, announced that Australia will help transport stores of military equipment, including arms and munitions, as part of this multinational effort, utilising our RAAF C130 Hercules and C17 Globemaster aircraft. We will be supporting the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. We have been invited by the Iraqi government to help, and we must do so, to avert and stop a humanitarian catastrophe. We also must do all that we can at home to address the broader security threat posed by ISIL. It should be noted that there are about 60 Australians fighting with this terrorist organisation and about 100 Australians at home funding them.

It is very, very clear that we must do more, but we have already been doing quite a bit. We have already committed a $5 million package of humanitarian assistance. Australia has also offered to resettle 4,400 people fleeing violence in Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi Christians and the Yazidis are now listed as eligible for special humanitarian visas.

Mr Bandt: Mr Deputy Speaker?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Mitchell ): Are you seeking a point of order?

Mr Bandt: On the point that just—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Are you seeking a point of order?

Mr Bandt: I move:

That so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the House debating immediately whether Australian forces should be deployed to Iraq and that all other business before the House be deferred until the conclusion of the debate.

Mr Deputy Speaker—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Melbourne will resume his seat.

Mr Robert: I move:

That the member no longer be heard.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question is that the member no longer be heard. All those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.

Mr Bandt: The noes have it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is a division required?

Mr Bandt interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Really? A division is required. Ring the bells.

Mr Byrne: There are people in the gallery—

Mr Bandt: No division required.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No division required? We will cancel the division.

Mr Robert: Has he formally withdrawn?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes, he has withdrawn the division. I call the member for Higgins in continuation.

Ms O'DWYER: Before I was so rudely interrupted on this very important motion set out by the member for McMahon, I was saying that the Australian government is committed to helping these people. We have committed humanitarian assistance and we have created a special visa class in order to assist those people fleeing from persecution. It is very important that we do all that we can in this place to condemn the actions that have been taking place, to assist those people who require assistance and to make sure that we utilise the international fora—which we have been doing on many occasions, through a number of UN Security Council resolutions—to make sure that that assistance can be achieved.

Finally I would just like to quote the Prime Minister, who said, I think very eloquently:

… I stress, peaceful democracies, peaceful pluralist democracies like Australia shrink rightly and understandably from reaching out to these conflicts but just because we would prefer to stand aside from these conflicts doesn't mean that these conflicts will stand aside from us.

The people who are active in the terrorist groups in northern Iraq and elsewhere hate us as much as they hate the people that they are currently attacking. They hate us not for what we've done, they hate us for who we are and for what we are.

I commend this motion to the House, and everyone in this place stands in allegiance with those people who have been persecuted so unjustifiably. You have our support. (Time expired)