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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9957

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:00): by leave—Because protecting our people is the first duty of government, it is right that I should update the House on developing challenges to our national security. I acknowledge the commitment of all MPs to keeping our people safe and I especially acknowledge the support the Leader of the Opposition has given the government on this subject. On questions of national security it is always best if government and opposition can stand together, shoulder to shoulder. It lets our enemies know they will never shake our resolve. It is a sign that hope is stronger than fear and that decency can prevail over brute force.

From me and from all ministers in this government there will be three key messages: first, the government will do whatever is possible to keep people safe; second, our security measures at home and abroad are directed against terrorism, not religion; and third, Australians should always live normally because the terrorists' goal is to scare us out of being ourselves. As we all know, there have been major antiterrorist raids across Sydney and Brisbane. Our police and security agencies will always strive to stay at least one step ahead of those who would do us harm and so far, thank God, they have succeeded. I cannot promise that hideous events will never take place on Australian soil, but I can promise that we will never stoop to the level of those who hate us and fight evil with evil.

Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we are used to and more inconvenience than we would like. Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift. There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protection for others. After all, the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to walk the streets unharmed and to sleep safe in our beds at night.

Creating new offences that are harder to beat on a technicality may be a small price to pay for saving lives and maintaining the social fabric of an open, free and multicultural nation. For more than two years the civil war in Syria, followed by the conquest of much of northern Iraq, has been sucking in misguided and alienated Australians. There are at least 60 Australians that we know of currently fighting with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, and at least 100 Australians who are supporting them. More than 20 of these foreign fighters have already returned to Australia. As a peaceful and pluralist democracy, we naturally shrink from getting involved in conflicts on the other side of the world, but sometimes these conflicts reach out to us regardless of anything we might do now or have done in the past.

I refuse to call a terrorist movement 'Islamic State' because to do so demeans Islam and mocks the duties a legitimate state bears to its citizens. It can hardly be Islamic to kill without compunction Shias, Yazidis, Turkmen, Kurds, Christians and Sunnis who do not share this death cult's view of the world. Nothing can justify the beheadings, crucifixions, mass executions, ethnic cleansing, rape and sexual slavery that have taken place in every captured town and city. To do such evil, and to revel in doing such evil, is simply unprecedented. To demand the allegiance of Muslims everywhere, and the conversion or subordination of everyone else, is an ultimatum to the entire world.

As we all know, the Middle East is a difficult part of the world where violence is all too common. Indeed, it is a witch's brew of complexity and danger. Nevertheless, it is in the interests of Australia and the world that we here stand ready to join a coalition to help the new Iraqi government to disrupt and degrade the ISIL movement and regain control over its own country. The claim that ISIL's atrocities and threats are a response to something else is an excuse, not a reason. Nothing remotely justifies the mass slaughter of innocents—overwhelmingly Muslims—that the ISIL movement routinely practices. Nothing remotely justifies ISIL's brazen pretension.

It is important to remember that the September 11 attack predated America's involvement in Iraq, just as the first Bali bombing predated Australia's. Groups such as ISIL will cite our involvement—but they would attack us anyway for who we are and how we live, not for anything we have done. It is our acceptance that people can live and worship in the way they choose that bothers them, not our foreign policy.

ISIL kills because it glories in death and because no one has yet been strong enough to stop it. It is ISIL’s success on the battlefield, at least as much as its absolutism, that explains its perverse appeal. Stopping and reversing its advance will help the people of Iraq; it should also reduce its magnetism for people from around the globe who are looking to join a fight.

Last week, together, the Leader of the Opposition and I helped to farewell the Australian force that is ready to join the international coalition against ISIL. Later this week, I will be in New York for discussions at the United Nations which President Obama will chair. Subsequently, the cabinet will again consider the use of our forces to mount air strikes and to provide military advice in support of the Iraqi government.

Last week, the opposition leader and I separately thanked our police and security agencies for their work to disrupt an ISIL plot to conduct demonstration executions here in Australia. For some months, operatives in Syria have been urging their Australian networks to prepare attacks against targets here. An urgent review of the safety of Parliament House has recommended that the Australian Federal Police take control of internal as well as external security. In this building, there will be more armed police, fewer points of access, and more scrutiny of parliamentary passes.

I thank the presiding officers, particularly you, Madam Speaker, for supporting and for beginning to implement these recommendations. They will mean slightly more inconvenience but considerably more protection for everyone involved in our national government.

Last week, an Australian ISIL operative instructed his followers to pluck people from the street to demonstrate that they could, in his words, 'kill kaffirs'. All that would be needed to conduct such an attack is a knife, a camera-phone and a victim. Consequently, within 36 hours more than 800 police and security agents were deployed in Sydney and more in Brisbane to execute some 30 search warrants. One person has been charged with serious terrorist offences and a large amount of evidence has been amassed that will now carefully be sifted so that further charges might be laid.

It was important to respond with great strength to disrupt this imminent terrorist act. It demonstrates that our determination equals that of those who would do us harm. We will more than match the resolve of our adversaries in all things except malice; because our military, police and security personnel have goodwill towards everyone except those who are plotting to hurt us.

Today, I pledge that our security agencies will have all the resources and authority that they reasonably need. In August, the government committed an additional $630 million to the Australian Federal Police, Customs and Border Protection, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Office of National Assessments.

Additional ASIO and ASIS officers are being recruited and deployed; biometric screening will start to be introduced at international airports within 12 months; and more Border Force personnel are now being deployed to international airports. Before Christmas, the government will respond to the review of the national security apparatus that is now underway.

Legislation on agency powers is now before the parliament. Legislation to create new terrorist offences and to extend existing powers to monitor or to detain terror suspects will be introduced this week. We cannot prevent from returning home Australians-born-and-bred who have been foreign fighters, however incompatible with our values their conduct has been. Unfortunately, terrorists do not reform just because they have returned home, as the experience with Australians returning from fighting with the Taliban shows.

My unambiguous message to all Australians who fight with terrorist groups is that you will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed for a very long time; and that our laws are being changed to make it easier to keep potential terrorists off our streets. For one thing, it will be an offence to be in a designated area, for example Raqqa in Syria, without a good reason. The only safe place for those who have been brutalised and militarised by fighting with terrorists is inside a maximum security prison.

As well, legislation requiring telecommunications providers to keep the metadata they already create, and to continue to make it available to police and security agencies, will be introduced soon. If the police and security agencies can make a case for more resources and for more powers, the government’s strong disposition is to provide them because it is rightly expected of us in this place that we will do whatever we possibly can to keep people safe. Of course, any such powers would be exercised responsibly, under the watch of the Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security, the Ombudsman, and the joint standing committees of this parliament.

These are troubling times for everyone accustomed to think that terrorism happens in places other than Australia or that history has largely overtaken the use of military force. Our Australian instinct to assume the best of everyone and our tendency to imagine that we live in the best of all possible worlds is being challenged as rarely before. Still, even in what seem darkening times, I am sure that we will not lose our perspective, and will continue to keep things in proportion. Whatever happens, Australia should remain a country where people trust each other, welcome newcomers and are justifiably confident that in most respects our future will be even better than our past. Our country must remain a beacon of hope and optimism that shines around the world.

If, in the weeks and months ahead, Australians come to appreciate and savour our unity as much as our diversity, we will emerge stronger from these difficulties. Even in these times there are grounds for hope in the overwhelming support of Australian Muslims for strong measures against terrorism, and in the coalition of Middle Eastern countries now assembling to support the Iraqi government against the ISIL death cult. With our own Grand Mufti, nearly all Australian Muslims believe that ISIL is committing crimes against humanity and sins against God.

It may be too much to expect that everyone everywhere might finally accept that every single human being has the same inherent rights and dignities. It may be too much to expect that everyone everywhere might finally subscribe to the principle—treat others as you would have them treat you. But it is not too much, surely, to expect that our world might finally and fully grasp that it is never right to kill people because they have a different view of God. Killing in the name of God is never right. Mistreating others in the name of God is never right. And if the all but universal revulsion towards the ISIL horror has this result, good might finally emerge despite the pointless death and dislocation that confronts us now.