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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10128

Mr RANDALL (Canning) (16:59): I too would like to rise to support the Prime Minister's statement on Iraq and our action in the Middle East in this particular theatre of war. I have always had an interest in this region even as a young person. This area that we are talking about is the cradle of civilisation. This is the land of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers which was once considered to be the cradle of civilisation. This is the area of civilisation back in history where the great city of Babylon was between the two great rivers. This was the city of Nebuchadnezzar, one of the great kings of our historic past. So this region has been an area that the world has focused on for many civilisations.

However, the problem with this region is that it has always been divided along either ethnic or religious lines. These ethnic and religious lines are the reasons why the various groups have always been at war or had tensions with each other. In contemporary eras we now talk about the fact that both the Sunni and Shiah Muslims are bitterly opposed to each other. It always makes me wonder that somebody who is a follower of one particular religion can allow themselves to be so bitterly opposed to another because of what is deemed to be a reasonably small inflection in the interpretation of that religion. As we know, this comes from some of the teachings in the Koran. We are not just isolating this to the Muslim religion. We have seen atrocities in Northern Ireland between the religious forces, between the Catholics and the Protestants. So we are not just talking about one group of religious supporters and another. This is not anti-Muslim. This is about people who have decided to become barbaric and destabilise not only that part of the Middle East and that part of the world but the world in general.

It is not in any way surprising that this destabilisation also flowed from a number of other factors. We recall the Arab Spring of several years ago starting in Tunisia, and then in Egypt which is still going through upheavals as a result. We know that eventually Syria became part of the Arab uprising and under the Assad regime this marked the genesis of this ISIL campaign. The Assad family have been ruling Syria for many years, sometimes brutally. The regime has certainly been warlike to its neighbours and the Assad family have ruled Syria with an iron fist. They are from a minority group within Syria. Eventually the majority of the Syrians rose up and said that they wanted a regime change. We have seen now the so-called freedom fighters—or the terrorists, depending on which side of the ledger you come from—in Syria fighting. We have seen some pretty brutal things in Syria, where accusations have been made that the Syrian regime gassed its own people—a horrific thing to do to your own people.

We know that we were in Iraq with the former coalition to stop Saddam Hussein. That was about regime change and we could commentate on that all day. It is my belief that we and the Americans left Iraq too early and that is one of the reasons why Iraq is in the situation it is, because they needed a leader who would heal Iraq, not cause further divisions. Because of the strong conflict between the Sunnis and the Shiah, we have the situation where the Shiah under Nouri al-Maliki did not go out of their way to be inclusive and the Sunnis now under a number of clerics have risen up. Thank goodness there has been a change in leadership just recently, because now there is a move towards trying to bring the two groups together.

However, this situation has created a climate for ISIL to flourish. We have seen some horrific things which every other speaker has spoken about. But to try to be as barbaric as they have been is an obvious strategy. We have seen the beheading of James Foley, a US journalist. We have seen the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an Israeli-US journalist. We now see David Haines, a British aid worker, has been executed, and another aid worker is about to be executed if you listen to their websites and their public announcements. Peter Neumann, a security expert, says:

ISIS looks at this as a low-cost strategy—

these beheadings.

They are seeing that in order to capture the world's attention and recruit people, they no longer need to take down the World Trade Towers or hit the Pentagon.

These beheadings get the same sort of attention, and they have.

The problem with this is that there is genocide. There is a distinct move towards trying to rid themselves of anyone who is not part of their fanatical group, and it is much based upon religious lines—fanatical religious lines. The true Muslim faith does not preach this sort of hatred, but we saw for example, just recently on Mount Sinjar, ISIS besieging 40,000 Yazidis and demanding that every one of them be killed unless they converted to their Muslim faith. Thank goodness that the Kurdish helped break these lines and that we have now supported—along with some of the other partners that are being put together, led by the United States—not only food drops but bombings that stopped this absolute wipe-out of one small group of people.

So we are beholden, as a responsible nation in this world, to see that movements like this do not continue. They are well resourced because, as I said, of the breakdown in Iraq where the Iraqi army, which was left with a massive arsenal of weapons and machinery, just run away from it when they came along. This is an army that some people say has 20,000 people. Others estimate it could be 50,000 people. That is going to be the magnitude of the commitment. Well, Australians are very good at what they do, and we are joining this coalition to stop ISIS in its tracks. It will not be easy. It will not happen overnight. But we owe it to the freedom of the rest of the world. And everyone here previous to me has quoted Edmund Burke, so I will not do it again, but it is true that evil prospers when good men do nothing.

The Australian troops that will be going over there are brave men and women that are going to make a difference. We should make a difference to people who want to live in freedom and who want to live without persecution, and we need to help show them a better way. So, obviously, I support the Prime Minister's statement.