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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10129

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (17:08): I rise today to support the government's position in relation to the ongoing situation in Iraq. As events over past months, and as recently as last week, have shown, we are living in an age where the peace and security of individuals is being threatened in Iraq, here in Australia and around the world. This extremist threat is not new but has been around for decades, most acutely highlighted by the al-Qaeda attack on the twin towers in 2001, which killed 10 Australians, and the Bali bombings of 2002, when 88 Australians were brutally murdered by al-Qaeda linked terrorists. As a result of the United States led coalition actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, together with the vital work of our security services, thankfully we have been spared further related terrorist atrocities here in Australia.

While the threat has not gone away, with the increasing instability in Syria over recent years and a fledgling democratic government in Iraq, ISIL have separated from al-Qaeda and become the predominant threat to individuals not part of their stream of Islam and to nations around the world. ISIL, by conquering large tracts of land both in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, have built up a wealth of capital from oilfields, together with funds raised from kidnappings, piracy and wealthy supporters around-the-world. When matched with their ultraviolent jihadist tendencies and a commitment to the world domination of an Islamic caliphate, ISIL are a danger which we cannot ignore.

We have seen over recent months the images of beheadings, possible genocide of non-Islamic groups in Iraq, rape and forced marriages, in addition to mass executions by ISIL. As the events of last week are likely to show, ISIL is not only a danger to peace in the Middle East but also intent on threatening the safety and peace of Australia and the Western world.

I look back to the al-Qaeda attacks of the early 2000s. Al-Qaeda were able to launch attacks on the Western world by taking control of Afghanistan, together with the Taliban. As was notably seen with the attacks in London, al-Qaeda were then able to use Afghanistan as a training base for their leading terrorists, who were able to return to their home countries, where, together with a small number of radicalised individuals, they were able to then carry out mass atrocities.

It is clear that ISIL are now following a similar model but with the added help of social media and an increased speed of communications to aid their murderous terrorist intentions and to spread fear. This is therefore a threat that we as a government have to take seriously, both to defend the freedoms of Australia and to protect the liberty and security of individuals around the world threatened by ISIL. The only way to defeat radical extremists is to oppose them and to join forces with like-minded nations and groups to defeat them. While this is a fight that will not be easy to win, action is required to make the world and Australia safer over the long term.

The United States has been building up a coalition of nations to oppose ISIL. Last week's debate in the Security Council, initiated by Secretary of State John Kerry, demonstrated unambiguous support from around the world to support the new elected Iraqi government in its fight against ISIL. Indeed, I understand that Australia is one of more than 40 nations that have indicated their support for the elected Iraqi government in its fight for survival against ISIL. As a nation with a strong military arm but also, sadly, a nation which has around 100 citizens who have decided to join with the murderous ISIL group, it is important that Australia is prepared to deploy aircraft and special forces to the effort to fight ISIL and support the democratic government in Iraq.

Alongside the military effort, it is also important to provide humanitarian relief. Australia has already contributed to the international airdrop effort in northern Iraq, committed in June to a $5 million aid package and offered to resettle 4,400 Iraqis and Syrians fleeing the violence who are now eligible for special humanitarian visas. In addition, last week the foreign minister also committed a further $2 million to the United Nations Population Fund specifically to provide reproductive and health support services to women and girls who have been brutalised by ISIL.

This is a fight which does require a strong and united coalition to fight against terrorists and extremists. It has also seen support from many Middle Eastern countries and from others, including France, through air strikes. This united and strong action will need to be confirmed again later this week at the UN Security Council, chaired by President Obama, so that, alongside humanitarian and military intervention, we can starve ISIL of fighters, arms, ammunitions and funds. This is an effort that will not be easy or short. Sadly, it may even encourage some terrorists to use it as an excuse to commit further atrocities—not that they have needed this excuse in the past to commence such action. But it is an effort that is required because we are facing a terrorist group which hates us, hates Western freedoms and hates anyone who does not want to live as it lives. We therefore need to continue to stand up to ensure that we can live in a peaceful and pluralist democracy.

I commend the government's actions and thank those serving in the armed forces, together with their families, for their service. This is a difficult time for us as a nation. At such time, it behoves us all—particularly members of this place and other community leaders—to remain calm and considered in our approach to the recent increase in the terror alert and in events both abroad and here at home. At such a time, community debate remains important. We should not shy away from discussing important issues of national security even though they may be difficult and confronting. Every community leader should seek out the facts and act to chart a path through present uncertainties together and with respect.

I reiterate that recent concerns about our own safety are about crime and not about religion. No-one is above the law in this country. Everyone in this country has the right to live their own lives within the rule of law, free to practise their religion and free from persecution. Common sense informs us that no group within our community is homogeneous. Australian society is made up of many diverse groupings of people who, in turn, form communities and our nation. Those who stand up for the rule of law and human decency should always be applauded. We should recognise those people who draw on our common values, underpinned by our nation's laws, to bring people together and who clearly label evil where they see it.

I commend prominent Muslim advocate Dr Jamal Rifi for his comments reported over the weekend where he said that the Muslim community, the broader Australian community and the federal government are on one side and extremism and racism are on the other. He rightly noted that anyone who feels that they have been improperly dealt with by the police are able to make a formal complaint, as in Australia our police must act within the law. In his work bringing Australians together, such as at the barbecue in Lakemba on 15 September—which I note was attended by Hon. Scott Morrison, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection—Dr Rifi deserves our full support.

However, those that seek to divide us, or indeed undermine our way of life, should resolutely be condemned. We should never be silenced from speaking against what is wrong. Individuals, in some cases self-appointed, or organisations which promote or condone hatred and violence against innocents can never be tolerated. If, in the face of the threat from such groups, we lose our nerve to out evil, then those who do not value our free society will have their victory and we will have been silenced into submission. I am gravely concerned by the claims made by Mr Uthman Badar, the face of Hizb ut-Tahrir, that the recent raids in Sydney and Brisbane are apparently in his mind an example of the police targeting Muslims as scapegoats. Worse still, Mr Badar uses this sensitive time to fan the flames of unrest amongst Muslim people, to actively promote distrust in police and our laws and, in so doing, in our democratic system of government. In doing so, he encourages division between Australians both in the Muslim and broader Australian community.

What does Mr Badar hope to achieve by promoting disaffection in Muslim Australia? I suspect it is power. However, power is just the mechanism to promote principles. And what are the principles that he holds dear? Mr Badar refuses to either condemn the murderous cult of ISIL nor discourage young Australians from travelling to Iraq or Syria to join forces with it. Let us be clear. These people are terrorists. They murder innocent people: Iraqis and Syrians. They murder people for being foreign journalists or bringing aid. They do this in the most barbaric manner and then broadcast their act to the world to give added power and potency to their crime. They stand for the exultation of death rather than the preciousness of life. They stand for power by might and fear rather than that derived from those democratically appointed by the people and the rule of law. In short they are an extremist cult defined by the loose notion of that which they oppose. They have shown no limits in what they will do in pursuit of power. Every Australian—every human being—should hold them in the strongest condemnation.

The Prime Minister in his statements and actions has outlined a responsible path, one that unites us as a nation and one that safeguards our citizens. I commend the Prime Minister's statement to the House. Our freedoms are precious. We should do all that we can to defend them.