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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 6009

National Security


Senator MOLAN (New South Wales) (14:07): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. Can the minister advise the Senate as to how Australia is working with its international partners and allies around the world to curb the threat of terrorism?

Senator Cameron: What happened to Malcolm?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron!

Senator Cameron: What happened to Malcolm?

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cameron! Take a breath after I call you to order!






Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:07): On 11 September 17 years ago today, the horrific and shocking attack on the United States is one which we commemorate and remember—its victims and their families. Australians remain resolute in our determination to defeat the terrorist networks around the world that threaten our way of life and our safety.

Terrorism is a global challenge, a continuing global challenge that can't be addressed by the individual actions of any one nation. That's why Australia continues to make a significant contribution to international coalitions to defeat terrorist networks at their source, including in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces will continue to need international security support to meet that challenge and to promote the conditions for eventual peace. I commend the efforts of President Ghani towards peace, particularly in recent times.

Australia continues to provide around 300 ADF personnel to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission. The work undertaken by Australia and other partners has helped the Afghan parliament make significant progress since 2001, expanding education to millions of children from a low of 0.8 million to 9.2 million currently, of which 40 per cent are girls, and improving access to basic health care and life expectancy from 44 years in 2001 to 64 years now.

In Iraq and in Syria, despite a loss of almost all of its territory, Daesh remains an ongoing threat. It continues to promote its toxic, extremist ideology, including endeavouring to do so in our region. That's why Australia continues to make a significant contribution to both the US-led counter-Daesh coalition and humanitarian and stabilisation efforts in that country.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Molan, a supplementary question?



Senator MOLAN (New South Wales) (14:10): Can the minister advise the Senate about how Australia is working with nations throughout the Indo-Pacific to prevent the spread of terrorism to our region and to protect Australia?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:10): As I indicated, as the counter-Daesh coalition continues to degrade the remaining elements of the terrorist network in Iraq and Syria, those foreign fighters who have survived the conflict remain a threat to Australia and to our interests. Around 100 Australian foreign fighters who fought for or supported extremist groups are thought to still be in Syria and Iraq and thousands more travelled to the conflict zone from South-East Asia. We have to contend with the prospect of some of those foreign fighters potentially returning to our region. That's why we're continuing to strengthen our counterterrorism cooperation with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and other counterparts in our region. We work closely to identify the routes and alternative locations that might be available to any Australian or South-East Asian terrorist fighters and to establish a range of mechanisms to effectively handle cases of fighters detained in or seeking to depart from the conflict zone.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Molan, a final supplementary question?



Senator MOLAN (New South Wales) (14:11): Can the minister advise the Senate as to how else Australia is contributing to global efforts to combat terrorism?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:11): I thank Senator Molan for his supplementary question. Australia is also playing a leading role in the fight against terrorism through our participation in regional and multilateral organisations, including the UN, ASEAN based forums and the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Both multilateral and regional fora play an important role in setting norms against terrorism, in promoting international cooperation against terrorism and in assisting our member states in capacity building. The Global Counterterrorism Forum focuses on supporting the UN's CT efforts through improving civilian capabilities and rule-of-law responses to terrorism. I look forward to representing Australia at the ninth meeting of the forum in New York later this month and will be highlighting our work on a range of initiatives to help countries build resilience against terrorist propaganda as well. In March this year, Australia hosted an ASEAN-Australia CT conference as part of a special summit in Sydney at which we signed an MOU to further enhance regional CT cooperation.