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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7039

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (15:08): I too rise to take note of the answers to questions today, particularly relating the disgraceful performance on the weekend. The protests in Sydney were sparked by an anti-Islamist video, which is a grubby piece of rubbish that adds no value to the sum of human experience. It triggered an extraordinary level of violence not just here in Sydney but also around the world. It has led to injury and even to death, the death of US ambassador Mr Stephens. It was Mr Stephens who did so much for our own Australian who was caught up in Libya; he did much of the negotiating that led to her release.

While I agree so much with what Senator Cash has had to say this afternoon, I think that it is only fair to acknowledge that the notion that Mr Abbott has asked for the government to withdraw the visa for Taji Mustafa is an issue that needs to be dealt with quite carefully. Mr Mustafa is, as we all know, a member of the Hizb ut-Tahrir organisation, which in fact, despite its offensive manner and despite its offensive agenda, is not proscribed as a terrorist organisation in Australia; nor is it proscribed in the UK or the USA. So one of the things we do need to be very careful about is the way in which we set precedents around terrorist organisations. There is a process for assessing and doing that.

As the minister explained today, when this organisation was brought to the attention of the previous government, in 2007, the Attorney-General was Mr Philip Ruddock, and he said at the time that that organisation had not done anything to warrant its banning in Australia. So we do need to be very mindful of the criteria we use as a government through our intelligence services to determine the international status of organisations like this and we need to be mindful that it is a big decision that we make when we proscribe an organisation. The Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security reports to the parliament justifying reasons for proscribing organisations. The assessment of this organisation remains the assessment of the Gillard government.

The New South Wales Premier called for that organisation to be banned, but he was not able to make the case that would have the Attorney-General at the time, Mr Ruddock, agree. He said at the time—and I believe this is certainly true—that this is an organisation that basically says that it wants to declare war on Australia, on our values and on our people. It is an offensive organisation. But, until we can justify its proscription here in Australia, we are not able to take that step.

Minister Ruddock made that assessment and made the statement that the organisation had not done anything to warrant its banning in Australia. Then the Prime Minister of the day said that the federal government would not ban the Hizb ut-Tahrir unless it breached antiterror laws. That is the threshold test.

What has happened over the last few days—the escalation of violence, which was absolutely abhorrent and condemned by everybody on all sides of politics—provides an opportunity for ASIO and our intelligence services to now determine, through due process, whether or not Mr Mustafa deserves to remain in the country. Until that time, we have to abide by the rule of law, because that is the strength of our democracy. We do not do things— (Time expired)