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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19882

Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (2:07 PM) —I thank the House. On this second anniversary of September 11 and those dreadful attacks, we remember all the victims of that act of terrorism, but, significantly, we also use it to recommit our efforts to rid nations everywhere of the scourge of terrorism. Last year in this House, on the first anniversary of September 11, I said that September 11 was an attack on not just America but all of us. It was an attack on the universal values of tolerance and freedom. I said this because, among the thousands of people who were killed in those attacks, from more than 90 nations, 10 were Australian citizens. It prompted us as a nation to look at what happened on that terrible day and to ask if it could happen here. Tragically, a month later that question was emphatically answered for us in the most horrible fashion when terrorism struck again, not this time in some faraway location but on our doorstep, in Bali. The toll was terrible. It was one of the nation's blackest days, with the pain and trauma still felt across the country to this day.

So today we pause to remember not just the victims of September 11 but all victims of terror everywhere, especially the 99 Australians who we know have died as a result of terrorism or fighting it: the 10 in New York, the 88 in Bali and one Australian soldier in Afghanistan. As recently as yesterday, three more Australians were injured and many Israelis killed by yet another Hamas bombing in Israel. Last year we remembered the victims of September 11. Today, with this important gesture by the parliament, we are saying to the families and friends of all those murdered: `Your loss will never be forgotten.' It is a point that the Prime Minister and I will reinforce when we travel to Bali next month.

Terrorism did not begin on September 11, but it reached a new level with the rise of international terrorism networks like al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah. It is now an assault on democracy, freedom, tolerance, decency and respect for human life. These are basic human values—Australian values—that terrorism wants to destroy. This new terrorism cloaks itself in the Islamic faith. But as Bali, Jakarta and Baghdad have shown, these terrorists have no respect for any religious faith. They hate Muslims who refuse to endorse their extremist views of the Islamic faith as much as they hate the West. Let us never forget the many innocent Muslims who have died in Bali and Jakarta and at the World Trade Centre, along with victims belonging to other faiths. In countries like Indonesia, the vast majority of the population in fact abhors the fanaticism and extremism of those who use violence to achieve their political ends.

In a recent meeting with the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, I asked how he had coped with those first moments after the attacks on the World Trade Centre. He said that he had had to put aside the doubts and fears, and try to deal in a calm and composed way with the mayhem around him. As mayor, he recognised that the immediate reaction to September 11 could be violent and uncontrolled. He quickly moved to calm the city and especially to ensure that Muslim Americans were not attacked or vilified. This was a critical act of leadership and one that meant that the people of New York were able to come together as a city and respond by helping each other, not turning on each other.

In the same way that the American community has responded with appropriate understanding of the Muslim faith, I want to pay tribute to Australians for not victimising the Australian Muslim community. It has been a victory for the Australian values of tolerance and a fair go. There have been other victories. Amrozi, Samudra and their co-conspirators have been tried and convicted. Many members of al-Qaeda have been hunted down. The Taliban has been toppled. But we still have a long way to go. The Afghan government in Kabul is now threatened by a resurgent Taliban, the road map for peace in the Middle East is on the brink and terrorist networks remain in the region. But perhaps most worrying is that Iraq has become a haven for international terrorists seeking to ply their deadly trade. This was all too evident when, on 19 August this year, criminals bombed the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing 20 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello—a man of peace and a good friend of Australia. The House recognised that dreadful tragedy on the day.

Here in Australia, we now have strong antiterrorist laws that protect our security without surrendering the freedoms that we are fighting for. Together, in this parliament, we achieved the right balance. But there is much more that needs to be done to secure our airports and ports, to protect our secret intelligence information and to boost cooperation with neighbouring governments to defeat terrorism. That is why, Prime Minister, at the APEC meeting next month, I urge you to seize the opportunity of having the leaders of all the Asia-Pacific countries together—including the leaders of the United States, China and Indonesia—to find a common agreement and common purpose in the fight against terrorism. Our lasting memorial to the Australians murdered in the war on terror must be this pledge: we will never waver in our defence of democracy, freedom and tolerance, and we will never surrender to those who seek to overturn those values through terrorism.