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Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Page: 2064

Osama bin Laden

Senator FORSHAW (New South Wales) (14:06): My question is to Senator Evans, representing the Prime Minister. Can the minister advise the Senate about the government's response to the death of Osama bin Laden?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:06): I thank Senator Forshaw for his question and his interest in these matters. Senators will be aware that on 2 May President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, the leader of the international terrorist group al-Qaeda, had been killed in an operation conducted by United States forces in Pakistan. The Australian government very much welcomes this news, as I am sure the Senate does; it represents a great blow against international terrorism. The Prime Minister has spoken with President Obama to pass on Australia's thanks and gratitude to the United States and to their military, who carried out the operation.

Osama bin Laden was directly responsible for terrible acts of violence against innocent people, and he inspired acts of violence by others. Under his command, al-Qaeda planned and carried out the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, in which nearly 3,000 innocent people were murdered. Bin Laden's al-Qaeda also carried out or was involved with many other terrorist atrocities in which Australians were killed and wounded. Australia remembers those who lost their lives in those attacks, and they include those in Bali on two occasions; in London; in Mumbai; in Jakarta; and, of course, in New York.

Australia's fight against terrorism does not end with bin Laden's death. We must remain vigilant against the threat posed by al-Qaeda and the groups it has inspired. We know that al-Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions is not the only terrorist threat that the international community faces. Australia will continue to support the counterterrorism efforts of the United States and our partners. We remain committed to ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism. This work has already cost Australian lives, and Australians remain at risk, but it is vital and we will continue the mission in Afghanistan.

Senator FORSHAW (New South Wales) (14:08): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Thank you, Minister. Just picking up on that last point of your answer, what do the recent developments mean for Australia's commitment in Afghanistan?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:08): Australia's mission remains un­changed. The government's strong view is that it is in our national interest to be in Afghanistan with the United States and 46 other members of the international community acting under a United Nations mandate. Australia has a responsibility to fight international terrorism and ensure stability in Afghanistan. Australian forces are there to ensure Afghanistan does not again become an operating base from which terrorists recruit, train and launch attacks against us and our allies, as it was under the Taliban dictatorship. Australian forces are there at the request of the government of Afghanistan and operate as part of the United Nations mandated International Security Assistance Force. Training and mentoring the Afghan national security forces will help create the conditions for an irreversible transition of security responsibility. As the Prime Minister has said, Australia will continue to support Afghanistan in some form through this decade at least. (Time expired)

Senator FORSHAW (New South Wales) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a further supple­mentary question. Minister, could you indicate what the recent developments mean for the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:10): Bin Laden's death is a considerable setback for al-Qaeda and international terrorism. However, it does not mean an end to the threat of global terror posed by al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups. The Australian government will continue to make proper preparations in the face of those threats. The government has issued a travel bulletin indicating that there is a risk of reprisals and that people need to be careful about their personal security and avoid large gatherings of people associated with the aftermath of this event. The government has not increased our threat alert either onshore or offshore at this stage, but people do need to be very wary. Australians should continue to monitor the DFAT website when travelling for updates to that travel advice, and of course we always strongly recom­mend that Australian travellers register with the DFAT website. The threat remains from international terrorism, and we continue to urge Australians to be cautious and take due precautions. (Time expired)