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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1829

National Security

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will she update the House on her recent trip to the Middle East and progress in the fight against ISIS in Syria?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:28): I thank the member for Menzies for his question and for his deep interest in Australia's national security. Recently I attended a foreign ministers' meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. It was held in Kuwait and co-hosted by the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was present. Australia is a founding partner of the coalition, which now numbers 75 nations who are committed to defeating ISIS and its hateful ideology.

At the meeting, all 75 nations recommitted to the fight against ISIS, whether it is in Iraq or Syria or globally, and we noted ways that we can work together to fight the risk of returning foreign terrorist fighters, including to our region. There are 75 members. A new member attended for the first time, and that was the Philippines. The Philippines were able to share the experience they had of a five-month siege in the city of Marawi in southern Philippines, where local extremists had aligned themselves with ISIS and ISIS ideology.

In Iraq there has been some success in the fight against ISIS—indeed, territory has been retaken—but there is still a need for the Australian Defence Force to be present to help train the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi military to ensure that ISIS does not reappear in Iraq.

In Syria the fight against ISIS is complicated by the horrendous civil war that is going on in Syria. In fact, it was because of those ungoverned spaces that ISIS was able to take hold of territory. The recent bombing of Ghouta has caused tremendous destruction, and this was done by the Assad forces. It led to the United Nations Security Council imposing a resolution last Saturday, 24 February. A 30-day humanitarian pause has been imposed to enable humanitarian aid to reach those in need in Syria.

The Australian government has imposed sanctions on 184 Syrian individuals and entities for shocking crimes during this civil war, including the use of chemical weapons against civilians. The Australian government is supporting the United Nations to set up a mechanism to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity that have been committed in Syria. We have also supported humanitarian assistance into Syria, as well as taking 12,000 Syrian refugees. This government will do everything it can to keep Australians safe from terrorism in the Middle East, globally and in our region.