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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5808

Global Security

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:07): My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. Can the Attorney-General update the Senate on the terrorism threat in our region and in particular on the recent activities of Islamic State affiliated groups in Marawi in the southern Philippines?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:07): I am disappointed that there was laughter from the Labor Party. The government actually takes the threat of terrorism seriously, particularly a few weeks after we foiled an attempt to bring down an aircraft that would have killed hundreds of Australians.

The advice from our agencies is that more than 750 South-East Asian foreign fighters are currently fighting with or otherwise engaged with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. That includes around 110 Australians. Over the past three years this government has enacted comprehensive laws to discourage Australians from fighting in overseas conflicts. While we expect only a very small number of Australian foreign fighters will seek to return home, we anticipate a far greater number of experienced terrorist fighters from former ISIL-controlled territories in Syria and Iraq will return to the wider South-East Asian region.

The recent developments in the southern Philippines—in particular the current conflict between Philippine security forces and ISIL-aligned militants in the city of Marawi in Mindanao—have only increased those concerns. ISIL has exploited the fighting in Marawi as a call to arms. Foreign fighters from Indonesia and the Middle East are reported to have been active in Marawi fighting against Philippines security forces. Only last week, ISIL released a propaganda video of Australian-accented extremist Abu Adam al-Australi urging fighters to join the conflict in Mindanao.

We are supporting the Philippines military in Marawi by supplying two P-3 Orion aircraft for surveillance assistance. The government is also providing humanitarian assistance, building capacity among our partners and supporting an enhanced counterterrorism legal framework in our region. The Australian government will continue, with our regional partners, to assist the Philippines to confront this challenge.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bushby, a supplementary question.

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:09): Can the Attorney-General advise what the government is doing to respond to this emerging threat in the southern Philippines?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:09): In addition to the legislative measures that I described earlier on, Senator Bushby, with which you're well familiar, I can advise the Senate that today I signed a recommendation for approval by His Excellency the Governor-General to list Islamic State East Asia as a proscribed terrorist organisation under division 102 of the Criminal Code. Listing Islamic State East Asia will ensure that the terrorist organisation offence provisions of the Criminal Code will apply to conduct in relation to that organisation.

Islamic State East Asia publicly pledged its allegiance to Islamic State in December 2015. Its primary objective is the establishment of an Islamic state under sharia law in the Philippines. Islamic State East Asia is responsible for numerous terrorist events in the Philippines, including the beheading of Christian hostages in Marawi City in June, the bombing of a market in Davao City in September 2016 and an attack against the Marawi prison— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bushby, a final supplementary question.

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:10): How has the Attorney-General been working with our international partners to ensure both national and regional security?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:10): Thank you, Senator Bushby. I can advise you that on 29 July this year I co-hosted with my Indonesian counterpart, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Minister Wiranto, the first Sub-Regional Meeting on Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Cross-Border Terrorism, in Manado, in Indonesia. This meeting was attended by ministerial-level representatives from Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, New Zealand and Brunei and focused on the threat posed to our region by terrorist fighters from foreign conflict zones and also, more particularly, on the regional implications of the current conflict in Marawi.

The meeting achieved a number of tangible outcomes to strengthen our domestic and collective responses to terrorism, including establishing a Foreign Terrorist Fighters Strategic Forum to enhance information-sharing and priority alignment among agencies and convening an ISIL dialogue for law enforcement agencies. (Time expired)