Steve Irons MP Federal Member for Swan

Steve Irons speech on Terrorism Attacks around the World

November 30

You can watch the video of the speech here

Steve talking on terrorism attacksI rise to speak on the terrorist attacks around the world and to support the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I thank the member for Batman for his contribution just now, following the ministerial statement, and for reminding us all about the duty of our soldiers and other members of the armed services and of the work they do on the battlefields around the world and about how Anzac commemorations have paid tribute to them, going back through many years.

I do also want to mention the bill that just went through, the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. This is part of the total suite of packages that the government is putting together to help make Australians safer from terrorist attacks. I just wanted to mention my displeasure at the speech by the member from Melbourne, who was not supportive of the amendments or of the fact that this government, along with the opposition, in a bipartisan manner is trying to improve the safety of all Australians. His speech was an absolute disgrace. But I will move on from that and try to talk positively to the motion the Prime Minister and the opposition leader brought forward.

We are well aware of the vicious and cowardly terrorist attacks that locked down Paris on 13 November. Many of us watched it unfold on our TVs, and our thoughts turned to the victims of these cowardly attacks and to their families. Our thoughts are also with those in Australia who have family in France, who, I am sure, would have tried to contact them and establish their status as soon as they possibly could. Those attacks stole the lives of at least 129 people and injured hundreds more. Those organised attacks, which ISIL has taken responsibility for, saw eight killers—or, as we should call them, eight cowards—attack seven locations across the city. No country should ever have to endure what Paris did that night, and I join with the Prime Minister to extend my deepest condolences to the people of Paris.

Australia and many other countries around the world grieve with Paris. They do not stand alone in these attacks. Here in Australia we have experienced the Lindt cafe siege and the shooting of a Parramatta police worker, and they are still at the front of Australians’ memories. Those wounds are still fresh. We mourn with Paris. We mourn for our loved ones lost, and for their loved ones lost as well.

According to local Middle East media, on Friday, 20 November, a bomb killed nine people just south of Baghdad, for which, again, ISIL is suspected. ISIL is not resting; they will not rest—but neither will we in our fight against them.

The 2014 Global Terrorism Index tells us that the world experienced a 61 per cent increase in the terrorist attacks in just that year and, in that same year, our national terrorism public alert level was raised to the status of ‘High’. Since then, there have been 26 people charged, resulting from 10 counter-terrorism operations. There are currently more than 400 high-priority counter-terrorism ongoing investigations being managed by our security agencies. That means that there is an average of 2.6 high-priority counter-terrorism cases across each Australian electorate, which has doubled from what it was only a year ago. In a recent newspaper article we also noted that last year there were more than 1,000 people killed in terrorist attacks around the world. So, as the French President said, we are at war.

At the current time, there are 110 Australians known by our security agencies to be either fighting with or engaged with terrorist groups in Syria or Iraq. The number of Australians joining extremist groups is rising. The reality of home-grown terrorism is on the rise. Despite our best efforts, the risk of a terrorist attack on home soil is rising. The Parramatta shooting and Lindt cafe siege, as I mentioned before, were just the start. Now is the time to make sure we are doing all we can to preserve the safety of our citizens. We have to respond to this worsening threat picture.

I note that this morning the member for Dawson brought to the House a motion on the violent extremism in Australian society. I note also that the member for Macarthur and the member for Hughes—you, Mr Deputy Speaker Kelly—spoke on that particular motion. I would like to quote some passages from that motion because I think it is very relevant to the terrorism that we see rising across the world.

The member for Dawson stated:

This motion concerns the threat of violent extremism, particularly in the form of radical Islam, in Australia, a the threat that has been borne out in this country. This is not violence for the sake of violence; it is violence driven by an extreme ideology, a jihadist ideology that does not accept the Australian way of life.

The ideology of Islamism despises our freedom, hates democracy and rejects our values—Australian values—which are very clearly defined. They are no state secret. When someone applies for a provisional, permanent or temporary visa, applicants must sign a statement that they have read and understood about the following Australian values: respect for freedom and dignity of the individual; freedom of religion; commitment to the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women, and the spirit of egalitarianism; and embraces things like mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need in pursuit of the public good. These are the values that new citizens and new entrants to Australia sign up to, but not all citizens—or, indeed, their children—agree with these values in practice. In practice, some people hate these values. Those people can be found in Paris, they can be found in Europe, they can be found in the Middle East. Sadly, they can be found in Australia.

We would be kidding ourselves to think everyone in this country subscribes to our common set of values, and we would be foolish to think that there are not jihadists in this country who wish to do us harm because of who we are and the values that we hold dear as a nation.

That was from the member for Dawson’s speech. I also acknowledge the speech that the member for Hughes made and also the member for Macarthur. It reminds me of a comment that was made by the previous Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the honourable Scott Morrison, who is now the Treasurer. When he was immigration minister he said that those who come to this country should come to ‘join us’, not ‘change us’. I think that resonates well amongst most of the people in Australia. We are a welcoming community. We are a community that is built on multiculturalism and immigration. One of the aspects of the Australian nature is to be very generous and welcoming to new citizens in this country. I think that the minister’s comment is very relevant.

Early this year, a review was conducted into our counter-terrorism capacity. The report stated that our recent years have been shaped by the rising of terrorist and extremist groups and that these groups have had unprecedented appeal and reach into Australian communities. As a government, we are committed to countering home-grown terrorism by investing in counter-terrorism capabilities and updating national security legislation like the legislation before us today. On 30 October 2014, we introduced the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 into the parliament, meaning that Australian telecommunications companies keep a limited set of metadata—information about the circumstances of a communication—for two years. On 3 November 2014, the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014 received royal assent, amending 22 acts to respond to the threat posed by Australians engaging in, and returning from, conflicts in foreign states. The legislation strengthened our ability to arrest, monitor, investigate and prosecute returning foreign fighters and onshore extremists. On 2 December 2014 we passed the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1), which responds to urgent operational requirements identified by law enforcement, intelligence and defence agencies.

I will also speak about the rising tide of terrorism in Australia and why it has become harder to combat. There are an increasing number of potential terrorists, supporters and sympathisers in our country. There is also the trend of lone-actor attacks. The Lindt cafe siege and the Parramatta shooting were both lone-actor attacks. It means there may be no visibility of planning and no time delay between intent and action. Terrorists are using sophisticated technologies and methodologies to stay under the radar and they are now adept at exploiting social media to distribute propaganda products. We need to counter the extreme corrupting messages of ISIL, and violent extremists, in schools, mosques and online and through social media. We cannot let them brainwash our children, our neighbours or our future leaders. We are well aware ISIL will get through to us by spreading fear. We will not be scared by this group. They have no power over us.

I would like to quote some passages from the Prime Minister’s speech on his motion:

This was a coordinated attack involving eight killers and six locations. It was more than a lone-wolf attack, but it was not an elaborately sophisticated one. It reminds us that a few fanatics with automatic weapons and explosives can do great damage and strike at the heart of free, open and democratic societies. This was not just an assault on French lives and French freedoms. It was an attack on all humanity, on all our freedoms—the freedom to gather and to celebrate, the freedom to share time with our family and friends, the freedom to walk our streets without fear. That is why, when I spoke with both President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, I conveyed not just the heartfelt sympathy but the unwavering solidarity of all Australians with the people of France.

The Prime Minister went on to say:

The Paris attacks—all of these attacks—highlight just how critical it is that the international community cooperates to defeat ISIL in the field, in its space, in Syria and Iraq. They highlight how important it is for us more effectively to counter the corrupting messaging of ISIL and other violent extremists in schools, in mosques and, above all, online.

We have been undermining and will continue to undermine terrorist support and activity. Our efforts to detect and undermine terrorist support have been effective despite their increasing volume and significance. We must continue to stop the flow of terrorist support.

In 2013, a Sydney based man was arrested in Sydney and charged with facilitating the recruitment of Australians to train and/or fight with terrorist groups in Syria, including Jabhat al-Nusra. Since 2011, the number of passport cancellations has been increasing exponentially, reducing the flow of Australian fighters supporting terrorist groups.

Last Monday, I asked the Prime Minister to outline the collective response of global leaders to this crisis. The Prime Minister told the House that the international response to the terrorist attacks, not only in Paris but in other countries too, was at the forefront of the discussions of recent international summits and that all leaders agreed that the fight against terrorism was the major priority in national security. He said that ISIL must be defeated in the field and that Australia has the second largest foreign military contribution of coalition partners in the battle. I endorse and echo his points.

I also heard the member for Canberra speak about the treatment by ISIL of women in Iraq and Syria and the strategy of rape and abuse of women—how that should be abhorrent to all Australians and that we should keep that at the forefront of our minds when we think about what these ISIL people do and what they are about. They are about fear; they are about striking at the heart of what our society is about. Who can forget the Yazidi woman who entered the Iraqi parliament and was pleading for help from everyone, for all nations, in the fear that ISIL was going to wipe out the Yazidi race? Here in Australia we might think we have had some experiences in our nation such that we need our armed forces, the AFP and our border force to protect us. But to actually live in that environment and to know that you are going to be subject to persecution by ISIL must create absolute fear for the people of those nations, particularly the Yazidi race.

We are working with our allies and we will defeat ISIL. We have a fight on our hands, one that will bring Australia and other global leaders together. We will band together to achieve a lasting defeat of ISIL. I think all Australians should take into consideration supporting these amendments and related legislation. I congratulate the opposition and thank them for their bipartisan support of the legislation that we are bringing in as a suite to secure the safety of all Australians and to protect other nations from people who leave Australia to go and fight with the ISIL terrorists and extremists. So, again, I support the motion, and I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on it.

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