RESPONSE TO NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, PARLIAMENT HOUSE
TUESDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2015
I thank the Prime Minister for updating the House.
On behalf of the Opposition, I join him in offering our condolences to all who have lost someone they love as a result of terrorism, in these dark and difficult days.
I think the scene that we have seen from overseas have at some level, reminded us all that the great advantage of being an Australians is that we enjoy our freedom without most of us having to fight for it.
Of course I acknowledge the remarkable exception, the service of our people in the Australian Defence Force.
But in recent times again, we have been reminded that whilst we are an island, we are not immune to the fanaticism and the psychopathic crime we have witnessed.
Terrorism is an affront to all humanity.
Wherever it occurs, whoever it affects.
It is a crime engineered expressly to strike at the innocent, to spread fear, to engender hatred.
And at times when terror threatens our way of life, it is right that Australians expect co-operation from their national leaders.
This is why Labor has consistently sought to provide bipartisanship on national security.
We worked with Mr Abbott.
We do so again with Mr Turnbull.
We know the security of our nation runs deeper than partisan differences.
Because no individual and no party has a monopoly on patriotism.
We all love our country, we all care for the safety of our citizens.
All Australians should enjoy the rights and liberties of our safe, peaceful democracy, equally.
And we all have an equal responsibility to uphold them, to defend them and to preserve the security of our nation.
I am proud of the approach that every single member of the Caucus has taken to questions of national security while I have been leader.
Labor hasn’t shied away from difficult argument, we haven’t shirked hard decisions.
Labor has engaged with the issues, deeply and thoughtfully.
And in doing so, we have supported and enhanced four rounds of national security legislation, including the citizenship legislation which is currently before the Parliament.
And we will work with the Government to progress a fifth round of legislation, which was introduced into the Senate in the last sittings.
We have made over 100 substantive amendments to the national security bills put forward by this Government, including 26 substantive amendments to the Citizenship Bill before the Parliament.
Many of these amendments have established new measures to strengthen accountability and oversight of newly created powers, and include measures such as the creation of a Public Interest Advocate to help protect the sources of journalist and freedom of the press.
As well as mandated reviews of many powers, in order to ensure that these powers are conferred for no longer than is necessary.
Our focus is about the best interest and safety of Australians.
Our interest is always on striking the right balance between national security considerations and the fundamental democratic rights and freedoms all Australians cherish.
Mindful, always, that in seeking to defend ourselves from the terrorist threat, we do not undermine the very foundations of our strength that the terrorists want to destroy and we seek to protect.
And knowing that alongside law enforcement and security powers, every cent invested in ensuring our national cohesion has a definite, practical outcome for our security.
Because words and ideas, hearts and minds are at the core of winning the struggle against terrorism.
Mr Chip Le Grande put it well in The Australian this morning, when he told the story of four Iraqi girls living in Broadmeadows, In Victoria who convinced their parents to allow them to join the rest of their classmates in a sleepover at school.
“It seems the smallest of things.
Yet on such things the defence of Australian suburbs partially rests: winning the trust of parents newly arrived from the Middle East; overcoming cultural aversions to 11-year-old boys and girls bunking out together; allowing four girls to be a part of things rather than made to feel apart.”
Right now, at home and abroad we face a common challenge in a different guise.
The gruesome slaughter in Iraq and Syria, the suicide bombings in Bamako and Beirut, the bringing down of innocent travellers from the skies over Egypt, the random shedding of blood on the cobblestones and concert halls of Paris and here in our streets and suburbs, we grapple with violence fuelled by extremism.
And while our fundamental goal is the same, the utter defeat of those who would wish us harm, our means and methods will differ according to the situation we face.
In the operations in Iraq, the ADF is there to protect civilians and build the capacity of Iraq’s security forces.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting with the men and women serving in the region, their bravery and professionalism is a credit to them and I think a source of pride for all Australians.
Indeed, I wish all Australians could have a glimpse of the sheer professionalism of the people who serve in our defence forces and I think it would make every Australian feel a little more proud.
And since day one of Australia’s involvement in this conflict, Labor has consistently said that success in Iraq depends most upon the government and people of Iraq themselves.
The conflict in Iraq is for Iraq to win.
Australia’s role in the region is to build capacity – not dependency.
We don’t want to perpetuate another cycle as occurred following the invasion of 2003: a large scale troop movement, civil unrest and ongoing violence, escalation, withdrawal and eventual return.
We can and we must provide Iraqi armed forces with the skills and training to repel and overcome Daesh; to focus on building their own capacity to train themselves and protect themselves.
But this will have to be matched by efforts of the Iraqi government to develop a coherent strategy that includes all sections of the Iraqi population in this endeavour.
Without an inclusive strategy, the cycle of conflict spurred on by radical groups exploiting historical deep-seated sectarian and ethnic tensions will continue to undermine Iraq’s long-term survival.
As I have said previously, we cannot drain the swamp of terrorism by military means alone.
Or by imposing leadership from the outside.
Or to put more bluntly in the vernacular; we will not bomb our way to victory.
The leadership will have to come from within Iraq and the region and that challenge must be answered by Iraqis.
Iraq is, of course, only one theatre in a regional and global struggle.
Investigators from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have labelled Syria:
“the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe”.
Civil war has claimed around 250,000 lives – and driven millions more from their homes, at least 4 million Syrian refugees externally and 6 million internally displaced.
And the Syrian regime continues to inflict war crimes and crimes against humanity, against its own citizens.
Talk of ‘pragmatism’ in search of peace is fine but it cannot result in Assad remaining permanently in power.
His ongoing presence would only serve as a spur to armed resistance and provide as a rallying call for extremist.
And, Mr Speaker
A leader who uses chemical weapons against his civilians, who orders massacres of the innocent with impunity, who commands the imprisonment and torture of children for painting graffiti on a wall, who thinks nothing of the mass slaughter of his own people, belongs in a jail cell - not in charge.
We have called for, and continue to call for, a coherent strategy for Syria.
It must be based on a sustainable political solution and a peace plan that has a chance of gaining traction.
This will need to be underpinned by a reconstruction and humanitarian effort that demonstrates the dividends of peace.
Like Mr Turnbull, Labor does not support unilaterally sending ground combat units into Syria.
The history of success of western-led armies in this region is poor to say the least.
We understand the very real risk of a protracted ground war, involving Australian personnel in danger with limited potential for it to contribute to the long-term solution we should be seeking.
And in the short term, an escalated presence of western troops will only feed the propaganda of Daesh.
The conflict in the Middle East has profound consequences in our region too.
Australia has suffered 112 terrorism-related deaths since 2000, most of them of course, sadly in Bali at the hands of Jemah Islamiah.
Now, Sidney Jones, a leading foreign policy thinker in Jakarta, writes most disturbingly that:
“The conflict in Syria has captured the imagination of Indonesian extremists in a way no foreign war has before.”
And in the medium term, we face the risk of people returning from Syria, not just to Australia but to the region, poisoned by fanaticism, with ill intent in their hearts and skilled in combat and conflict.
Australia has to show leadership here – particularly through multilateral institutions.
As a key architect of APEC, and a founding member of both the East Asia Summit, and the first ASEAN dialogue partner.
ASEAN has made a remarkable contribution to establishing stable relations among the countries of South-East Asia.
We need to maintain that focus, and that co-operation to tackle the challenges on our doorstep.
But as much as we can do with our neighbours and our partners in the region, we can never negotiate with Daesh, because there is nothing rational about their worldview.
There is nothing we can say to them and nothing they can offer us.
Daesh are not just weak, they are deluded.
They are an enemy of Islam and an enemy of people everywhere, engaged in crimes against people of all faiths and traditions.
They deal only in violence, fear and murder, and they must be met with uncompromising, resolute force.
Here in Australia we must put our trust in the expertise, professionalism and skill of our security agencies and emergency services personnel.
As parliamentarians, we should continue to be guided by the best advice of our agencies and experts, in regard to the new National Terrorism Threat Advisory system.
We must give agencies and communities all the support we can to enhance their capability and to counter the radicalisation of vulnerable youths.
This should include removing all impediments to the passage of information among agencies, effecting their seamless cooperation and ensuring we match the right capabilities to a given situation in the timeliest possible manner.
And we count on standing together with a clear message to all who would seek to do us harm:
There is never any excuse for violence aimed at the innocent.
People who would seek to kill their fellow citizens in the name of Islam are not martyrs, they are murderers.
And any individual whose actions cross the sharp boundary between right and wrong, must feel the full force of the law.
Particularly those who seek to prey upon vulnerable, isolated young people and make them an instrument of hate.
We agree with the government, we must stand strong in defence of our people’s safety.
Resilient in our defence of Australia as a diverse, generous and inclusive multicultural society.
The handful of Australians lured to the warzone in Iraq and Syria, the tiny, twisted minority tempted to replicate acts of terror here at home, do not reflect the values of faith, or Islam in particular.
Nor do they represent in any fashion at all, our nation’s diverse and generous Muslim community.
I have heard many Muslim leaders say Islam is a religion of peace. I know they mean it, and I thank them for that leadership.
We should always strive to work with the Muslim community – through co-operation, not isolation.
The respected former director-general of ASIO, David Irvine, expressed it most powerfully when he said:
“the strongest defence against violent extremism is the Australian Muslim community itself”
This must inform a balanced approach to counterterrorism and community engagement.
Drawing on new means, new methods and adapting to new challenges.
In the 2014 review of US Department of Defense strategy and priorities, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, wrote:
‘My greatest concern is that we will not innovate quickly enough or deeply enough to be prepared for the future, for the world we will face two decades from now.’
We should heed those words.
The security threats facing Australia are no longer limited to forces coming to our continent by sea, or mounting a long-range air attack.
We live in an era where disruptive technologies present genuine threats to our national security.
We are fortunate in Australia to have a regime of strong gun controls, introduced by former Prime Minister John Howard and supported by Labor, that make it difficult for criminals to readily access the kind of high-powered weapons that inflicted such dreadful loss of life in Paris.
But individuals and loosely-arranged organisations are adapting - harnessing emerging and relatively inexpensive technologies in their attempts to do us harm.
More than ever our security agencies need to be competitive and responsive to deal with new and emerging threats.
We must proactively engage in driving an effective international approach to crippling the financial operations of terrorist organisations and their supporters.
The international coordination of intelligence operations and the exchange of information requires greater urgency and energy.
Countering the rapid adoption of emerging low-cost technologies, such as drones and cyber attacks, will be increasingly important.
This needs to be a global, multilateral process.
Our treaties, conventions and export controls need to reflect that we live in a time when bomb-making instructions can be easily found on the internet and 3D printing is common.
As the distinguished – and as of today, outgoing - head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese has said:
Global agreements must: ‘‘be updated and built upon, so that they remain relevant as the landscape shifts’’.
But countermeasures are not always available off the shelf.
We are in a constant battle of lessons learned, adaptation and anticipation that requires imagination and innovation.
That is why it is essential for Australia to nurture its national defence research and development effort.
If we’re not in the business of creating new ideas and quickly turning new ideas into new technologies, the ADF will become slower to respond and less effective over time.
Now is not the time to be making funding cuts to important organisations like the Defence Science and Technology Group.
Our Parliament should always be a place where we can debate the important issues in a rational and considered way.
This Parliament should not be a forum not for fearmongering or jingoism, but for considered examination of the best way to keep our nation safe.
I understand Australians are anxious and concerned about their security.
We open the papers, we go online and we turn on the TV and it seems there are more stories than ever before of threats to our way of life and random, senseless acts of violence afflicting the innocent.
It is a challenging time for our country, indeed our world.
But I say to my fellow Australians, take heart.
Be of good courage.
Take comfort from the knowledge that our security agencies, our police, our defence force are among the very best and bravest in the world.
And they should take comfort from this Parliament, the speech by the Prime Minister and reply by the Opposition today.
I can assure those who are listening, that despite our very fierce debates about many aspects of Australia, that we go together into the future with a united strength in terms of national security.
There can be no 100 per cent guarantee against terrorism occurring here. We already know this.
There can even perhaps be an even lesser guarantee for the safety of Australians overseas, no matter how much we wish to protect our family and friends and children when they travel.
There is a possibility that some few people, with some infamous training and malice in their heart would seek to come causing harm.
And Australians should know that the very qualities we love about our country: the rule of law, inclusion, equality and respect, remain our most powerful and enduring defence against those who would seek to attack our way of life.
In this Parliament it has been said before our national security determines:
“Whatever has been done; whatever must be done; and all that we can hope to do in the future”
That will be the first responsibility of all of us as elected representatives.
I thank the house.
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