Parliamentary discussion on foreign fighters, data retention, the INSLM, Musa Cerantonio and Chris Berg

Yesterday the federal parliament had a 40-minute discussion on terrorism. It begun with a motion that dual nationals fighting with jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq should have their citizenship revoked, but then went off in a few other directions.

The Hansard transcript is available here but I’ve pasted the relevant section below.


Australian Citizens and Extremist Causes

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (12:48): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes the increasing instances of Australian citizens taking up arms for foreign military and extremist causes including, but not limited to, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, representing a threat to good order in international affairs and the safety of Australian citizens;

(2) acknowledges:

(a) that by taking up arms or supporting such causes, those citizens have failed to comply with the pledge they made when they became an Australian citizen, to uphold the laws of Australia; and

(b) those who have taken up arms or supported such causes, and were born Australian citizens but have a second citizenship, have also repudiated their allegiance to Australia; and

(3) urges the Government to amend the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to allow the revocation of the status of citizen for those who take up arms, or provide material and/or financial support for military/extremist causes, except where such action is at the direction of the Government.

We should remember the pledge that new citizens make:

From this time forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.

They say it themselves and I know that on almost every occasion the person that makes the oath remains true to it. Today I will speak on the need for a government to take firm action against those who have dual citizenship and who have betrayed their country when they fight and allied themselves with terrorist organisations. The action I speak of is to revoke citizenship of those who have turned against us. They show that they have broken faith with our country and they are putting another cause before Australia.

It is true that there are some 150 cases of Australian citizens taking up arms for foreign extremist causes. They have forsaken our country and, contrary to Australian law, taken up the cause of jihad with terrorist organisations. Once they break the law, they show their disregard for this nation and their clear opposition to this country. When they have done so, they can no longer be trusted to come back to Australia and not be a threat.

What I propose in this motion is to take firm action to remove the threat that these disloyal dual citizens pose to Australia. Put simply, there are some people that have left Australia and are now known to be fighting in such places as Syria and Iraq. In this case, we should not want them back here at all. Although we do not try people in absentia, the objective should remain that they not return to Australia to either pose a threat or act as some recruiter or encouragement for others. In this case, I propose that the minister be given the power to act on strong classified intelligence to make a decision to revoke citizenship. This would achieve the objective of keeping that particular threat out of Australia. I do not expect that this will sit well with some people, but I nevertheless advance it. The examples I speak of are where there is a photo of an Australian dual citizen jihadist holding a gun to the head of an unarmed person or other such clear information. Similarly, a person convicted of a terrorism offence overseas would also be liable to such action by the minister.

It is not, however, just those that take up arms and fight overseas that I propose the revocation of citizenship to affect. I also speak of those that remain in Australia and provide material support, financial support or recruiting, or who commit other terrorism crimes, including planning or carrying out such an act in Australia. In that case I believe that section 34 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 could be amended to also include section 102 of the Criminal Code Act and also crimes under sections 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978. This would allow those dual citizens convicted of terrorism-related crimes, foreign incursions or inciting and supporting terrorism to have their citizenship revoked and, of course, be deported at the end of the sentence. So the courts can deal with those that recruit in the suburbs of Australia or raise funds for jihad or other extremist causes and then further action would take place, as I have already said.

This proposal is not about racism; it is about the safety of Australians. It is about removing a threat and dealing with those that have put other causes above the oath they made to this country. It is about holding those that betray Australia to account for the decisions they make. I recently spoke at an anti-ISIS rally in Perth. It was held by the Iraqi community consisting of Shiah, Sunni, Kurds and Christians, who all came from Iraq. When I spoke of this proposal they supported it very strongly. This proposal is, therefore, not about racism, it is not about a lack of tolerance and it is not about any of those moral trump card words so often used to stifle debate. It is about keeping the men, the women and the children of Australia safe from terrorism and extremists. It is not about religion or the vilification of anyone. It is about calling those who made the oath to account, and saying to them, ‘What you said at your citizenship ceremony did actually mean something, it did count for something, and now this is the outcome of your lack of respect for that commitment you made.’

I thank the other speakers on this motion who support it. I know that many people throughout the country support my proposal as well. They support it because they value the rights and liberties that define this country. They support this proposal because they too know that with rights and liberties come duties and obligations. They know that they are not in isolation, but rather are hand in hand with each other. The oath or affirmation are not just words; they mean something. They are principles by which we live and a contract that we honour.

To conclude, I propose that the legislative and regulatory changes that I have identified be adopted by the government or that they are used to guide similar action to achieve the desired objective of safeguarding the lives and safety of Australians and others from the extremist threat.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Ewen Jones): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Irons: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (12:54): Today I rise to speak to this important and worthy resolution raised by the member for Cowan. As far back as October last year, I raised security concerns that Australian citizens were fighting overseas in radical groups and could pose a threat to national security on their return. My public analysis was prompted by a report in the French newspaper Le Monde which said there were hundreds of Australians fighting in Syria with what was then considered the most extreme Sunni al-Qaeda-linked group, al-Nusra, or with the Shiite Hezbollah. Le Monde reported that Australians were being increasingly involved in fighting with terrorist groups abroad, so their return is of great concern to us.

The French know exactly how dangerous these radicalised, trained fighters from Syria can be. French-Syrian dual national, Mehdi Nemmouche, murdered three people in the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels just a few weeks ago when he opened fire with a Kalashnikov. He was only arrested by chance and good police work hours later in Marseille when a random check found he was carrying the murder weapon. Ominously, Nemmouche had also been training in our region of the world. A map published in Time magazine shows that immediately after fighting with ISIS he travelled to Turkey and then to Malaysia, Bangkok and Singapore.

In an ABC report in March, following the death of a former Australian soldier who was fighting—as identified by the member for Cowan—with the extremist Sunni group, ISIS, in Saraqeb just south of Aleppo, there was a report of a rising number of Australians being killed in the Syrian conflict—many of them giving support to these organisations that we designate by a nonpartisan decision here in this parliament as terrorist organisations, as do many of our allies. We do not want a Brussels to occur here, which is why the government should face this rising threat by carefully keeping track of these activities, including, in my view, introducing legislation framed along the lines of the excellent nonpartisan report of the member for Holt, my colleague here, who was asked to conduct a public inquiry of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. He did a very fine report and there are many nonpartisan recommendations in it which could easily be put into legislation that would make Australians safer. I think the government is contemplating it—and they should.

Unfortunately, this government has been influenced by the unilateral libertarians at the Institute of Public Affairs who have ridiculed the idea that the main game is that the security services need some adjustments under law, under protection of warrant and under protection of the normal kinds of liberties ensured to all Australian citizens, that have come about with changes in technology. In my view, this is the main game. We have kept Australia safe from these terrorist activities for the period since 9/11, since the remarkable upsurge in jihadist activity around the world. And we want it to stay that way. I think the excellent report from the member for Holt is the way to go.

Claims by the Institute of Public Affairs, particularly their luminary, Mr Berg, on The Drum that we—ha, ha, ha—should not be concerned about things like pressure-cooker bombs, invented by these crazy security agencies to scare Australians and scare people in the Western world, looked very foolish a few months later when at the Boston Marathon that was the very thing that the jihadists used. And they picked this up—and this is public record information, so I am not revealing anything—from the Al Qaeda magazine, Inspire, which you can get online.

And so I think the suggestion by the member for Cowan is something that should be considered. Of course, dual nationals raise different issues to those people who are Australian citizens. The real problem for Australia is that we have Australian citizens who have no other nationality and who are going over and participating in these causes. A program of deradicalisation and monitoring of these people, particularly in places where they are active in Australia, needs to be considered. I am not against taking strong measures against dual nationals but it is the original citizens who are the real problem. (Time expired)

Ms O’DWYER (Higgins) (12:59): Like all Australians, I am deeply concerned at the reports of Australian citizens who are working on behalf of extremist groups in the Middle East and in particular in Syria and Iraq, including such terrorist groups as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, and the Al-Nusrah Front. According to these reports, as many as 150 Australian citizens are involved, both here and abroad. Some are involved in the financing of terror, others are involved in the radicalisation of others, and some of these people are involved directly in training, fighting and committing acts of terror overseas. Recently, we saw chilling footage of convicted Australian terrorist Khaled Sharrouf posing in northern Iraq, gun in hand, over the bodies of several executed men. There is no question that Australian citizens who engage in extremist activity pose a threat to our national security—in particular, those citizens who have acquired new-found skills in terror and who seek to bring those skills back home.

Australia currently has in place a suite of measures to deal with people who are engaged in extremist activity. For instance, it is illegal for Australian citizens to go overseas to fight with, or support, terrorist groups. Significant criminal penalties apply, both under the Criminal Code and under the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act, with a maximum penalty of up to 25 years of imprisonment. In addition, under the Australian Passports Act, the Minister for Foreign Affairs can cancel or refuse to issue a passport where an individual is suspected to be a threat to the security of Australia. The foreign affairs minister has spoken in the parliament to confirm she has indeed cancelled a substantial number of Australian passports on security grounds and that she will continue to do so.

Moreover, Australia intelligence agencies are working closely with partners in the Middle East, South-East Asia, Europe and the US to monitor extremist activity and to track those, including Australians, who are travelling to places like Syria and Iraq. We saw a recent example of this over the weekend with the arrest in the Philippines of a jihad-preaching radical Australian Islamic cleric, Musa Cerantonio, who may be extradited to Australia to face charges over his links to the terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and ISIL. As is proper, the government constantly reviews our antiterrorism laws and arrangements and has announced that it will shortly introduce new legislation that will give our security agencies greater powers to counter the terrorism threat.

Finally, at an international level, Australia is also playing its part, taking a leadership role as Chair of the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee within the UN Security Council. This month, we assume the presidency of the global financial action task force which promotes legal, regulatory and operational measures to counter terrorism financing across the globe.

In Australia, citizenship is a great privilege. Those who are citizens of our great nation are called on to uphold and protect those values that have shaped who we are as a nation and will continue to secure our future. Under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 there are five ways in which you can cease to be an Australian citizen. Under section 35 of the citizenship act, an Australian who serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia is able to have their citizenship revoked. It is my view that jihadists who go to fight in Iraq and Syria should be stripped of their Australian citizenship in a similar way. These people make a choice. They choose terror over peace and they are responsible for their own decisions.

Australians should be able to live in peace and security without the threat of terror. Threats to our security should be taken very seriously and we have a responsibility as a government to explore all the avenues to protect that very security. I commend the motion to the House and commend the member for Cowan for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (13:03): I wish to thank the member for Cowan for moving this motion in this place at this time, particularly given the gravity of the subject matter that he is raising. Whilst I might have some concerns about the precise wording of the motion that the honourable member has put forward, the fact that the honourable member is starting a very important conversation and keeping threats to national security at the forefront of the public’s mind should be commended.

One of the grave concerns I have had as a member of the security committee since 2005 and occupying the national security space since 2005 is that eventually and inevitably in this country an event will occur on this soil of the magnitude of the Bali event—or just a terrorism event. That event will basically be there to cause immense damage to the psyche of the Australian community. That will be its purpose; that will be its intent. Why I like what the member for Cowan is doing is that in some occasions, through some sections of the media and some sections of the commentariat, there is a belief that discussions about the liberties of those who might be impacted on by proposed laws in this place and proposed laws to come, but there is not a discussion about the threat that is posed to Australian citizens now and in the future.

As we know, the threat is increasing. You cannot just blithely say the threat to our nation’s security is increasing; we know and I know, having occupied the intelligence community space for nine years, that the threat is accelerating and the government of the day needs to take the actions needed to protect its citizenry. To protect its citizens is the primary job of a government. Everything else flows from that point. You cannot have an economy if you do not have security. You cannot have individual liberties if you do not have security. Security underpins a functioning democracy. So again I welcome the conversation that has been commenced by the member for Cowan, because it should crystallise the public’s attention about an increasing threat that we face.

I say respectfully to the Australian government that the report that I chaired—and the Attorney-General and member for Melbourne Ports were members of that committee, one of the best committees I have ever served on—in a bipartisan way reached 43 recommendations about proposed national security legislation reform. I have heard that the Attorney-General is bringing in a section of chapter 4, but there are many more important pieces of legislation, including that bete noire of the IPA: data retention. If a government is concerned and is making the right noises about being concerned about this nation’s security, it must give its agencies all of the suite of powers that they need to deal with the terrorist threat. It has not done so. I urge the Attorney-General, using this forum to have this conversation with him, to bring all of the suite of powers that the intelligence agencies have been asking for for some period of time, including with the previous government, to the parliament at its earliest opportunity. This is not because we want to make political mileage; it is because powers of the magnitude proposed in this report need appropriate consideration so the citizenry’s view can be taken into account.

It is vital that these powers be brought before the parliament sooner rather than later. I do not want to see data retention debated in this chamber and the chamber below after an event has occurred on Australia’s soil. I am deeply apprehensive—as I started my speech by saying—that inevitably and in the not-too-distant future we will have an event on this soil. I do not want to be part of parliament that reacts to an event; I want to be part of a parliament that puts the laws in place to prevent that event from taking place. In commending the member for Cowan for this motion, I continue this important conversation with the member for Cowan and urge the government to bring all of the powers it can to this parliament to be debated in this place.

Mr IRONS (Swan) (13:09): I too rise to support the motion of the member for Cowen. I was listening to the member for Holt, and this is a conversation that we do need to have. As he said, we need to make sure we are not a reactionary government or country. We are a proactive country in the face of terrorism that not only faces the rest of the world but will face Australia eventually on our home turf.

Australians have been faced with the threat of terrorism throughout our history, most recently through our alliance with the United States following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and, closer to home, when 202 people, including 88 Australians, were killed in the 2002 Bali bombings. Today we face a different type of terrorism threat, and for many Australians it strikes at the heart of our morals and our ability and willingness to defend our country and the laws we have in place to prosecute those who take up arms or support known terrorists.

It has been highly publicised that the jihadist movement is not just in countries such as Iraq and Syria; it is also here on Australia’s doorstep. Approximately 150 Australians are known to be actively involved with this terrorist movement. This includes those who are directly involved in fighting in the war in Syria and in northern Iraq and who have returned to Australia after participating in warfare or are aiding those who seek to travel to these countries for the purpose of taking up arms.

As those in this place would know, the Howard government legislated to make it an offence to participate in overseas terrorist activity when it was revealed that a number of Australian citizens had been involved with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Abbott government has responded swiftly to this latest terrorism threat by cancelling the passports of individuals who are assessed to pose a threat to our national security. The intent of the motion before this place today seeks to update these laws and send a message to those who seek to threaten Australia’s way of life that the Australian government and its people will not tolerate their hatred or their violence. In order to combat this global threat, we cannot afford to close our eyes and hope that it goes away. We need to take significant steps to prosecute or prevent these terrorists, who have no respect for our laws, from returning to Australia. I join with my colleagues the members for Cowan and Higgins and the opposition bench to urge the government to amend the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to allow the revocation of the status of citizens for those who take up arms, provide material support for military or extremist causes or provide financial support for such causes except where such action is at the direction of the government of Australia.

I am aware the Attorney-General has held briefings with Australian Islamic community leaders and has indicated that new laws will be introduced with regard to security agency powers and aspects of the Telecommunications Interception Act 1979. After discussions with the Australian Islamic College Executive Principal, Abdullah Khan—one of its campuses is based in my electorate of Swan—I am aware that concerns have been raised amongst the Islamic community regarding these so-called ‘home-grown terrorists’. I am pleased to inform this place that, like many other Islamic community leaders, Mr Khan has stated that he would support any initiative by the government to prevent these people from coming back to Australia. Although he cannot pre-empt the community’s reaction, he does not think there will be any opposition to the government’s legislative changes. The school plans to hold community meetings once detail of any government amendments are introduced to the parliament. I too look forward to seeing the detail of any proposed changes to strengthen Australia’s overall capacity to fight terrorism on a global scale and to protect Australian communities domestically.

I also note that Australia’s defence forces are already working with our allies to combat this terrorist threat. As stated in an article by The Australian on 8 July, a new ground station will soon be built at the Australian spy base near Geraldton in my home state of Western Australia to boost the war-fighting capabilities of Australian and US troops. The planned station will provide direct access via Australia to the five most capable US military satellites in space, improving Washington’s ability to direct unmanned drone attacks on terrorists and allowing Australian and US forces to respond more quickly to a military crisis or terrorist attack.

We cannot afford to let these terrorists take advantage of our society and laugh in the face of our laws. By changing the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to allow the revocation of the status of citizen and making other necessary amendments to our laws, we will face this challenge head-on and bolster our ability to safeguard our people from those who seek to harm us. I commend the member for Cowan for introducing this motion and give my full support to its intent to strengthen the protection of all Australians.

Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (13:14): Recently we have been reminded that, while we exist far from the violence that is playing out in the Middle East, there is no escaping the threat of global terrorism and there should be no letting up on the pursuit of it. No country should bury its head in the sand in response to violent radicalism. As we have seen, it can strike a blow not just in a war zone but in a crowded Nigerian marketplace, in broad daylight on a London street or in a holiday destination in a bar in Bali.

The fight against terrorism is not and should not be solely focused on the final moment of violence; it is also our responsibility to do what we can within our legal powers to disrupt terrorism wherever it spawns and to discourage our citizens from being involved with terrorist organisations. ASIO estimates that there are about 150 Australians directly involved in Syria and Iraq. About 60 are believed to be actually fighting. It is also believed that a fair proportion of the rest are here in Australia, where they are suspected of being involved in recruiting, fundraising and planning to join the fight in Syria and Iraq. These would-be jihadists are being lowered online by recruitment videos and propaganda material designed to cross borders and convince citizens to travel and take part in foreign wars.

Melbourne-born Musa Cerentonio was arrested on Friday in the central Philippines. He had been described as an inspiration to jihadists worldwide and has emerged as one of the most popular and influential online preachers supporting the jihad in Iraq and Syria. We must not underestimate the involvement of our own citizens in matters of global terrorism. As a responsible member of the global community, Australia must do its part to end terrorism and we must begin here in our own backyard. We have been doing that. The foreign incursions act makes it a serious offence for Australians to fight with terrorist organisations in foreign wars, with a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment. Since the fighting in Syria and Iraq began, ASIO has cancelled the passports of more than 50 alleged extremists it believed were planning to travel to Syria and be involved in terrorism. ASIO’s powers over recent decades has been strengthened, strict particularly if surveillance powers, and it has resulted in intelligence being gathered to ensure that governments can take action such as cancelling passports.

When Labor was in government we introduced the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, which was an important role to oversee Australia’s security and terrorism laws to ensure that they were adequate, appropriate and also balanced. It was necessary scrutiny of combating terrorism in our community and our nation. Unfortunately, the Abbott government is seeking to abolish this very important role. They are doing so under the guise of cutting red tape. Recently the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Bret Walker, handed his final report to the government, in which he stated:

The proposed repeal of the INSLM Act has been explained as ‘designed to reduce bureaucracy and streamline government’ by ‘removing duplication of responsibilities between different levels of Government’. The INSLM is not aware of any other officer, agency or ‘level’ of government doing what Parliament required to be done by the INSLM Act enacted in 2010. The Explanatory Memorandum refers to ‘existing independent oversight bodies’ instancing the IGIS, Parliamentary committees and Parliament itself. As to IGIS, there would be a very large question of deployable resources were the task undertaken by the INSLM required to be undertaken by IGIS. As to Parliamentary committees, engagement has been sparse. As to Parliament, the record is blank.

That is the view of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. He is saying to this government that the abolition of that position is wrong and it will result in inadequate oversight of Australia’s security legislation. In that respect it is a great shame that the government is taking an action. (Time expired)

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (13:19): It is great to be speaking on this motion that the member for Cowan has put forward. Our approach to terror and extremism should be, as far as we can, bipartisan; it should be free of grandstanding and fearmongering; it should not be the basis for knee-jerk decision making, which somehow curtail the rights and freedoms that we have in our very solid and stable democracy; and it should be based around building moderation and not fuelling extremism.

We know that there are a range of issues in the world at the moment, particularly in the Middle East with the battles in Iraq, the Levant and Syria. Sectarianism and religious extremism are now increasingly driving the violence and the warfare that is going on over there. Australian citizens who take up those causes are criminals under Australian law. We have a wide variety of laws, like the foreign incursions act 1978, that have been updated to deal with people who commit criminal acts in the name of extremist causes whilst overseas.

The best way to deter people from taking up those causes and taking up arms in other nations, whether for religious reasons or other extremist ideological reasons, is the application of those criminal laws. That is the best way of deterring people and the best way of dealing with people who go and fight. It is important to use the language of criminality and not call them extremists or Islamists and ascribe a religion to them, because mostly what they are doing is not in accordance with those religions but outside those religions. They are criminal and murderous acts often, and we should label them as such.

At first blush I can understand why the member for Cowan would say that the easiest thing to do is revoke their citizenship. I can understand that in front bars across this nation and in other places that might find some support initially, but we have to think through how we deal with criminals. If we were to say, ‘We are going to revoke the citizenship of person X on the basis that he is a criminal because he is fighting in extremist causes,’ then the Australian public could quite rightly ask: ‘Why don’t you do this for murderers, rapists, thieves or fraudsters? Why don’t you revoke their citizenship too, because we do not want any of them back in the Australian community?’

It passes the front bar test pretty well. The problem with it is that if every nation started doing that we would end up with an army of stateless criminals that no nation could properly account for or deal with. When we hear about international obligations it is important for us and the public to realise that those obligations are not just the obligations we have to other nations but the obligations that our community receives as well. Regularly the Australian government has deported criminals who have foreign citizenship. We have seen criminals deported to the former Yugoslavia countries—Serbia I think it was. There were a number of Lateline programs about an individual who had been deported. Those are the sorts of initiatives that we do now under those international obligations. If we were to turn our back on them then that would give other nations the exact excuse to do the same to us.

So, while I accept the member for Cowan is well motivated in providing this for us to debate in the parliament, I think we should take a step back and deal with these people who take up arms for foreign causes as criminals. We should deal with them that way because that is by far the most effective way of dealing with them.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Ewen Jones): The question is that the motion be agreed to. I give the call to the chronologically challenged member for Forde.

Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (13:24): I thank the member for Cowan for this motion. Given the recent discussions and the recent revelations of Australians being actively involved in overseas conflicts with declared terrorist organisations, I think it is a very relevant matter that we bring to the fore for public debate.

The member’s motion covers off on a number of issues and particularly, as I said, notes the increasing instances of Australian citizens taking up arms for foreign military and extremist causes. In particular of late, we have seen instances of Australian citizens fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. I think it is quite right that the member for Cowan points out that these people potentially provide a significant threat to Australian safety on their return. We should hold these people to account for failing to obey the pledge of allegiance that they have taken in order to become Australian citizens in the first place, and we should question their ability to retain that citizenship.

The Attorney-General put it well several weeks ago when he spoke with some Islamic community leaders about national security. The Attorney-General said:

The Abbott Government is absolutely determined that the troubles in the Middle East will not have an impact on Australia’s domestic population. We acknowledge that this is an important national security issue. We know that there are approximately 60 Australians currently engaged in war fighting in the Syrian, north-western Iraqi theatre. We know that there are approximately 150, including that 60 or so, who are actively involved as either participants or facilitators.

This motion addresses both of those issues—people not only fighting but also facilitating.

With recent changes recognising the Islamic State as a terrorist organisation, Australians should bear in mind that if they fight alongside or financially support a listed terrorist group they can face up to 25 years jail. The new listing of the Islamic State in the Criminal Code replaces the listing of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, in keeping with the group’s recent expansion. The government has also moved to specifically list the Islamic State under this name, reflecting an expansion of the organisation’s operating areas and its announcement as an Islamic caliphate. It does not represent a change in the Islamic State’s leadership, membership or methods of operation. I think it is quite clear from their communications over the past few months that they have a determination not only to control the territory that they presently occupy but also to expand further into other Islamic areas of the Middle East and to have influence on a global scale as well.

ASIO have advised that the Islamic State movement is attracting a large number of foreign fighters, including Westerners, and is now one of the world’s most deadly and active terrorist organisations. That is why I think this motion is very timely. It is due recognition, and a timely reminder, that there are people in the Australian community who wish to support these organisations. The question always is: what do they bring back with them to Australia once they have finished their active involvement in these communities?

We should also be aware that the government is looking at some legislation to deal with this in a broader manner, which I believe is being introduced to the Senate later this week by the Attorney-General. So the government is very aware of this issue. Again, for the general safety of our country, I think we should be very mindful of these people in our community. In the United States, we saw what happens when terrorists successfully infiltrate a country’s security perimeter. September 11 is a very salient reminder of what can happen if we are not vigilant and diligent, and if we do not look to actively prosecute these people for breaking Australian laws. I commend the member for Cowan for his motion.

1 thought on “Parliamentary discussion on foreign fighters, data retention, the INSLM, Musa Cerantonio and Chris Berg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s