Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Speech in Parliament - Irag and Syria - 3 September 2014

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (11:10): Can I at the outset acknowledge the eloquent words of the member for Chifley on this subject and also the speaker before him, the member for La Trobe, who has a lot of experience from the law enforcement perspective. I join my colleagues from both sides of the chamber in speaking on this statement by the Prime Minister. We are united in the statement by the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the Opposition. As we speak today, we awoke to more awful news on our television screens. Our hearts go out to the family concerned for the trauma that they are suffering, which is just unspeakable.

As the member for Chifley indicated, we need many things. If I could surmise: we need clarity of purpose, we need determination, but we also need unity of purpose. As we speak on this motion, we of course all support the considered action that is being taken. We need to make sure that our agencies are the best resourced that they can be. As the member for Chifley said, when ASIO speaks we should listen. Whilst it is a natural inclination to shy away from things far away—that is a natural human emotion—it is not one that we can ignore. As the member for Chifley indicated, it is far away and it is close to home; that is the great difficulty. As the Prime Minister outlined in his remarks yesterday and as all of us in this place know all too well, there are some 60 Australians currently fighting abroad—extremists, terrorists, doing the most unspeakable things. As experts in the field have indicated—something that is quite obvious—once radicalised, those people, if they return to Australia, will not return to any state of civility that they lived in a long time ago.

A colleague in the other place, Senator David Fawcett, wrote an opinion piece in the Adelaide Advertiser earlier in the week. He again pointed out that the preventative action our law enforcement agencies had been able to take had been very successful. Little did the 92,000 fans attending the 2005 AFL Grand Final know that a major terrorist attack had been averted. He wrote about this in great detail—about how it was now public knowledge that a planned terrorist attack on the MCG was averted. And I am quoting him now:

Central to this and achieving successful convictions was the targeted retention of metadata over 16 months by the Victorian Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP)—

as part of a joint operation. A similar case arose in the member for Chifley's home state at the Holsworthy army base. As the member for Chifley said, 'When the head of ASIO speaks, we should listen.'

I acknowledge this is very different for Australians. We are commemorating the Centenary of Anzac, and we think, don't we—because we have grown up this way—of wars with defined starts and finishes, between nations and governments? This is not like that. It has been going a long time. Most people would think of the start as September 11, although in reality it began before then. And it will go for a long time yet, I suspect, as the experts have said, for many decades. So, in many parliaments time, those who follow us will be grappling with these issues in some form or another. That is difficult for the public because in some ways there is no end in sight. That is very difficult.

In wars that have defined boundaries and defined nations in them, the sacrifices have greater clarity. As the Prime Minister has, rightly, outlined, we need the best resources we can have. Those security agencies need the best tools they can have. They are two vital ingredients among many. There is an old saying that bears repeating, and that is: 'Freedom isn't free'. So on the metadata issue: that is nothing like the sacrifices of freedoms and civil liberties in World War I or World War II, but it is something we need to bear in mind in terms of the challenge we face.

Let me just finish by reaffirming something that the member for Chifley said, and the Prime Minister said it yesterday:

The threat is extremism—not any particular community. The target is terrorism—not religion.

All Australians can be united on that front against the very, very small minority who are participating in this unimaginable horror. But as we have all said, the approach that is being taken is not only the right one, it is the responsible one.

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