Monday, 6 October 2014

Speech in Parliament - Iraq and Syria - 22 September 2014

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (11:53): I rise to support this motion and commend the member for Mitchell for bringing on this debate today. Obviously, at the time the member for Mitchell lodged this motion some weeks back, the issues were very serious and it is fair to say they have only become more so in recent days and weeks. As all speakers in this debate have said, this motion is welcome for highlighting the humanitarian effort that Australia is taking—the action we are taking on behalf of those persecuted minorities in Iraq—and for the way we are doing that in concert with many other nations. Already the Australian Defence Force has completed humanitarian drops in mid and late August, providing water, high-energy biscuits and hygiene kits to those stranded and under severe threat.

In the time available, I do not want to revisit all the examples of the utter and awful horror that the world has been witness to over recent weeks, but I do want to say that this motion has been moved—and those who have spoken on it have done so—in a bipartisan spirit. Speakers on this side have rightly pointed out that this is an issue where the opposition has offered the government support, and speakers on the other side have rightly pointed out that the Prime Minister has kept the opposition briefed and informed of all serious developments and that will continue. As we reflect over the last couple of weeks since we last sat and the events particularly during the course of last week, we are acutely aware that this is very much an issue that is both far away and close to home—far away in Iraq but close to home because those perpetrating this terror seek to do so wherever they can.

As speakers have already noted, the actions of Australia's security agencies and police last week highlighted that issue. It is something that needs to be confronted abroad and at home. Our Defence personnel, as the member for Corio said, are acting on behalf of freedom, and we wish them the very best. Of course, they have our prayers for the work they are doing with more than 40 other nations. Before I conclude, I want to address some of the issues around our security agencies. Clearly it is absolutely vital that they have the best resources possible and they have the best tools they can possibly have. That means that they are funded to do their job—we have seen the government do this—and that they have the best laws possible. This week in the parliament we will be working together to ensure they have the best laws possible. When it comes to issues like metadata, there are some who are opposed to security action in this area. We need to be reminded at all times that when the head of ASIO speaks, we should listen because it is the overall freedom his and other agencies are trying to protect.

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