Bill's Media Releases

NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT

SPEECH

NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT




MONDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 2015


 

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Good afternoon.

Labor believes keeping our country secure and our people safe is above politics, it is a solemn responsibility of our Parliament.

That is why Labor has consistently taken a bipartisan approach to these matters.

We believe this is a partnership in the interests of the nation.

Historically Labor has always demonstrated our preparedness to do what is right and necessary both in government and opposition.

We believe that when it comes to fighting terrorism, we are in this together.

The report into the tragic events at Martin Place remind us that our national security system must be constantly evolving – as well as constantly vigilant – so that we are prepared for the changing threats to our security presented by terrorism.

And we must acknowledge where flaws have occurred – sometimes with tragic consequences, lessons must be learned.

The current contest between Australia and terror is unlike any we have witnessed in our history.

Lone wolf, low grade attacks, combined with the sophisticated use of social media and asymmetrical violence, require new thinking.

And the source of these new threats is Daesh and other like groups in Syria and Northern Iraq.

The rise of Daesh in the Middle East and the methods it uses to spread its malevolent message across the globe, demand new efforts and new urgency.

Daesh are totalitarian zealots beyond redemption.

Its followers worship no god but death – they believe violence is an end in itself.

In the Middle East, the brave, skilled professionals of our Australian Defence Forces are making a vital and important contribution to protecting vulnerable people, threatened by Daesh

This is not a nation versus nation conflict – it is transnational threat – spawning fanatics who believe in violence for the sake of violence.

We cannot drain the swamp of terrorism by military means alone.

We must take a broader international approach – developing a political, economic and social solution to counter Daesh.

This means supporting the internal mobilisation of the Iraqi people, promoting a civil society as well as damaging Daesh’s ability to access funds and resources.

Once again, we thank our courageous men and women in uniform, we offer them Australia’s united support and we stand by their families at home.

We are proud of them – just as we are grateful for the skill and strength of our domestic security and policing agencies.

These are the people who keep us and the people we love safe here at home.

The same brand of hatred and extremism that we are fighting in the Middle East, threatens us here in Australia.

The measures that Prime Minister Abbott has proposed deserve full and careful consideration – and Labor will engage constructively with them.

We recognise that what is required is not propaganda – but facts.

Not hysteria, but sensible discussion of practical changes.

Given Australia’s character, history and love of freedom – there should always be a strong presumption in favour of the liberty of individual citizens.

Labor believes this presumption should only be reduced, rebutted or offset to the extent that current arrangements are proved to be inadequate.

Any proposed changes must be shown to be effective for the nation as a whole.

And any alternative solution must deliver a superior good in terms of safety of the community.

In the past year, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has done outstanding work: considering draft legislation, canvassing the views of experts and the community, and proposing important amendments to improve the final laws.

Good people, from both sides of the Parliament, have worked together to strike the right balance between enhancing our security and protecting the rights and liberties we respect and have fought so hard to defend.

Better protecting the freedom of the press is just one example of the improvements that have been made through careful and reasonable discussion and compromise.

And Labor believes that our Parliament and its committee process remains the best way of examining new measures in detail.

We will work cooperatively with the government, as always, through this process.

I welcome the greater emphasis on the coordination of information at the government level.

And I believe there is still more we can do to craft a more innovative and effective counterterrorism response: eliminating bureaucratic impediments so that information that should be shared among agencies is available to the right people at the right time.

Labor believes in a seamless, integrated national security system.

A system that guarantees the best tactical response for any situation is available, and employed, without qualification or delay.

The pathology of Monis reveals no single failure, but rather a chain of missed opportunities and overlooked warning signs:

Monis was a man with:

A history of family violence and sexual assault – a willingness to harm those closest to him.  And a man willing to hurt his own family, should always be regarded as a serious risk in all circumstances.

A history of political extremism, adapting and absorbing the propaganda of violent movements. Sending, for instance, hateful letters to the families of Australian service people who had lost their lives in Afghanistan.

And he had a history of fraud and deception at every turn.

He was known to authorities, but he was underestimated.

And as his crimes caught up with him, as his lies unravelled, as the walls of justice closed in – he went to Martin Place.

For those trapped inside the Lindt Café, for the families and loved ones of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson – Monis’ last act of violence came at a devastating cost.

We can never allow this to happen again.

It is our responsibility to look closely at everything we can do to defeat terrorism.

Forging better agency understanding and cooperation is part of this.

And it will help to address what the Martin Place siege report has called an ‘ad-hoc’ approach where susceptible individuals can be overlooked.

So too is a new priority on harmonising our international and domestic efforts, particularly in regards to maintaining security and deepening understanding in our region.

And we must also increase our focus on the time-honoured preventative strategy of countering violent extremism through community engagement.

We know that the tiny minority of Australians drawn to violent extremism, do not represent the Islamic faith, nor Australia’s great, generous and diverse Muslim community.

As the former Director General of ASIO, David Irvine said last year:

“the strongest defence against violent extremism lies within the Australian Muslim community itself.”

This is wise counsel – it reflects the good work and goodwill of our Australian Muslim community who have been working with our police and security agencies to counter violent extremism.

Labor rejects the notion of irreconcilable differences between Islam and Christianity.

History shows, time and time again, the ability of people of goodwill, regardless of faith, to band together to defeat evil.

Yazidis, Copts, Assyrians, Alawites, Druze have all suffered at the hands of Daesh.

Women of all faiths have been driven into the degradation of sexual slavery.

But the overwhelming majority of the thousands and thousands of victims of Daesh’s violence have been Muslims.

Sunni Arabs, Sunni Kurds and in particular Shiite communities around the world have borne the brunt of their attacks.

Defeating Daesh is unquestionably the common interest of all people of every faith – and we must make it our shared mission.

The Martin Place siege report makes it clear that we cannot wait for “at-risk individuals [to] develop into high level threats”.

We must aim for a deeper level of prevention, pulling out the roots of extremism and stopping its growth.

As the report suggests, communities, families and friends are the ones most likely to:

“recognise the changes in someone that may be radicalising and most likely to be able to reach out and divert them from this path”

We must reach out, we must reinforce our community policing and throw open the doors to positive, meaningful and rewarding opportunities for our young people.

Let me say this, however, in no uncertain terms.

There is no justification, there is no excuse, for consciously and deliberately choosing to inflict harm on the innocent.

Those who seek to cross the very clear boundary of right and wrong should feel the full force of the law.

And people who would threaten our national security, should never be able to take advantage of our social security.

These are indeed challenging times, but all of us should take heart from the fact that the very qualities which have made modern Australia the confident, optimistic and welcoming country we love - remain our best defence against extremism.

Hope will always be stronger than fear.

Inclusion will always trump intolerance.

Understanding will always defeat prejudice.

Terrorists get what they want when we fracture, when we divide, when we surrender our way of life.

Today our message to those who would seek to do us harm is simple.

Australia is – and always will be - stronger, more generous and braver than you.

Terrorists may seek to spread division, discord and suspicion –we will always choose unity and optimism.

Terrorists may trade in fear and hatred – we will always choose courage and compassion.

Terrorists care nothing for the future – we choose a safer, stronger and happier Australia in the years ahead.

Let that choice be our Parliament’s shared goal, our common cause and our first duty.

ENDS

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