Bill's Speeches

SPEECH - NATIONAL SECURITY - MINISTERIAL STATEMENT - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA - TUESDAY, 13 JUNE 2017

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I thank the Prime Minister for his words.

There is no greater responsibility for every member of this place than keeping Australians safe.

As I’ve said, and Labor has demonstrated for four years now: when it comes to fighting terrorism and Islamist terrorism, we are all in this together.

Today, we note with grief that terror has again taken the lives of Australians.

As far away as London - and as close to home as Brighton in Melbourne.

Innocent people, murdered in the name of a perverted version of Islam.

Brave souls, cut down by cowards.

Free countries, diverse cities, peaceful nations - attacked by the enemies of freedom, diversity and peace.

In London, 48 injured.

Eight dead from five nations, including two Australians.

A South Australian and a Queenslander.

A nurse and a nanny. 

Darling daughters, loved and admired.

Kirsty Boden was 28.

Sara Zelenak was 21.

Young people, free in an old city.

Living out a rite of passage for so many Australians: in London, New York, throughout Asia and Europe.

Propelled by what Kirsty Boden described as a ‘constant longing to go where I haven’t been’.

That’s who we are, it’s what we do.

We produce bold and resilient people.

The kind of people who run toward danger, without a second thought for themselves.

People with the courage and character to make lives away from this country, to achieve great things in other lands – while always holding Australia in their heart.

And – whether it’s years or decades later – they come home.

As Clive James said:

The same abundance of natural blessings which gave us the energy to leave, has every right to call us back.

But because of a vicious act of violent cowardice, a lightning-strike of terror, Kirsty and Sara will never come home.

They’ll never walk through those sliding doors at the airport arrivals and embrace the waiting loved ones they’ve missed and who have missed them.

Instead their families are left with that last conversation, forever unfinished.

Perhaps a cheery message about the night ahead, a friendly update from home.

A routine exchange, an old joke or two and the things we all say as parents:

“take care of yourself” “have fun” “we love you”.

Never truly knowing the weight of those words, until they are the last ones we share with the most precious thing in our lives.

No matter how much they grow up, they are always your daughter, your son, your life.

As Nick Hao’s mother said after he was murdered in Brighton last week -

I feel like my world has ended.

Despite the swift bravery of the Victoria Police, Nick, a new husband and loving father, was killed in the name of Islamic State.

Nick came to Australia in 2002, thanks to the sacrifices of his parents.

He studied at Monash University and dutifully repaid their faith by bringing them to Australia so they would be cared for in their old age.

At his funeral on Saturday he was remembered with heartfelt simplicity as a ‘good man’.

A good man, working hard and doing his best to be a good Dad, a good husband and a good son.  

A good man, killed by an evil deed, in evil’s name.

Today – as a parliament, as a people – we offer our heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of all who died in London and Brighton.

Mr Speaker

I’m sure I am not the only one who feels a sense of uneasy, haunting familiarity about today’s proceedings.

Terror is random, unpredictable, alien to our values, our faiths, our way of life. And yet we have come to know a pattern, a ritual.

We light our landmarks and our candles, we share the stories of heroism and survival, we send sympathy, we stand in solidarity.

And there is value and merit to all of this, absolutely.

But unity in grief is not enough, we owe the dead more than mourning.

We have a responsibility to see justice done – and to ensure that terrorism is prevented, defeated and eliminated.

We must defeat terrorism on the open battlefield abroad.


Both sides of this parliament support the international coalition mission in Iraq and Syria

And both sides of this parliament support, admire and salute the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who put their lives on the line in our country’s name and for the cause of peace.

As the Prime Minister has said, important progress is being made against the so-called Islamic State. Its territory is being eroded; its resources depleted.

Australia is doing its fair share as a good international citizen, to deny safe havens for terrorists – restricting their ability to export violence.

We must continue to work closely with allies and friends around the world to neutralise the trans-national efforts of extremist groups – including choking-off their financial and communications capabilities.

We need a renewed focus on cyber threats – from attacks on government institutions, breaches of individual privacy and identity theft, industrial espionage and interference in elections.

And we must ensure that our agencies and security personnel are properly supported, equipped, funded and paid for the important work they do for all Australians.

Mr Speaker

In the fight against terrorism we must all play a part, governments and oppositions at every level.

On this issue more than any other we should throw politics out the window.

As the Prime Minister said in his very first National Security Statement:

This is not a time for gestures or machismo.

We must be: “calm, clinical, professional and effective.”

Australians aren’t interested in a rhetorical arm wrestle.

When real violence threatens our nation, there’s nothing to be gained from a war of words.

And the true test of patriotism, of our shared duty as Australian citizens, is how we work together to defeat terrorism - the practical steps we take.

Mr Speaker

Terrorism has no respect for human life and no regard for our laws, so there is no point engaging in circular arguments about jurisdiction, or terminology.

It is critical that we work together – using the combined resources of the Commonwealth and State authorities:

  • to protect our communities

  • and to detect and prevent terrorist attacks

I think last week’s COAG meeting was encouraging – with Federal, State and Territory Governments all making worthwhile contributions.

In Victoria, we’re already seeing swift action to protect public spaces of mass gathering. Premier Daniel Andrews has – literally overnight – set-up bollards and barriers to keep landmarks and big events safe.

The co-operation displayed at COAG on the issues of bail and parole for those on terrorism offences was common sense.

State borders should never stop us from sharing relevant information that can save lives.

When you put yourself beyond the law – then you belong behind bars.

Labor will ensure that violent extremists who seek to do harm to Australians are rooted out of our society and dealt with under the fall force of the law – not to be seen on our streets again if there is a continuing risk associated with them. 

We need to recognise this is a 21st Century conflict – being fought online as well as in the streets. Terrorists are using sophisticated online strategies as well as crude weapons of violence.

For a long time Daesh has used the internet as an instrument of radicalisation.

Through Twitter and Facebook they boast of a propaganda arm that can reach into every home in the world: spreading hate, recruiting followers and encouraging imitators.

And with encryption technology like Whatsapp and Telegram they can securely communicate not just a message of violence – but instructions in how to carry it out.

I acknowledge many internet providers and social media platforms already work hard to detect and remove offensive content, such as child pornography and other forms of violent crime.

Facebook has created new dedicated teams and employed thousands of people specifically to monitor its Facebook Live stream for this purpose.

The big internet companies have very quickly become an essential part of our free democratic society.

But they need to realise this is a two-way relationship.

They need to be part of our society in the sense of working with us – as well as taking from us.

They need to see this fight as their fight – not just ours.

Not just a fight where they help when asked – but a fight in which they come to us with ideas.

We need them to be proactive – not reactive.

Terrorists don’t self-police, so we cannot rely on a self-policing system.

These tech giants must wake up to the fact that that have a position – if not the authority – to tackle the underbelly of terror propaganda.

In this context, Facebook is essentially a media company, not just a platform – they are involved in what gets put online.

Ensuring that terrorism isn’t enabled online takes more than just a whack-a-mole approach to removing offensive content when spotted.

Our law enforcement agencies need to be equipped with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to detect and disrupt terrorism online – whether that be recruitment, organising, financing or the spread of hateful propaganda.

The Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Cyber Security Centre have the technological ability to protect both government and small and medium businesses from cyber attack.

And we need the ASD and the Cyber Centre to be available to support small and medium businesses as they do with government.

But in order to do this, they require better support and resources from government, especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best personnel.

This is, of course, a difficult and complex area and there are two things we simply don't know enough to deal with properly.

I refer to the use of the digital currency Bitcoin and the use of the dark web.

A network of untraceable online activities and hidden websites, allowing those who wish to stay in the shadows to remain hidden.

Terrorists are increasingly using this network to avoid detection, conduct planning and acquire capability and tools to carry out their evil actions.

We must target this threat head-on.

As terrorists adapt their methods and seek to hide online, we must ensure our agencies have the tools, resources and technology so terrorism has no place to hide.

Likewise, we need to track and target terrorists as they seek to hide and obscure their financial dealings through electronic currencies like Bitcoin.

We can allow them no sanctuary, no place to rest, we must dislodge them from wherever they hide.

In doing this, though, we must always be mindful of the rule of law and the proper protections of our citizens.

But we cannot sit back when our enemies have access to a worldwide system to educate and fund extremists.

Mr Deputy Speaker

The first major review of Australia’s national security tactical response framework was the Hope Royal Commission, following the 1978 Hilton bombing.

That Commission rejected a third, para-military style force in Australia and assigned the close-quarter assault role to the ADF.

Back in 1978 Police SWAT-type capabilities were non-existent and, as a result, officers were not trained or equipped for that kind of role.

This meant the SAS was given the task of training one of its Sabre Squadrons for counter-terrorism.

In the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics, the framework for calling out the ADF to assist the civil authorities in incidents of terrorism was modernised in Part IIIA of the Defence Act – to deal with scenarios involving hostage-taking and hijacking.

The history of the civil policing approach to terrorism in a hostage-taking, ‘strong-hold’ or hijack scenario has relied on a doctrine that the ADF call-out or police assault would not be initiated unless a hostage was injured or killed and all avenues of negotiation were closed off.

But the nature of the terrorist threat has evolved.

From 9/11 to the Tokyo subway to Nice and Manchester and many other parts of the globe.

And the main aim of most terrorist incidents we see today is to cause instant mass casualties through improvised explosive devices, or indeed whatever means are at hand.

And when hostages are taken – such as in the Lindt Café Siege – it’s right that we ask if the doctrine of waiting for a casualty is appropriate, and more broadly if the best framework exists for co-operation between the ADF and the civil police.

Labor believes our counter-terror operators, trainers and enablers should be working as closely as possible with State and Territory police forces, to ensure all military and civil responders are as well trained and as well equipped as possible – to maximise the most timely and effective action.

Just as we must continue to do everything in our power to keep Australians safe, we must continue to foster cohesion in our society.

This is a responsibility we bear as national leaders – and also an obligation shared by the leaders of Australia’s Muslim community.

The recent bombings in Kabul, killing 150. And the suicide bombing in Baghdad that claimed the life of 12 year old Zynab Al-Harbiya from Thomastown. 

Both prove yet again that Islamist terrorism doesn’t respect Islam, it doesn’t reflect Islam – and it claims the lives of good Muslims far too often.

And the wisdom of the former Director of ASIO, David Irvine is always worth repeating in any discussion on national security:

The tiny number of violent extremists does not represent the Islamic communities of Australia – we are talking about a few hundred aberrant souls in a community of nearly half a million.

It is grossly unfair to blame Muslims who see themselves as a committed component of Australia’s multicultural community.

Our fight is with terrorism – not with Islam or with our Muslim community.

The strongest defence against terrorism lies within the Australian Muslim Community itself.

Wise words indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker.

We must continue to work with and strengthen the moderate voices and leaders of the Australian Muslim community – and to rigorously and relentlessly detect, challenge, contest, deny and defeat any and all sources of the promotion of the extreme views that incite violence.

One of the most powerful weapons we can wield against the division and fear of terrorism remains our belief in an equal, inclusive, multicultural Australia.

When we surrender these beliefs and values, the agents and message of terror has succeeded.

Defeating the scourge of terrorism demands our every effort, our total energy and our complete unity of purpose. 

Unity in this parliament through continued, thoughtful bipartisan co-operation.

Unity in the nation, working with the Muslim community to identify people at risk of radicalisation and prevent them from heading down a path of no return.

Unity in the region – where we face the ongoing challenge of returning foreign fighters, driven out of the Middle East by the efforts of Australian forces among others.

And unity with other free nations, standing against terrorism’s assault on the rights of their citizens to live in peace and security.

Terrorists are never so strong as they pretend and people are always more powerful than they know.

Our citizens, our values, our way of life remain the best strategy for keeping Australians safe and defeating terrorism.

This is a stern test and a hard fight – but together, united, we shall prevail.


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