Question Time – National Security

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister update the House on the threat posed to Australians by foreign fighters such as Elomar and Sharrouf? What is the government doing to combat this threat?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:56): I thank the member for Hinkler for his question. The government is taking steps to combat the threat posed by the foreign terrorist fighters. Members would be aware of the yet to be verified reports that foreign fighters and Australian citizens Mohamed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf have been killed in Syria while fighting for Daesh. Both men had had their passports cancelled. There are warrants out for their arrest. I am device there is a high degree of certainty that Mohamed Elomar has been killed, joining about 30 other Australians also believed to have been killed fighting in Syria and Iraq. Like many of the 120 or so Australian terrorist fighters in the Middle East, Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar have had deeply troubled pasts involving gang violence and drug abuse. In joining Daesh, they inflicted their anger, hatred and violence at the world and these two men have not been fighting for a noble cause; they have been violent and deranged criminals and boasting online of their depraved activities in an attempt to recruit others. This government is making every effort to prevent foreign fighters from reaching back into our communities directly or through social media to incite violence or to plan terrorist attacks.

I can update the House that about 120 Australian passports have been cancelled to stop people from travelling to the conflict to become hardened terrorists or from travelling to third destinations to carry out terrorist attacks. We have frozen the assets of terrorists, including those of Elomar and Sharrouf, by listing them under United Nations Security Council resolution 1373, making it a serious criminal offence to use or deal with terrorist assets or to provide them with material support. I can inform the House that other people are to be listed under this resolution.

We are strengthening our international partnerships. The new Federal Police liaison positions in Turkey and Jordan announced today form part of the AFP international network across 29 countries, in addition to our 16 bilateral counter-terrorist cooperation agreements. Community support is vital to our efforts. Around 30,000 calls have been made to the national security hotline—that is, 18123400—over the last 12 months. I welcome the efforts of the Muslim community leaders in tackling the extremist threat and publicly rejecting those extremists who claim to speak for all Muslims. Around 40 community organisations have been awarded grants to run programs that counter violent ideologies and protect those at risk.

We have already had an impact on disrupting the flow of foreign fighters and finance to Daesh, but while ever this threat remains, this government will continue to take strong action to keep Australians safe from acts of terrorism.

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