Statements on Indulgence – National Security
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (11:16): I rise to speak on the national security statement made by the Prime Minister in this place and to inform the people of Hinkler about the actions of their government. I applaud the Prime Minister for his unambiguous stance on this issue. I note his three very clear messages and they are this: the government will do whatever is possible to keep people safe; the security measures legislated by the government and indeed this parliament are directed against terrorism, not religion; and he encouraged Australians to live normally because the terrorists’ goal is to scare us out of being our normal selves.
The first point I would like to make to the people in my electorate is this: the increase in the nation’s alert level to high was recommended by ASIO, which is an independent statutory authority. The changed alert level will result in some inconvenience and perhaps even a level of uneasiness among some members of the public. These decisions are not made lightly and are based on intelligence gathered by highly qualified and capable people.
The first priority of any federal government, regardless of party politics, is the security of the nation. It is important to recognise that in times of flux the individuals elected to represent their communities work together in the best interests of the nation. No-one in this place wants to see an Australian injured or killed. No-one wants to see the atrocities that have been committed overseas occur here. This is Australia. It is a nation of tolerance, a nation built on immigration, a nation built on the idea of a fair go for all. I believe we as a country have always struck the right balance between upholding the rights of the individual and keeping our community safe from harm. Our way of life is an envy for many. We have free speech, a free press, freedom of religion and democratic elections, and our civil liberties are being protected. We are well served by our state and federal police, but unfortunately at this time in our history that balance must shift.
The legislative changes this place is enacting have come about because of the rise of ISIL and the group’s ability to infiltrate Australia through social media. All that these ISIL extremists have needed to terrorise ordinary people is a victim, a knife and a camera phone. The exponential increase in the use of mobile devices has caused a quantum shift in the way in which we communicate as businesses, groups and individuals. With its mass communications capabilities it has already seen drastic reductions in the utilisation of traditional advertising—and it is a serious concern for parents regarding the online safety of their children. Unfortunately, modern communications have also made it easier for terrorists to prey on and recruit vulnerable and amenable young men. Criminals no longer need to meet and the days of the secret handshake have gone. All they need now is a call to action via Twitter, Facebook or email or on a website. Everything they need to enact evil is readily available. The online threat to this nation cannot continue unchecked. In order to give our security and intelligence agencies every possible opportunity to prevent an attack, we need to operate within a framework that is responsive and modern and addresses the difficulties of modern communications. It is about ensuring that the threat of home- grown terrorism can be nullified, if possible, and access to terror networks can be achieved and with the necessary haste. It is not about monitoring the entire internet; it is about providing the tools necessary to give our agencies the best chance of success. As a member of parliament and as an ordinary Australian citizen, I want to ensure our agencies have the opportunity to address threats before an attack becomes a reality. I would much rather have this debate now than be in this place 12 months from now explaining how it came about that Australian citizens were harmed.
Like everyone here, I do not want to see a another Bali bombing, a Twin Towers attack or assaults on our police. Our police have been acting in our best interests for decades and we must trust them to continue to do the job, but that role needs to be enacted in an informed manner, with the best possible intelligence available. Special intelligence operations under the amended legislation effectively mirror the existing Crimes Act, so this is not new to Australian law and existing whistleblower laws will continue to apply and are not effected. All Australians should be aware that it is illegal to associate with a terrorist organisation. You will be caught and charged to the fullest extent of the law.
Very few policy or legislative decisions are black and white; however, this one is. We must provide the tools our security agencies request. Our service personnel would rather face and fight a threat anywhere other than in this country. These ISIL extremists want Australians to live in fear, oppressed and without freedom. I cannot express my disappointment at having to explain to my three children at parliament this week why it was necessary to have armed AFP officers at Parliament House. I will tell Hinkler constituents the same thing I told my children: we should be vigilant but not alarmed; go about your daily lives, but of course be cautious. If we do not continue as normal, the terrorists will have got what they want—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 11:21 to 11:31
Mr PITT: I applaud the Prime Minister for his refusal to call a terrorist movement an Islamic state on the grounds that it demeans Islam. Early media reports called the terrorist group ISIS, which caused grief for many people in my electorate. Isis is a beautiful district in the Hinkler electorate. The ABC even discussed changing the name of one of the teams participating in the grand final to avoid confusion with the terrorist group. The Isis Devils almost became the Childers Devils, because ABC Grandstand, which was broadcasting the game, was concerned about events overseas. Talk about political correctness gone mad!
People with the name Isis have also been unfairly targeted. A survivor of the Childers backpacker hostel fire named his child Isis earlier this year. Many people do not realise that the name Isis comes from the ancient Egyptian goddess. We have the Isis Highway, the Isis Club, and a range of other Isis businesses. In fact, an online petition imploring the media to stop using the acronym ‘ISIS’ has now reached more than 30,000 supporters. It was started by a US woman, Isis Martinez.
I reiterate the Prime Minister’s comments. Actions taken by the government are not about religion; they are about criminality. According to the latest census, there are about 450 residents of the Islamic faith in the electorate of Hinkler. That is, around 0.5 per cent of the adult population. There are two mosques, one in each major centre. They are valued members of our community.
Racial vilification of any kind is deplorable and will not be tolerated. We cannot and must not let the likes of ISIL win, because, if they do, this nation will be changed forever, and that is unacceptable to me. A nation dominated by the actions of terrorists is not the Australia I want my children to inherit. We will act, because we must.