Michael Sukkar MP

Federal Member for Deakin
Assistant Treasurer
Minister for Housing
Minister for Homelessness, Social and Community Housing
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ISIL’s Threatens National and Global Security

I rise today, like so many other speakers, to address the grave situation facing our national and global security. As we all know, and as the Prime Minister has said on many occasions, protection of our people and the defence of our nation is the first duty of government. To reiterate our Prime Minister’s statement on national security to which I reply, I want to emphasise three key messages to my electorate of Deakin. First, the government will do whatever is possible to keep you and all Australians safe. Second, our security measures at home and abroad are solely directed against terrorism, not religion or any community. Third, Australians should always live normally, because the terrorist’s goal is ultimately to scare us out of being ourselves.

For some months now the militant organisation which calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant—of which many speakers have mentioned—has managed, in some places of Iraq and Syria, to fill the void resulting from the ongoing power struggle between the Sunni and Shiah populations in those conflict zones. Their influence has subsequently spilled over the Syrian border into the northern parts of Iraq, and the territory under their control has grown rapidly.

Like so many other Australians, I have monitored the growth of this movement in these parts of the Middle East with growing concern and despair for the local populations in those respective areas. We all know that the politics and stability of the Middle East has always been far from secure. However, the developments of the past few months reveal a new and far more deadly chapter, particularly for the rights of persecuted minorities in this part of the world.

Most strikingly for my community in Deakin, and what is raised with me on a regular basis, has been the manner in which ISIL has viciously targeted the minority Christian communities in Iraq and other places in the region. Some of these Christian communities are as old as Christianity itself and, gravely, many face extinction at the hands of ISIL. But it is not just minority Christian communities that are now being targeted by ISIL. ISIL has shown itself to indiscriminately target and murder countless numbers of Muslims who simply do not adhere to or follow their very narrow and medieval understanding of the Islamic faith. These groups include the local Shiah, Kurdish, Alawite and countless other groups who are just unfortunate enough to be living in a part of Iraq or Syria that now falls under the control of ISIL.

We further know that ISIL and its followers do not recognise any borders between Iraq and Syria. They are aiming to create, in their own words, a caliphate in the area and are also claiming political authority across the broader Islamic world. The ruthless advance of ISIL in those regions has ultimately provided a haven for those from all parts of the world attracted to this ideology, and I regret to say these include some radicalised and traitorous Australians.

So far we know that there are at least 60 Australians currently fighting in this part of the world and many more from other Western nations, such as France, the United States and the United Kingdom. The danger here is that those who return to Australia, or to other Western countries, will come back even further radicalised. They will also be brutalised and determined to spread the evil ideology of ISIL on our own shores. We also know that ISIL operatives in Australia have been instructed by their commanders in Syria to prepare attacks against Australian targets, including attacks against our own parliament.

As we so tragically saw last week in my home state of Victoria, one Australian Federal Police officer and one Victorian police officer were subjected to an unprovoked attack from an 18-year-old terrorist with a knife. The attacker was a person of interest to our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. While the two officers were wounded in the attack—one seriously—thankfully these two honest, decent and brave men will both be able to return home to their families. This is further to events from the previous week where a terrorist operative here in Australia instructed his followers to perform demonstration executions, beheadings, similar to those that have taken place against individuals in the Middle East. Then, just yesterday—again in my home state of Victoria—we saw the Victorian police and the AFP working cooperatively to conduct raids that resulted in the arrest of a man who was subsequently charged with funding a US citizen to fight in Syria. His arrest and the six charges laid against him come after what is reported to have been eight months of surveillance. So our intelligence agencies are doing an incredible job of dealing with what is a significantly enhanced threat to our country, and for this I want to sincerely thank them.

It is this increased threat, coupled with the important humanitarian aspects, that makes it clear that it is in Australia’s national interest to do what we can to combat ISIL and to continue to participate in an international coalition with the aim of strengthening the Iraqi government. This will mean weakening and removing a dangerous death cult that provides a haven and leadership for those seeking to carry out attacks against us in Australia and to ultimately threaten our way of life. Indeed, as a nation that values liberal democracy and the protection of the rights of minorities, we cannot stand by and watch the plight of the persecuted people in Iraq and Syria. We just cannot watch genocide taking place on our television screens every night. Equally, we cannot allow ISIL to use the territory it has overrun to become a base for future attacks to be launched on Australia and other democratic nations.

That is why I am proud of Australia’s commitment to support a broad-based coalition of nations taking the fight to ISIL. It is also encouraging to see numerous states in the Middle East with large Islamic majorities joining the push against ISIL. These include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan. Back here in Australia I also welcome the commitment by the government to ensure the security and safety of our own people. While there is a delicate balance between freedom and security, one which has been debated by political philosophers for many centuries now, there is no simpler way to see this than the reality that the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to walk the streets unharmed and to sleep safely in our beds at night.

For these reasons, I welcome the additional funding provided to our security agencies in the budget this year and welcome legislation which will create new terrorist offences, seek to curtail returning foreign fighters and extend powers to monitor or detain terror suspects. In my view, any Australian who leaves our shores to fight with the bloodthirsty cult ISIL should be barred from returning to Australia. However, I reluctantly accept that this may not be possible in all cases. So we must send a clear message to those Australians who return home from fighting with ISIL, often with a view of carrying on the fight here in Australia, or to their terrorist supporters here in Australia, that they will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed for a long time. Our new counter-terrorism laws will assist in this task. Ultimately, in my view, by supporting and fighting with ISIL, such people just do not deserve the freedoms and prosperity that Australia provides.

In closing, I would like to again emphasise that I strongly believe that the ongoing crisis and instability that is engulfing the Middle East due to the actions of ISIL and its supporters must be dealt with in a decisive and swift manner not only by the international community but by all members of our society. I therefore, in response to the Prime Minister’s statement, welcome his commitment and the commitment of the government of which I am a part to ensure that Australia will lend our strength to ensure that ISIL is destroyed and hopefully becomes just an unfortunate footnote in the history of barbarism.