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Wednesday, 24 September 2014


Australians must accept a reduction in freedom and an increase in security “for some time to come” to save lives from the significant threat of terrorism, Tony Abbott has told parliament. The prime minister asked Australians to support a shift in “the delicate balance between freedom and security” as he sought to bolster his case for the biggest overhaul of the nation’s counterterrorism laws in a decade. In an address to parliament on Monday, Abbott also rejected suggestions the domestic terrorism threat would be aggravated by the deployment of 600 Australian Defence Force (ADF) members to the Middle East to fight Islamic State (Isis) militants. The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, broadly supported Abbott’s position on security laws and the Iraq commitment, saying that “keeping our people safe is above politics”. Both leaders made their statements to parliament as MPs prepared to consider two bills this week: one to increase the powers of intelligence agencies and the second to target foreign fighters. Earlier on Monday the attorney general, George Brandis, announced several concessions in response to concerns raised by the Islamic community, the Labor opposition and the Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm. Legal immunities for Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) officers conducting covert “special intelligence operations” would specifically exclude torture, Brandis said. Other contentious measures, such as the new offence of visiting declared “no-go zones” without a legitimate purpose, would expire in 10 years. Abbott said he had three key messages: the government would do whatever was possible to keep people safe; the target was “terrorism not religion”; and Australians “should always live normally because terrorists’ goal is to scare us out of being ourselves”. But he cited the the major anti-terrorism raids across Sydney and Brisbane last week to make a broader point about the need to reconsider the balance between freedom and security. “I can’t promise that hideous events will never take place on Australian soil, but I can promise that we will never stoop to the level of those who hate us and fight evil with evil,” Abbott said. “Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we’re used to, and more inconvenience than we’d like. Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift. “There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protections for others. After all, the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to walk the streets unharmed and to sleep safe in our beds at night. Creating new offences that are harder to beat on a technicality may be a small price to pay for saving lives and for maintaining the social fabric of an open, free and multicultural nation.” Abbott underlined the domestic security threat posed by Isis, saying that at least 60 Australians were believed to be fighting with groups in Syria and Iraq, at least 100 were supporting them, and more than 20 had already returned to Australia. He said it could “hardly be Islamic to kill without compunction Shia, Yazidi, Turkmen, Kurds, Christians and Sunni who don’t share this death cult’s view of the world” and nothing could “justify the beheadings, crucifixions, mass executions, ethnic cleansing, rape and sexual slavery”. He said it was in Australia’s national interest to stand ready to join the US-led coalition to help the new Iraqi government disrupt and degrade the Isis movement. Australia has offered Super Hornet aircraft to contribute to air strikes against Isis targets in Iraq, while special forces military advisers are preparing to help the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities in fighting the group. Cabinet will consider the use of force after Abbott participates in a United Nations security council meeting chaired by the US president, Barack Obama, in New York this week. Abbott specifically rejected claims of a link between Australian and western foreign policy and the terrorist threat, arguing the 11 September, 2001, attacks on the US and the 2002 Bali bombing predated the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Greens have argued that Isis would recruit people to its cause by presenting the latest Iraq conflict “as a western imperialist fight against Islam”. The director general of the MI5 security service from 2002 to 2007, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, has previously told Britain’s Chilcot inquiry into the 2003 Iraq invasion “undoubtedly increased the threat” as it had “radicalised” young British citizens. Abbott said groups such as Isis would “cite our involvement but they would attack us anyway for who we are and for how we live, not for anything we have done”. “It’s our acceptance that people can live and worship in the way they choose that bothers them, not our foreign policy,” Abbott said, adding that stopping the advance of Isis should reduce its magnetism for people around the globe looking to join a fight. Abbott told parliament last week’s police raids came after “an Australian [Isis] operative instructed his followers to pluck people from the street to demonstrate that they could, in his words, ‘kill kaffirs’ ”. The prime minister said it was never right to kill or mistreat others in the name of God. Shorten said Labor believed security agencies should have the powers and resources they needed to keep Australians safe from the threat of terrorism, but stressed the importance of “safeguarding fundamental democratic freedoms”. “We must ensure that in legislating to protect our national security, the parliament is careful not to damage the very qualities and liberties that we are seeking to defend from terrorist threat,” Shorten said. Labor supported Australia’s contribution to the mission in Iraq, he said, not as “a matter of jingoism or nationalism” but based on “a calculation of conscience and national interest”. Isis was “intent upon only desecration and destruction” and was murdering innocent people and oppressing and raping women and girls across northern Iraq, Shorten said. He said Labor wanted the ADF to carry out a clearly defined mission at the request of the Iraqi government, but he set some boundaries. Labor would oppose deployment of ADF ground combat units to directly fight Isis, or an extension of the mission to Syria, or continuing it if the Iraqi government forces engaged in unacceptable conduct or adopted unacceptable policies. “Like the prime minister, I clearly reject the assumption that our engagement in Iraq has made us more of a target,” Shorten said. “I accept, however, that Australia must always be vigilant in the face of extremist threats. Very few Australians, poisoned by fanaticism, travelling to this war zone with the intention of participating in this conflict, represent a threat to our national security.” Shorten urged people not to stigmatise Muslim Australians for the crimes of Isis, saying the nation would “not overcome hatred with hatred” or tackle “intolerance by being intolerant”. Abbott thanked Shorten for his support, saying the bipartisanship on national security “let’s our enemies know that they will never shake our resolve” and that “hope is stronger than fear and that decency can prevail over brute force”. LINK:

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