Question Time - Daesh in Iraq and Syria

  • Transcript, E&OE


My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

I remind the Minister of the recent atrocities committed by the Daesh death cult in Iraq and Syria.

Will the Minister update the House on the threat posed by foreign fighters and how the government is combatting this threat?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:11):I thank the member for La Trobe for his question, and I know the concern that he has about this issue. The world has expressed outrage over the further atrocities committed by Daesh, or ISIL, including the beheadings of two Japanese journalists and the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot. These brutal acts have been carried out or aided by foreign fighters, sickeningly, from countries that include Australia.

I can update the house on the latest details on foreign fighters. Approximately 16,000 foreign fighters from some 90 countries are believed to be in Syria and Iraq. Ninety Australians are believed to be in the conflict, along with 3,000 fighters from western European states–around 500 from the United Kingdom and from Germany, about 1000 from France and also from Russia, and we estimate about 100 to 200 from Indonesia. We believe that over 20 Australians have been killed in the conflict in Syria and Iraq. They are not martyrs. They are just cannon fodder for an evil cause. Disturbingly, the demographic of those fighting tends to be younger. There are people in their teens. We are seeing more women who either are seeking to join their foreign fighter husbands or are becoming what are called 'jihadist brides', and otherwise taking part in the conflict in Iraq and Syria. Per capita, Australia's number of foreign fighters is high–well above the United States, for example. That is why our defence personnel are in the Iraq. They are advising and assisting the Iraqi government so that it can bolster the Iraqi defence forces to take back territory and disrupt and defeat Daesh, or ISIL.To address the threat we have cancelled around 90 passports of those seeking to travel to Iraq and Syria, or to return from there. I have suspended five passports under our new counter-terrorism legislation, and I have refused to issue a further 10 of those to people who we believe pose a national security threat.

We are working with our communities to counter the spread of radicalisation, to build resilience through a program worth about $545 million, investing in social inclusion initiatives, a program to counter violent extremism, and other initiatives. Internationally, we have taken a lead role through co-sponsoring the UN Security Council resolution on foreign terrorist fighters, requiring all nations to prevent the activities of terrorists, through their financing, their travel and other activities. We are strengthening our cooperation with our partners, including Great Britain. Next week, our Attorney-General will attend a summit in Washington that will focus on a global response. This is a shared global challenge, and Australia has been playing a leading role in keeping our country and our people safe from terrorism.

Media enquiries