Question Time - National Security - 26/3/15

  • Transcript, E&OE
27 March 2015

Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (14:12): I have a question for the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Minister, will you further update the House on action the government is taking to prevent young Australians from leaving to fight in the Syria-Iraqi conflict?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:12): I thank the member for Berowra for his question. Countering the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters is a key priority for this government. Our own experience with Afghanistan has taught us that, once people go to train or fight with terrorist groups, they are likely to come back and seek to commit terrorist attacks at home. We know of around 100 Australians fighting in Syria and Iraq with terrorist groups such as Daesh. Well over 20 Australians have been killed and it is inevitable that more will die violent, senseless deaths. Barbaric extremists such as Daesh have become adept at seeking out the weak and vulnerable. Daesh exploits the internet and social media to pull young people into its poisonous web. Members are already aware of the tragic cases of Australian teenage suicide bombers Adam Dahman and Jake Bilardi. Sadly, there are many more just like them–vulnerable minors whom Daesh is singling out and grooming to spread its depraved ideology.

Powers granted to me under our new foreign fighters legislation make it easier and quicker to stop our young people leaving the country. I now have the power to suspend Australian passports and temporarily seize the foreign passports of dual nationals, which enables us to respond to urgent circumstances. Well over 100 passports of would-be fighters have now been cancelled and I have suspended around 10 of these passports.

All too often I am approving passport cancellations or suspensions for a string of 16- or 17-year-olds who are seeking to travel, always with ludicrously large amounts of cash, bogus stories of holidays and frequently without their family's knowledge. In recent days, I have implemented emergency suspensions as the young person concerned is actually at the airport about to depart. I want to thank our border control agencies for the outstanding job that they are doing in cooperation with our security agencies, our intelligence agencies and our law enforcement agencies.

We could not do this without the help of the community, and I thank the friends, brothers, sisters and parents who are taking action, calling the national hotline, going to police and seeking the help of community leaders before it is too late. We have had over 20,000 calls to the national hotline in the last six months alone. That number is 1800123400. We are getting invaluable information which helps us respond quickly and effectively. It prevents children going to their deaths and it keeps our people safe at home. This government is committed to preventing vulnerable young people being lured into the conflict and keeping our country safe.

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