Question Time - National Security

  • Transcript, E&OE

Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister please inform the House on the action the government is taking to counter the threat of terrorism, particularly foreign fighters, and how we are keeping the Australian community safe.

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:52): I thank the member for Petrie for his question and I know how concerned he is about this issue. The government is responding to the threat of terrorism and foreign fighters–domestically, regionally and internationally. Around 100 Australians are currently fighting in Syria and Iraq. Almost 30 Australians have been killed in the conflict and approximately 30 former foreign fighters have returned home. They remain of interest to our intelligence and law enforcement agencies. We know of approximately 155 people in Australia who are providing support to terrorists.

The threat from those in our community who support Daesh and other listed terrorist organisations, including returning foreign fighters, is the greatest domestic security threat that we have faced in many years. We have strengthened Australia's national security laws and provided law enforcement agencies with the powers necessary to address the threat of foreign fighters, including through the arrest of or use of control orders on those who return. We continue to find ways to prevent vulnerable young people leaving Australia to fight with the terrorists. Around 115 passports have now been cancelled, 14 have been refused and 10 suspended. Our security agencies are also seizing the foreign passports of dual nationals who seek to use their foreign passports to depart Australia and join the terrorists. We have tripled investment in measures to counter violent extremism, rolling out new programs to build resilience and community leadership to tackle the causes of extremism at their roots. This includes funding community organisations to produce videos and other online content that challenge the appeal of extremist narratives and promote Australia's inclusive values.

The government is working as part of an international effort to respond to this threat. I will attend a meeting next week of 22 members of the small-group ministerial cohort who are part of the broader US led anti-Daesh coalition. It will be hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mr Abadi. This will reaffirm the resolve of the coalition to defeat Daesh in the Middle East. We are also taking a lead in counterterrorism by hosting a regional summit to counter violent extremism in Sydney on 11 and 12 June this year. This summit is bringing together regional leaders and key stakeholders from government, civil society and industry across the region, along with world experts, with the aim of strengthening our joint response to violent extremism. The Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, the Minister for Justice and I will address the summit and share the government's experience of facing the threat of terrorism and foreign fighters head on and of keeping our people safe.

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