Question Time - national security

  • Transcript, E&OE

Mr WOOD (La Trobe) (14:33): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister update the House on the action the government is taking to protect our national security by preventing the radicalisation of young Australians and combating the threat of terrorism?

Honourable members interjecting–

The SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister for Foreign Affairs, we will have silence on both sides of the chamber. This is a serious question that has been asked, and we are going to hear the answer. I call the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:33): I thank the member for La Trobe for his question and I acknowledge his deep interest in this issue. Preventing the radicalisation of young Australians, countering violent extremism and combating terrorism are key priorities for this government. Members are aware of the tragic cases of Australian teenage suicide-bombers Adam Dahman and Jake Bilardi, who were killed senselessly in Syria and Iraq. Disturbingly, there are more like them–vulnerable minors who are being preyed upon by terrorist groups through the internet and social media. The arrests of young people in counter-terrorism operations in Melbourne and earlier arrests in Sydney in February highlight the threat of radicalisation and the danger of home-grown terrorism. Twenty-three people have now been charged in Australia as a result of eight counter-terrorism operations since the terrorist threat was raised to 'high' last September. Teenagers as young as 14, without criminal records, without known links to terrorist networks, are increasingly being duped into planning terrorist attacks; and this is an increasing challenge for our security and law enforcement agencies, as well as for communities and families across Australia.

Australia is not alone in grappling with this issue. Almost all partner countries in our region are facing the challenge of radicalisation and terrorism, which is why it was the focus of our discussions in Seoul last week at a meeting I attended of the MIKTA group, the Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia grouping. In fact, South Korea has now identified an 18-year-old national who has joined Daesh in Syria.

Our government are facing the threat of radicalisation head-on. We have established new offences relating to advocating terrorism. We have addressed urgent operational needs of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies. We have declared no-go zones in al-Raqqa and in Mosul. Over 110 passports of now been cancelled of those posing a security risk to our country. Our $450 million additional funding announced in the budget includes $22 million to undermine online extremist propaganda by shutting down terrorist websites and removing extremist content. Over $1.6 million of funding grants were allocated to 34 community groups across Australia earlier this month for mentoring, education and employment programs to divert vulnerable young people away from violent ideologies.

More must be done. We are building stronger links with partners to share intelligence, knowledge and experience. Next month, Australia will be hosting a major regional summit to enhance the capacity of governments and civil society to reduce the impact of terrorist propaganda and radicalisation, including through engagement with community, industry and religious leaders. The government are committed to preventing the radicalisation of vulnerable young Australians and to keeping our people safe.

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