Question Time - starving terrorist groups of funding

  • Transcript, E&OE

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:12): I thank the member for Berowra for his question and acknowledge his deep concern about this matter. In our support for the global fight against terrorism, in addition to the military support that we are providing to the Iraqi government through our airstrikes, announced last year; the 170 special forces, announced last year; and the announcement made today about the building partner capacity initiative, this government is determined to starve terrorist organisations, such as Daesh, of all support, including the funds and resources they need to carry out these wanton acts of violence in Syria, Iraq and beyond.

If Daesh, through its illegitimate claims of a caliphate and its ideology, takes hold it will seek to reverse centuries of human progress. Civilisation in areas controlled by Daesh is under threat. It is estimated that Daesh has an annual income of at least $2 billion, derived from various criminal activities, including oil smuggling, drug trafficking and extortion, and from donations, including through non-profit organisations and fundraising through online networks. Australia is taking a lead role internationally to protect the integrity of international financial systems and to prevent the transfer of funds to terrorist groups.

Under Australia's presidency, the Financial Action Task Force last week called on its members to strengthen efforts to prevent global financial flows to terrorists. The Australian government's experts have worked on a strategy for this task force to cut off the financing of Daesh's terrorist activities, and we are shaping international efforts to starve them of funds. Last year, Australia secured international support for a Security Council resolution, 2178, which requires countries to prevent the financing of terrorist activities. We co-sponsored another Security Council resolution, 2161, which extended the sanctions regime on terrorists and reaffirmed the prohibition on paying ransoms to terrorist groups.

Last week I listed Egyptian terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis under Australia's counter-terrorism sanctions regime. About 400 individual entities are now subject to targeted financial sanctions under Australian law. Australia's targeted financial sanctions for those associated with terrorist groups are among the toughest in the world. We have penalties of up to 10 years jail for those found guilty of financing terrorism and up to 25 years jail for those who undertake other terrorist offences.

But there is more to do. A review of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act is underway, looking at options for enhancing our anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations. We have frozen the assets of known terrorists, but we are going after more. The government is pursuing all avenues at our disposal to combat terrorism and to starve terrorist organisations of the funds they need.

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