Question time

  • Transcript (E&OE)
28 October 2014

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:58): I thank the member for Forde his question.The government is gravely concerned by the fact that Australian citizens areheading to Iraq and Syria not only to fight but to take leadership roles inradicalising others in these conflicts. This is one of the most disturbingdevelopments in our domestic security in quite some time.

There are approximately 150 Australian citizens who webelieve are linked to extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, including theterrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant–an organisation thathas been defined by its savagery and its brutality. There is a real danger thatthese extremists will come back home as trained terrorists and pose a threat toour security. The Australian government condemns terrorism in the strongestpossible terms and is taking firm steps to respond to this terrorist threat.

Our intelligence agencies are working closely with partnersin the Middle East, South-East Asia, Europe and the United States to monitorthis extremist activity and to track those, including Australians, who aretravelling to Syria and Iraq. We have listed ISIL and other terroristorganisations under our Criminal Code. There are strong penalties, includingimprisonment of up to 25 years for a range of terrorist offences.

Any Australian found to be engaged with these terroristorganisations will be arrested, detained and prosecuted. Under the AustralianPassports Act I have the authority to cancel or refuse to issue a passportwhere we suspect an individual is a threat to the security of Australia. In thepast few months I have cancelled a substantial number of passports on securitygrounds, and I continue to do so.

We are considering other measures that can be taken tocombat this escalating terrorist threat. I can assure the member for Forde andthe members of this House and the Australian public that the Australiangovernment is absolutely committed to the security of this nation and tokeeping Australians safe.

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