Danby on terrorist groups

October 12, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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Federal Labor MP Michael Danby has spoken in Parliament on terrorist groups and their connections to Australia at the same time attacking the ABC for their “gutless decision” in reporting that the activities of one group would affect only Israel.

Michael Danby

I am supporting the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security review on the relisting of five terrorist organisations. As a member of that committee I commend the process that this parliament established under the previous, conservative government—under great pressure from the then numbers in the Senate—for the evaluation of these organisations, one by one, by the parliament rather than under the direct auspices of the Attorney-General. I believe this gives the Australian public a feeling of transparency and ownership of this process, which it deserves, and it makes members of this House cognisant of the activities of these particular organisations—17 organisations in total—which are a threat to the Australian people, as has been shown and as we are about to remember, by the deaths of 88 of our countrymen in Bali as a result of the activities of Jemaah Islamiah. I will come to some of the other organisations in a minute.

I note that the Director-General of Security, Mr Irvine, recently said that some 200 cases are being followed by the Australian security services of people who are coming backwards and forwards to Australia from places like Somalia, Yemen and the AfPak theatre, as they call it, who are a potential threat to Australia.

With 200 people like that, the job of making sure nothing untoward happens must be extremely difficult, and I pay tribute to those people who were in the field defending Australian interests, making sure that we remain without attacks on mainland Australia. We have been very fortunate— unlike France, Germany, Britain or the United States—to have avoided such attacks in our country. We have to work very hard to maintain it, including this parliament’s supporting the practice of classifying these groups according to objective and rational analysis that we receive—in a bipartisan way and in a way that is transparent to the Australian people through its parliament.

So we are particularly concerned about organisations like al-Shabaab in Somalia, where three Australian citizens affiliated with it have been charged and convicted of terrorist related activities. We have the Hamas Izz ad-Din Qassam brigades, who have killed more than 500 people in 350 attacks since 1993. The activities of the brigades are particularly relevant to Australia, since an Australian citizen was arrested and convicted and is in jail for three years following his attempt to surveil establishments in Israel.

I particularly want to draw the opposition’s attention to the fact that the ABC, in what I can only describe as a gutless decision, in reporting this arrest and jailing after an open trial, said that this Australian citizen would be of concern only to Israelis because he was convicted of a terrorist surveillance effort there. Of course, as an Australian citizen, after the three years a person returning to Australia who has been involved in such a focused and important terrorist activity would be of great concern to Australians as well. The fact that the ABC completely refuses to acknowledge that this group is classified by the Australian parliament as a terrorist group is a decision that reflects very poorly on the Managing Director, Mr Scott, and the various program executives who have refused repeated requests from the elected representatives of Australia to include that reference in their news reports. There is also classification of Palestinian Islamic jihad.

But what I want to focus on today is Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Sunni Islamic extremist organisation based in Pakistan that uses violence as its stated objective in uniting the Indian administered Kashmir with Pakistan under a radical interpretation of Islamic law, which would then become part of the wider Caliphate of the Salafist Islamists—that is, people who use the great religion of Islam as a political cause, who abuse that peaceful religion for a political cause. This is an organisation that is most active in Kashmir. It is a terrorist group that is actively engaged there in preparing and planning attacks, including bombings, and kidnappings against people all over India.

Lashkar-e-Tayyiba has played a role in terrorist attacks that have involved Australians. The murder of two of our countrymen in Mumbai in the attacks on that fine Indian city three years ago is something I particularly want to reflect on. I have been to Mumbai twice since then and stayed at the Taj Hotel, probably as an act of counter- suggestibility. I am known for that trait! But I think the jihadist world view would regard India and its success, particularly a great commercial capital like Mumbai, as an affront to their world view.

In fact, as we speak, in the streets of Pakistan, members of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba are openly parading themselves. The founder of the group, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, has held public functions addressing people, supporting the attack on Mumbai and threatening further attacks on India. It is intolerable that the government of Pakistan, which has pledged to crack down on Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, continues to allow this group to openly parade—this despite the fact that it was officially banned in Pakistan in 2002. The group’s re-emergence suggests that powerbrokers within the Pakistani security forces are reactivating it so it can continue the turbulence it causes, which they think, in some crazed fashion, benefits Pakistan.

Some in the military in Pakistan view the efforts of President Zardari to forge a rapprochement with India with suspicion. Ending the cold war with their neighbour is something that these people associated with the ISI, the infamous Pakistani intelligence service, would hope to make difficult, because it is not their view.

A number of members of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba have been arrested in Australia. People from this organisation who have been jailed in other countries have come to Australia, including Willie Brigitte. There are a number of other people who have subsequently been jailed who have been involved in training in Lashkar-e-Tayyiba camps. There was the case in 2006 in the New South Wales Supreme Court where Faheem Khalid Lodhi was convicted of plotting to attack the national electricity supply, trying to get into Holsworthy barracks and onto HMAS Penguin naval base.

In 2009, the Indian newspaper the Calcutta Telegraph reported that the Pakistani American who mapped out the target sites in Mumbai, whose name was Daood Gilani, had gone to India to scope these sites—very much like the Hamas man, an Australian citizen, who was convicted in Israel. He was arrested on federal charges in the United States for committing terrorist acts on overseas targets, including facilities and employees of a Danish newspaper.

So Lashkar-e-Tayyiba remains an active concern to this country. We have a number of people have been arrested who were charged with working with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. In my view, this is nothing less than a terrorist group run by Pakistan, and I say that completely seriously. Pakistan is allegedly an ally of the United States and Australia, and it gets $2 billion of American taxpayers’ money and $119 million of our foreign aid. The leaders of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, as I said, live openly in Pakistan. It is outrageous that Pakistani explosives factories in Lahore are the major source of the improvised explosive devices that kill Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. Let me repeat that: Pakistan is a country that receives $119 million in foreign aid from Australia, but its factories, under the control of the Pakistani state, provide the explosives that are used to kill Australian and American soldiers in Afghanistan. We all have our views on Afghanistan. But we must not let the duplicity of the Pakistani state deter us from our duty. However, it is intolerable that, on top of that, we have this group, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which has repeatedly been involved in terrorist missions and training of people in Australia. I would suggest that, if you look at the five sets of people who have been arrested, charged and convicted in Australia of terrorist crimes, you will find that all of them have a Lashkar-e-Tayyiba training connection. Even worse than that, there were two Australians among the 200 people directly killed by that disgusting terrorist attack on the beautiful Indian city of Mumbai, the symbol of India’s progress and commerce.

This is a most important classification today. Following the death of Private Greg Sher at the hands of the Afghan Taliban it has been a part of my duties to work with his dear parents, Felix and Yvonne Sher. I feel this most personally. I know the Australian people do not want terrorism coming to our country. I praise the security services, the armed forces, who keep these people far from our door—and long may it continue. In all of this it is important that the Australian parliament brace up to its duty and see that these groups are classified in a proper, impartial, rational and transparent way so that all Australians can understand why these people are to be arrested and charged if they are involved in such deeds in Australia.

I am particularly concerned about Pakistan’s ongoing activities as a country that supports and allows attacks on Australian soldiers and, worse, allows this group to continually train individuals who not only harm Australians overseas in cities like Mumbai but actually try and penetrate Australia. We in the Australian parliament must continually address the Pakistani government and tell its ambassador here how gravely we hold these activities.The provision of aid to Pakistan will one day become an issue if Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is further involved in attacks on Australian citizens. I remember when, under Mr Howard’s government, Pakistani President Musharraf came here and in the Great Hall made all his false promises to take all of these issues seriously. We are not fools. Australians may be pleasant people but we hold these issues very gravely and we will hold the Pakistani government and all its agencies to account.

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