The most important responsibility in my mind and, I am sure, in the mind of my colleague, the member for Melbourne Ports, and the duty that we have as local members of parliament is to ensure that our local residents feel secure in their homes and safe in their community, and that all that can be done is being done to keep our community safe. To continue Australia’s ongoing bipartisan effort and work to bolster Australia’s national security capabilities, I was pleased to attend Australia’s Regional Summit to Counter Violent Extremism, challenging terrorist propaganda, in Sydney last Thursday. It included ministers and officials from 24 countries.
The Sydney summit was part of an ongoing international effort to deal with the rapid rise and escalating aggression of radical terrorist groups throughout the world, in particular the Islamic State. The Sydney summit follows on from the United Nations Security Council resolution 2178 of September last year and in particular the Washington summit in February this year that was convened by US President Barack Obama to address the issue of countering violent extremism in our homelands. Australians appreciate that the terrorist threat our country now faces has also been felt in many other countries including Libya, Denmark, Tunisia, Yemen, France, Belgium and, elsewhere, in the South-East Asia region.
Terrorists today have considerable resources and use sophisticated communications technologies. Terrorists are increasingly mobile, adaptable and brutal. Terrorist organisations now include foreign terrorist fighters like the over 100 Australians who have travelled to conflict areas like Iraq and Syria. The threat increasingly includes people committing attacks where they live, as we have experienced in Australia.
The summit was extremely beneficial. It will not only support ongoing efforts to make our communities safer in Australia, but had the following regional outcomes: establishing a regional network of civil society groups to foster peer-to-peer learning and partnerships; creating a regional best practice guide to prevent the dissemination of terrorist propaganda; and investing in enhancing the role of communities to challenge terrorist propaganda, including by building the technical capability of grassroots organisations to elevate non-extremist voices that resonate with target audiences.
In that vein, following that bipartisan antiterrorist summit, I would like to acknowledge that I was very pleased to host the Prime Minister at the Endeavour Hills police station on the Friday following the Thursday. That visit was to provide in a bipartisan way—and I emphasise the word ‘bipartisan’—encouragement and support to our local police officers, who were profoundly affected by last year’s incident and who continue to remain resolute in keeping our community safe. I was pleased that the AFP and the Victoria Police were able to provide the Prime Minister; the member for La Trobe, Jason Wood; and me with a private briefing on the latest developments and challenges that we face in this particular area and also to provide time for the local police officers to convey their own concerns and some advice to the Prime Minister.
Unlike what you read in the media following that particular visit and the very unwarranted intrusion that was made by the journalist in question on a member of the Prime Minister’s staff—at, I might add, a police station that was not a hardened police station—the fact was that the outcome of that visit was an enormous shot in the arm for our local law enforcement and security agencies. One thing that has come up in continuing discussions with local community members, including the Afghan community members in my electorate, and at a meeting of community leaders from the Muslim community that I hosted on 30 April—that was a meeting of the AFP, Vicpol, the Attorney-General’s Department, Muslim community leaders and me—was the role of the media in misreporting events and also things like the visit made by the Prime Minister to the Endeavour Hills police station.
The thing that disturbed me most about the visit to the police station was that, as I said and as the member for Bass would know, being a member of the bipartisan committee on intelligence and security, it was a bipartisan effort to show our support for the police officers and the work that they do in keeping our community safe. I certainly hosted the Prime Minister on that basis, and the visit went very well. But, for the families of those serving police officers—those same officers whose families worry about whether or not they will come back home, particularly with the thwarted Anzac Day attacks—I wonder how they felt reading that the only thing that they saw was some invasion of a particular space by that particular journalist. Get with the program, press—report things that are done in a bipartisan spirit in the right way and do not pervert a message of hope to people like our law enforcement agencies that actually really need it.