Speech to Parliament, 22 September, 2014:
In addressing the question of Iraq and the extraordinary activities which we have seen carried out at the hands of the extremists of ISIL, I want to begin with history, taking us back a decade.
In the wake of September 11, in the wake of the Bali bombings, in the wake of the Madrid bombing and in the wake of the London attacks, I remember the discussions in this House. On 30 March 2004 I said in relation to the extremist offshoot that was a perversion, an abasement and a rejection of the majestic religion of Islam that was the predecessor of ISIL, al-Qaeda—and who would ever have believed that the term ‘less extreme’ could ever be used in relation to al-Qaeda—had this world view:
“… al-Qaeda is seeking to establish a Taliban-style Islamic caliphate across the world. That is its objective. It is a clear, 100-year vision and it is an objective which it seeks to bring about through jihad or holy war. There is no capacity to reason, talk or negotiate. Everything that we try is rejected. We are infidels in their mind, and so too are all of those moderate Islamic states which reject the notion of a Taliban-style globe. That is the situation we face today. The strategic objective of al-Qaeda is very clear. It is to bring down the core Islamic states of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia by destabilising them and breaking down the structures in those societies. In order to do that, it seeks to break down Western connections, to frighten away Western engagement, to break down resolve within those societies and to cause fragmentation.”
Sadly, a decade later, those sentiments remain true. They have, however, been transferred from al-Qaeda—which remains a clear and present danger, a manifest international threat—to, extraordinarily, an even more barbaric and extreme psychopathic regime.
The world has a very dark side. We saw it in the last century at Tuol Sleng, outside of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, under the Khmer Rouge. It is highlighted at the Jewish Holocaust museum Yad Vashem and by the monument to the murdered Jews of Europe only a few hundred metres from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. We are seeing a replay of that dark side today as genocide is carried out across the borders of northern Syria and northern Iraq through the activities of ISIL and their psychopathic regime that glories in human brutality. They then use the weapons of modern mass communication to broadcast and to display, with a sense of malice that is almost unimaginable, the atrocities they carry out.
We have seen, all too sadly, the beheadings and the crucifixions. We have seen the executions of Western journalists in the most medieval fashion. But these things are played out on a grand scale in relation to their own people. The greatest victims of ISIL have of course been the Islamic people. For the most part it is Sunni on Shiah, but there is no compunction about Sunni-on-Sunni violence; there is no compunction about Sunni-on-Christian violence; there is no compunction about violence against Yazidis. There is no religious barrier to it; it is a totalitarian, authoritarian and genocidal regime.
It is also a regime that is utterly at odds with the teachings of Islam. Women are treated as sex slaves. They are subject to the most horrendous crimes. There is a glory amongst the ISIL fighters in the degradation of all humans who are not one of their kind. There is no religious basis to this; it is an utter perversion of a great, grand, majestic world religion.
Against that background, I wanted to address where we are at now. Obviously, Australia, in my view, has to be part of an international coalition under the emerging right to protect, which is ensuring that genocide is simply not allowed to be carried out on our watch. But it is occurring now. Let us not gloss this over. We are witnessing an unfolding genocide. It is not yet on the scale of Cambodia or Rwanda or of what occurred in post-1948 China or in Stalinist Russia, but it is emerging towards the scale of what we saw in the former Yugoslavia, which was a catastrophic failure of Western will.
We see here that it is time for the world to intervene. I say that not just for reasons of national security, although they are of and in themselves sufficient to justify any action. I say this for reasons of simple, common, base humanity. I witnessed the activities in Rwanda. Shortly after the genocide there, I was present in Rwanda. I spent time as a chief election observer in Cambodia as that country was attempting to recover. I have lived in Israel and visited the monuments of Yad Vashem and other holocaust tributes as well as having seen Dachau and, only recently in Berlin, the recollections of this most profound of perhaps all the holocausts during the Second World War.
This cannot be allowed to stand in the 21st century. It is a deep, powerful responsibility. It is not without its risks. As a coalition not just of the West but, hopefully, of Middle Eastern states and others, we need to take action. These fighters are being drawn in by the prospect of virulent glory. They are being inspired by the ability to, with a sort of sick madness, project the atrocities to the world in the hope of attracting some and scaring others. This is the moment when the world stands up. This is something which on our watch we must be part of. We must do it, of course, in a sensitive way and a cautious way so as to protect our utterly indispensable, invaluable Australian men and women who serve.
But no mistake: there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Everybody has tried to engage, but at times there are elements of hard security that are indispensable. In my view, as I wrote in March 2004 in an opinion piece in the Herald Sun, there are four steps that must be taken to discredit and defeat this extremist stream. Firstly, we need to encourage broad-based economic development, along with greater democratisation of wealth in the Islamic world. Secondly, we have to encourage and assist those who would teach tolerance in Islamic schools and communities rather than extremism. Thirdly, we have to engage in joint policing and intelligence, not just with the West but also with the predominantly Islamic states. And fourthly, there has to be a hard security answer. There is no way around it. You cannot negotiate, you cannot talk down, you cannot have sense prevail amongst those who are engaged in a genocidal, virulent, psychopathic cause. That means that there are risks, but let us be clear that the risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of action.
So, we have a duty to Australians to ensure that the security threats we have seen of recent days are addressed at source. We have a duty to the world to ensure that a movement that could cause immense damage is stopped. But we have a duty to the Christians, the Yazidis and the Sunni and Shiah of northern Iraq to take steps to protect them. (Time expired)