CAN you be concerned for Australia’s environment and also concerned for the safety of Australians? My answer is a definite “yes!”
I have deliberately withheld this strong policy attack on the Green political party’s weakness on counter-terrorism.
I did not want to politicise the issue of community security before the state election, especially given the very emotional angst widely felt throughout Melbourne about the murder of iconic café proprietor Sisto Malaspina (proprietor of Pellegrini’s).
However, the Greens must be criticised for their record in Parliament on counter-terrorism. The Greens still have secret national and state conferences to which the media are not admitted.
But it is their parliamentary habit of voting against all measures to enhance our counter-terror response that must be exposed to Australians.
Greens Senators have voted against all legislation on national security and counter-terrorism passed by the Australian Parliament since September 11, 2001 when Al Qaeda murdered 3000 people in the Twin Towers in New York.
These major laws (some of the more significant recent examples set out below) have protected Australians from mass casualty attacks.
Counter-terror laws have only passed with both government and the opposition voting together in the Senate. Otherwise, given the make-up of the Senate and the necessity for the legislation to be passed in both houses, these laws wouldn’t have come into existence.
Yet, the Green political party has voted against every proposal in the Australian Parliament to protect the safety of Australians against many aspects of the threat of terrorism, such as jihadists travelling in and out of Australia.
Currently, we have the phenomenon of the return of former foreign fighters from Middle East battlefields, as IS (Da’esh, as it is known in the Arab world) is militarily defeated and geographically restricted to a small section of eastern Syria.
Yet the Greens have fought every attempt in the Federal Parliament, over the years that I have been a member, to face up to these responsibilities.
Australians have not encouraged these terrorist plans or attacks in the streets of Melbourne. Australia and Australians are the terrorists’ potential victims.
In Bourke Street, an attacker drove a vehicle loaded with gas bottles, intending to blow it up in a crowded pedestrian area and then jumped out and stabbed random passers-by.
This type of attack is an IS paradigm all over the world – from London to Kabul. IS doesn’t even need to direct orders at individuals. IS and Al-Qaeda just connect on the net with fanaticised followers to take these low-tech “opportunities” to cause maximum mayhem.
There have been two potential and one actual attack in Melbourne in three weeks. We have, as a responsible national parliament, faced up to this ugly phenomenon. However, not the Greens.
Even before the Batman by-election, which Labor thankfully won, you would have thought that the Greens would have been a bit more cautious and responsible. No. Their leader, Senator Di Natale, insisted on the ABC’s Q&A that foreign fighters and jihadists be allowed to return to Australia.
The Greens chief described these people as “good people who’ve made mistakes”. They are not. They are the enemies of Australia and people who are a risk to the peace and security of ordinary Australians.
The most fundamental human right that all of us have is the right to safety and the sanctity of human life. If anyone, for some gratuitous overseas political grudge, or ideology that idealises the 6th century, says that they have the right to kill Australians, they do not. These are not “good people gone wrong”.
Every weekend in my electorate, hundreds of volunteers work to protect the safety and security of local institutions. These people are selfless. They work very closely with the Victorian police and they’ve been highly successful – I won’t go into details – in preventing attacks in Melbourne.
Just prior to the recent Bourke Street attack, TV and newspapers reported the court trial of a planned terrorist attack on Flinders Street station and St Paul’s Cathedral in Christmas 2016. Three were convicted. Court transcripts show they originally planned mass murder in the streets of St Kilda.
These threats are ongoing and very local as far as we’re concerned. It should be crystal clear to the voters of Melbourne Ports, which will be renamed Macnamara, that this is a key difference between the Labor Party and the Greens at the next election.
One, the ALP, is a responsible party that has, of course, a huge range of views on domestic matters that are strongly critical of those of the government but is responsible and wants to protect Australians’ circumstances, safety and lives.
In contrast, the Greens have voted against the following counter-terrorism legislation nonetheless passed by the Parliament in recent years:
2014 – Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act. Responds to the threat posed by Australians engaging in, and returning from, conflicts in foreign states by providing additional powers for security agencies; strengthening border security measures; cancelling welfare payments for persons involved in terrorism.
2015 – Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Act. Provides explicit powers for the cessation of Australian citizenship in specified circumstances where a dual citizen engages in terrorism-related conduct.
2016 – Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1). This law allows control orders to be imposed on teenagers involved in terrorist acts.
2017 – Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Act. This law establishes a regulatory framework to manage national security risks of espionage, sabotage and foreign interference to Australia’s telecommunications networks and facilities.
2018 – Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Act. This law permits states to allow the Australian Defence Force (Counter Terrorism Command, SAS & commands) to be pre-authorised to respond to land and maritime threats, in addition to threats to aviation.
If you take the protection of lives of Australians seriously, it’s absolutely clear you cannot support the Green Party.
The Australian Labor Party has been proud to stand up for the security and safety of all Australians, as our voting record clearly shows. We will continue to do so.
MICHAEL DANBY is the federal member for Melbourne Ports.