House of Representatives Speech-Intelligence and Security Committee Report

Yesterday there was tabled in the House the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security concerning a review of the relisting of Hamas Brigades, PKK, LeT and PIJ as terrorist organisations. In every case they are relistings, these being organisations that have been proscribed for quite some time.

Yesterday there was tabled in the House the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security concerning a review of the relisting of Hamas Brigades, PKK, LeT and PIJ as terrorist organisations. In every case they are relistings, these being organisations that have been proscribed for quite some time.

I want to deal, in particular, with the relisting of the Hamas brigades as a proscribed organisation under section 102 of the Criminal Code. Perhaps before going to that it is worth noting that this is a process that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has undertaken, under the functions conferred on it by the legislation, for several years. It is my view that the committee performs an invaluable function in doing so because it provides a degree of publicness about a process which would otherwise take place almost entirely behind closed doors. In deciding to list, the Attorney-General relies on the advice of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation. The Attorney-General publishes a statement of reasons. The committee, in being able to hold a hearing, in being able to receive submissions from interested members of the public, is able to review the decision and make a recommendation in respect of it. For every organisation, by holding such a hearing and receiving submissions the committee is able to satisfy, at least to some degree, public interest in a process which concerns all.

Particularly in relation to Hamas it is worth noting—and the committee has made comment about this in the report—that what has been listed is the Hamas Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which is the armed or military wing of the Hamas organisation and, as the committee has noted in the report, Hamas itself—that is, the political organisation—is not being listed. It is a distinction that, for the moment, is worth persisting with because, despite the basis of Hamas, despite its history, even now it is to be hoped that Hamas will renounce the approach that it has taken ever since it was founded in 1987, which is a complete commitment to violence and, indeed, a commitment to the destruction of a member state of the United Nations, namely Israel. It is a fact that Hamas, not itself making a great deal of distinction between the political organisation and the brigades, has for years carried out acts of violence, targeting civilians. It is apparent that, as I speak, Hamas remains committed to carrying out such acts.

Just to reiterate—the report goes into some of these details—it is worth noting that Hamas has, in the last several years, fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns, at civilian centres. Indeed, Hamas rockets, rockets for which the brigades have taken direct responsibility after the event, have fallen on schools, kindergartens and houses throughout Israel. Some 4,000 to 5,000 rockets have been launched since 2007 alone, when the Hamas organisation took control of Gaza in a violent coup. It can also be noted that Hamas has launched these rocket attacks from schools and from mosques in Gaza and, therefore, there should not be any doubt about the nature of the brigades, the organisation that has been listed here.

It is worth noting that Hamas is still holding an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas operatives kidnapped in 2007 from Israeli territory, killing two IDF soldiers at the time. Hamas has held Shalit for more than three years, denying him access to the Red Cross and all other representatives.

It is also the case that indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas has killed or wounded several Palestinians within Gaza, that the firing of rockets by Hamas has damaged UN facilities and that, in every sense, it is right to describe Hamas as a true terrorist organisation. It engages in indiscriminate destruction of life and property.

The Hamas charter, which was adopted in 1988, has never been altered. It has never been renounced by the Hamas organisation. It commits Hamas to establishing an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. It rejects the approach of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to the current conflict in Israel. It is a rejection of democracy. Hamas rejects democratic methods and rejects human rights. It rejects the rights of trade unions. It rejects the rights of women as those rights are understood and cherished by Western countries such as ours. What appears in the report of the parliamentary joint committee is but a small sample of the acts in which the Hamas brigades have engaged in recent years.

There is ample evidence of the treatment of political opponents of Hamas in the Gaza Strip including murder, knee-capping and throwing its political opponents off buildings. There was a particularly egregious example of the conduct of the brigades in August this year when Hamas suppressed what it saw as an insurrection in a mosque in Rafah. There had been a sermon suggesting that Hamas was not Islamist enough and that was met by an armed attack in which the brigade surrounded this mosque in Rafah firing rocket grenades into the mosque killing more than 20 Palestinians, including an 11-year-old girl.

There is no doubt that Hamas and the brigades, as its armed wing, completely reject all that is known or understood about human rights in this country or throughout Western countries. There is a totalitarian approach taken to all media and to all education. There is a continuation of the glorification of suicide bombing and encouragement of children to become martyrs. That is the nature of the organisation that is here being relisted. It is why the parliamentary joint committee—rightly—has recommended that that relisting be endorsed.

The other matter I want to raise in relation to the Hamas organisation is to record my regret at some of the submissions that the parliamentary joint committee received in relation to whether or not the Hamas brigades should be relisted.

I might just say something else about the process that the parliamentary joint committee uses. As is made clear not only in relation to the Hamas brigades organisation but also in relation to all of the other organisations which are dealt with in this report, ASIO provides material to the Attorney-General and that material which is provided to the Attorney-General is reflected in ASIO’s statement of reasons. That is, of course, a public document and, naturally enough, is based on material which is able to be made openly available or open source type material as is recorded in the committee’s report. That information, which is contained in the publicly available statement of reasons, has also been corroborated by classified information in all senses.

But Hamas, perhaps differently to some of the other organisations listed here, is itself an organisation which prides itself on publicity. There is a wealth of information available about the activities of the Hamas brigades. It is available to anyone in Australia who has even a passing interest in events in the Middle East. What was of surprise and indeed concern to me was to see that in some of the submissions that were received by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, rather than dealing with the matter which was before the committee, which was whether or not to endorse the relisting of the Hamas brigades, these submissions instead engaged in precisely the same attack that Hamas itself is engaged in, which is to attack a member state of the United Nations, namely Israel.

The committee—rightly, having received various submissions along these lines—rejected the submissions insofar as they sought to attack the state of Israel. There is no part of the process that the committee hearings are involved in which required the committee to look at the conduct of the state of Israel. To do so is almost to accept the false justification that is sometimes advanced for the terrorist actions of organisations like the Hamas Brigades. The committee rightly rejected that approach.

The parliament should be under no illusions that the task that is conferred on the committee is to review the available evidence and to hear from members of the public who might have information to provide to the committee or views as to whether or not a particular organisation ought be listed. The task before the committee is not to allow its processes to be hijacked into some kind of attack on the state of Israel or any other member state of the United Nations; it is rather to consider the actual activities of the proscribed organisations to judge whether they have engaged in terrorist activities. There can be no doubt whatsoever that Hamas, by any measure, is a terrorist organisation. It, indeed, proudly and openly carries on its own activities as a terrorist organisation. It is right that the committee has made the recommendation that it has, which was not to recommend the disallowance of the regulations which listed the Hamas Brigades. I commend the report to the House.