Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (10:27): This morning Australians woke to the terrible news that ISIS forces have besieged the town of Kobani on Iraq's northern border with Turkey. Its proximity to the border with Turkey means that artillery that was intended to destroy the town of Kobani has overshot its targets and is now landing inside Turkish territory. Unsurprisingly, Turkish forces have moved to the border. There are tanks and artillery now positioned on the border, and the world waits with bated breath to see whether this conflict is going to expand across another border.
Meanwhile, the fighting continues in Syria. The slaughter of Shiahs, of Kurds, of Christians and of all those who do not agree with the ISIS sect's view of the world continues throughout Iraq. It is a terrible time and everybody looks upon it with a mixture of horror, disgust and concern for what it means for the world that we live in and what it means for us back home.
In September, I gave a statement in this House and I made four key points about why I believed it was important for us to support action against the ISIS forces. The first point I made was that it is for governments to decide, in this country, when and where we deploy our troops. I pointed out the fact that governments have at their disposal the facts and the information, and necessarily the chain of command and the resources, that are necessary to deploy our troops, so it is absolutely reasonable that governments are in the best position to make those decisions. That does not mean the parliament has no role; it does. In a Westminster system and with responsible government it is the role of parliament to hold the executive to account, and we should do that through vigorous debate. This debate is today is one such instance of that.
I also made the case for why Centre Left parties should be supporting actions against ISIS. I said that it is consistent with our values, that if you are on the left of politics you believe in the fundamental importance of dignity, the equality of all humankind and the need to protect individuals from the threats to life and limb and to attacks upon their liberty and upon their safety—particularly when those attacks are made on the basis of their religion. That is consistent with the values of the left and I also made the point it is consistent with the history of the left within Australia. I made special note of the role that John Curtin, probably Australia's greatest wartime Prime Minister, had in securing the national defences of Australia during the threatened attack by the Japanese Imperial Army—but also the journey that John Curtin had made from pacifist activist and anti-conscription activist in World War I, to leading our troops into war and national service in the Pacific in World War II.
The third point I made was about the importance and the responsibility that Australia has having been involved in the disastrous campaign in Iraq of 2003. It was an unmitigated disaster and the mess that we are witnessing in Iraq today is a direct result of that botched campaign, that botched intervention, that botched war of 2003. We were there, we messed it up, we have an obligation to do something to fix it up. The fourth point that I made, and I stand by it, is that we should—and parliament has an important role in ensuring that we do—not overreach either in our engagement in the Middle East or here at home. We should be on guard against mission creep. The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow foreign minister have been quite particular in saying we support the government's actions, based on the fact that they are upon the invitation of the Iraqi government for us to be engaged in defensive operations within Iraq. They do not extend to other engagements within that particular theatre.
The other area that we need to be on guard against is unnecessary overreach and unnecessary legislative responses here at home. I stand by each of those four observations that I made in early September. I wholeheartedly support our action and involvement in Iraq. I think it is important that left of centre parties support that. I think it is consistent with our values and our histories, but that is not an unlimited licence for the government to do whatever it believes it thinks it should be doing in the name of national security.
I met this week with representatives of the Illawarra Islamic association and they expressed to me their absolute outrage at things that were being done in the name of Islam in the Middle East. They made it quite clear to me that they did not believe those who fly under the flag of ISIS are Islamic; in fact, they besmirch the name of Muslims throughout the world. They expressed to me their concerns about rising tensions throughout the community and the importance of community leaders not inflaming those tensions. We planned a number of activities throughout the Illawarra over the coming weeks, so that I can add my voice to those who are calling for calm and understanding not fear and loathing.
Yesterday, I joined with a number of my parliamentary colleagues in meeting with students from La Trobe University's Muslim Leadership Program. It was a very important dialogue. The students from La Trobe University expressed similar concerns, expressing the importance of the dialogue and seeking a better understanding of what parliament was intending and the legislation that is currently before the parliament.
Against all of this background I have to express deep concern about some of the statements that have been made by parliamentarians over the last couple of weeks. In the time that I have been in parliament I have heard many fine and impassioned speeches against the so-called nanny state, about the erosion of freedom and liberty under the dead hand of creeping government.
So you have to imagine my surprise when I see people who have given those very same speeches quoted on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald today seriously suggesting that this parliament should enter into the business of being the fashion police—that is, seriously entering into the business of passing laws which determine what people can and cannot wear in public. This is clearly inconsistent with all of these other statements they have made in the past. To dress this up as an issue of national security is nothing short of offensive.
They talk about the importance of security in Parliament House, a concern that I share. But let us be serious about this. When somebody comes into Parliament House they should have to identify themselves, or be able to be identified. Secondly, they go through a metal scanner. They have restricted access to areas of the building and there are other metal detectors in other areas of the building where there may be concerns about what people might be carrying. To seriously propose that you would have to ban a certain form of clothing in the building because it is a national security issue is nothing short of ludicrous. To the suggestion that certain forms of clothing pose a greater threat, I say that we already have laws against carrying concealed weapons. It is the concealing of the weapon that is the criminal offence, not the clothing or the garment that you are wearing, and that is as it should be.
For those who think this is a good idea, I seriously ask them to think again. Do these 'veil vanquishers' seriously think we can turn our minds to laws that are going to have the objective that they believe we need? Do we say that wedding veils are okay but that the niqab, for instance, is prohibited? Do we allow nuns to get around in habits and wimples but say that the burka is wrong? And what about hoodies—are they going to fall short of the veil ban as well? It is ridiculous. (Time expired)