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National statements

Foreign Fighters Summit

Thematic issues

  • Iraq
  • Middle East
  • Syria
  • Terrorism


Statement by the Hon Tony Abbott, MP, Prime Minister of Australia

I'm happy to be here at your urging, Mr President. It is the weightiest of matters that brings us together today.

Right now, thousands of misguided people from around the world are joining terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq because they claim Islam is under threat and because they are excited by the prospect of battle.

But whatever they think or say, these terrorists aren't fighting for God or for religious faith.

At the heart of every terrorist group is an infatuation with death.

What else can explain the beheadings, crucifixions, mass executions, rapes and sexual slavery in every town and city that's fallen to the terrorist movement now entrenched in eastern Syria and northern Iraq?

A terrorist movement calling itself "Islamic State" insults Islam and mocks the duties of a legitimate state towards its citizens.

And to use this term is to dignify a death cult; a death cult that, in declaring itself a caliphate, has declared war on the world.

So, countries do need to work together to defeat it because about 80 nations have citizens fighting with ISIL and every country is a potential target.

Last week, an Australian operative in Syria instructed his local network to conduct demonstration killings – and this week, an Australian terror suspect savagely attacked two policemen.

Now, it's hard to imagine that citizens of a pluralist democracy could have succumbed to such delusions – yet clearly they have.

The Australian Government will be utterly unflinching towards anything that threatens our future as a free, fair and multicultural society; a beacon of hope and exemplar of unity-in-diversity.

Already, more than 60 Australians are fighting with ISIL and al-Nusra. More than 60 Australians have had their passports suspended to prevent them from joining terrorist groups in the Middle East.

Our laws are changing to ensure that foreign fighters returning home can be arrested, prosecuted and gaoled for a very long time indeed.

We aren't just dealing with potential terrorists at home; we're tackling their inspiration abroad.

Our combat aircraft and special forces are now in the Middle East preparing to join the international coalition to disrupt and degrade ISIL at the request of the Iraqi government.

I congratulate you, Mr President, for the leadership you've shown in assembling a broad coalition.

The participation of Middle Eastern countries in this week's strike on ISIL in Syria is the clearest possible demonstration that the West can't solve this problem alone – and won't have to.

Our goal is not to change people, but to protect them; it's not to change governments, but to combat terrorism. Governments that don't commit genocide against their own people, nor permit terrorism against ours – that's all we seek.

But even in what seem to be darkening times, there are grounds for hope: the ISIL horror has generated all-but-universal revulsion.

Muslim leaders from Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia, and President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, to the Grand Mufti of Australia, have declared that the ISIL movement is against God, against Islam and against our common humanity.

Perhaps the realisation is now dawning for all peoples, all cultures and all faiths that it can never be right to kill in the name of God.

That would be a moral victory far surpassing any military success.

Last Updated: 5 June 2015
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