Michael Danby MHR

Tel: (03) 9534 8126
Fax: (03) 9534 1575

117 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda VIC 3182


PO Box 2086
St Kilda West 3182
 

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: TERRORIST ATTACKS
Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (6.13 p.m.) —
When we saw those twin towers— icons of American success and diversity— collapse, the entire democratic world stood eyeball to eyeball with evil. Let us not underestimate the audacity or daring of this attack on the United States, a close ally and friend of Australia. I hope it is not being too brutally analytical to say that, from the point of view of the extremists who perpetrated this deed, we could even describe this as a successful operation. One of the most frightening aspects of the event is that some hundred people were involved in planning this terrible deed for over a year and not a word of it leaked.

Some of us will have seen the frightening interview with Osama bin Laden's mentor, Khalid Kwaja, shown on CBS in June that was rebroadcast on 60 Minutes last night. Kwaja said that the White House was very vulnerable and could be destroyed at the cost of just a couple of lives. Kwaja claimed that the weakness of the United States was that its people were brought up to avoid death. `What would happen if 100,000 people were killed? What would happen if 200,000 were injured?' he asked. Mr Peter Hartcher took this further in the Financial Review on the weekend when he said:

It is clear that bin Laden believes he will weaken the US resolve to fight by inflicting massive casualties.

Is that what lies ahead of us? Those numbers imply something far more lethal than the attacks during the week. They suggest chemical, biological and perhaps nuclear capacity. Al Quaida, the Base, bin Laden's terror franchise, is said to have chemical weapons capability.

I cannot help but fear that this whole operation is but part of an operation that is very well planned. In my view, it is no coincidence that the leader of the opposition in Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Masood, was killed just hours prior to these events in America. We are entering into a truly existential battle between the democratic world and a small group of extremists who envy, hate and despise the modernity not just of the United States but of all of us who live in our current democratic system. This is not a battle between the United States, Australia, the democratic world and Muslims. That would be a defamation of one of the world's great monotheistic religions. Moreover, we must not conflate the desperate boat refugees who happen to be of Muslim faith with these few extremists. Yet let us not fall into the other fallacy of saying that these events in New York and Washington were the result of some poor people's angst over Western colonialism. This is not a fight over this or that US policy. This is no justifiable response to American policy in the Middle East.

What should our response be? I echo the words of the American Ambassador and of my friend the member for Wills, who spoke earlier in this condolence debate. Our policy ought to be not vengeance, not retaliation, not retribution, not revenge, but rather a cool, calculated and measured policy of self-defence. This attitude ought to inform our response. Lethal force would only be used discriminately to prevent these terrorists from triumphing, to prevent these people from doing it again. The US Ambassador said in the very moving condolence ceremony that we had that United States policy would not be informed by vengeance. I hope that the people who were behind these events heard all of the people in that room singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. To hear an Australian audience singing that so lustily should inform them that, when democratic people are aroused, as we were during the Second World War, we have the ability to respond to the kinds of things that were perpetrated in New York and Washington. Our ethos in confronting terrorists ought to be the ethos of those very brave three on United flight 93, Jeremy Glick, Thomas Burnett and Mark Bingham, who decided that, rather than let their plane plough into the White House, they would take the terrorists with them.

I have long been associated with the United States. I was very pleased with the reaction of people in my electorate who were putting flowers outside the US consulate-general. Thousands participated in a very large service at St Paul's Cathedral on Friday. I have had to explain these events to my children, and all I can say is that we need to have that spirit that Abraham Lincoln talked about—`the better angels of our nature'—to guide our policy in the coming battle with these extremists.

 
     
 

Authorised by Michael Danby 117 Fitzroy Street St Kilda VIC 3182