Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:58): I thank the member for Forde his question. The government is gravely concerned by the fact that Australian citizens are heading to Iraq and Syria not only to fight but to take leadership roles in radicalising others in these conflicts. This is one of the most disturbing developments in our domestic security in quite some time.
There are approximately 150 Australian citizens who we believe are linked to extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, including the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant—an organisation that has been defined by its savagery and its brutality. There is a real danger that these extremists will come back home as trained terrorists and pose a threat to our security. The Australian government condemns terrorism in the strongest possible terms and is taking firm steps to respond to this terrorist threat.
Our intelligence agencies are working closely with partners in the Middle East, South-East Asia, Europe and the United States to monitor this extremist activity and to track those, including Australians, who are travelling to Syria and Iraq. We have listed ISIL and other terrorist organisations under our Criminal Code. There are strong penalties, including imprisonment of up to 25 years for a range of terrorist offences.
Any Australian found to be engaged with these terrorist organisations will be arrested, detained and prosecuted. Under the Australian Passports Act I have the authority to cancel or refuse to issue a passport where we suspect an individual is a threat to the security of Australia. In the past few months I have cancelled a substantial number of passports on security grounds, and I continue to do so.
We are considering other measures that can be taken to combat this escalating terrorist threat. I can assure the member for Forde and the members of this House and the Australian public that the Australian government is absolutely committed to the security of this nation and to keeping Australians safe.
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