Mr IRONS (Swan) (14:19): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister update the House on the increasing number of children and teenagers being drawn into the crimes of the Daesh death cult?
Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:19): I thank the member for Swan for his question and I acknowledge his concern about this matter. The Government is committed to protecting vulnerable young Australians from the clutches of violent extremists such as Daesh. The number of Australians involved in or supporting Daesh continues to grow. Worryingly, the demographic is getting younger. Australian children as young as eight are being caught up in Daesh's poisonous web. Minors from around the world are being drawn to the Syria-Iraq conflict, cynically exploited by Daesh as cannon fodder, as suicide bombers, as sex slaves.
Australians have been appalled by an Australian child holding up a severed head of a Syrian soldier, 14-year-old Australian girls being married off to terrorist fighters and the tragic cases of Australian suicide bombers, young teenagers Adam Dahman and Jake Bilardi. The exploitation of children in war is an affront to humanity. Child soldiers have been exploited and abused in conflicts in Sierra Leone and Uganda. Boko Haram, another violent terrorist organisation, is using young girls as suicide bombers in Nigeria. But the nature and scale with which Daesh is exploiting the young and vulnerable is unprecedented. Just last week, Daesh posted photos of Indonesian children 10 years and younger reportedly being trained to use assault weapons in Daesh controlled territory. It is hard not to be pessimistic about their fate.
I am aware that a number of Australian minors have been taken by their parents to Syria and Iraq to take part in the conflict. Others have attempted to leave without the knowledge of their families. Thankfully, we have stopped many of them leaving, with our newly strengthened border control regulations and laws. Yet others are supporting Daesh from home, with funding and with other forms of support. Daesh propaganda is reaching into our households promoting a false sense of meaning and belonging, but in reality they are just drawing vulnerable minors into violence and brutality and death. It must be stopped.
That is why the Australian Government is working with community leaders to put in place a comprehensive package of intervention strategies. It is why more than $21 million is committed to counter the lies that terrorists spread online and to extend mainstream community voices to those who most need to hear them. It is why we are working with partner countries to share intelligence and experiences on combating extremist propaganda. This Government is committed to preventing the exploitation of children and teenagers by violent extremists and to keeping our people safe.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555