Joining us to discuss parole laws and the greater issue of how to counter homegrown terror threats, we are joined by Federal Multicultural Affairs Minister, Senator Zed Seselja, terrorism and radicalisation expert Anooshe Mushtaq in Canberra –
And in Sydney, senior criminal lawyer, Manny Conditsis, who once represented the Lindt Cafe gunman Man Haron Monis. Good morning to you all. Minister we’ll go to you first. Earlier this week you called on the Muslim community to do more to identify people who had been, or were at risk of being radicalised. You went even further to argue that we have to stop pretending that terror attacks are not connected to Islam. Do you want to explain that to us?
Yeah, to be quite specific, I talked about Salifist Jihadism within Islam, an extreme teaching from some Muslim preachers which has unfortunately taken hold among some people, some people respond to that with terrorism – there is no doubt about that. The point I made is that we shouldn’t pretend that – in identifying what some of these challenges are and being honest about it, we are acknowledging and endorsing the fact that the majority of Muslims absolutely reject that extremist ideology. So I think it’s important we have that open and honest conversation because when we pretend there is no link to religion whatsoever, I think it’s insulting to all Australians and I think it then tends to put all Muslims under the spotlight more than they otherwise would.
And I think, you know, it tends to make people defensive about their religion Senator, rather than open to a discussion. Cause you are talking about this fanatical misuse and misinterpretation of a religion and that is a discussion with having.
That’s exactly right Andrew, when we do that, when we identify what the actual issue is – and we have many Muslim leaders who absolutely do that. And by having that open discussion we empower those Muslim leaders to deal with the small minority of radicals within the ranks.
Okay. Anooshe, you are an expert in preventing violent extremism, how difficult is it for Muslims to spot a potential terrorist – for anyone, but if we’re calling on the Muslim community to do it, how difficult is it?
I mean, every individual has its own drivers. I do agree with Senator Seselja that Muslims do need to think about what it is about the Jihadi Salafi ideology which is drawing especially the criminal minded Muslims and very young Muslims. Also we need to look at the radical groups which are on the ground here in Australia and also in the UK and France inciting the young Muslims to take action.
So how do people tell within those communities – what are the identifying signs that someone is being radicalised and you should be approaching them?
I think it is very difficult to understand each person, because sometimes parents or teachers think that they are being really religious, they are being a really good boy or good girl, but because we are connected with the internet around the world, now that all the kids have social media and Islamic State has a very slick social media campaign and their campaign is based on religious and cultural ideology and their misuse and misinterpretation of the Koran. It is presented in a way –
Manny, the COAG meeting yesterday agreed that state governments should reverse the presumption in favour of bail and parole cases where the defendant has known extremist links. As a defence lawyer, do these ideas have any merit?
Well, what does known terrorist links mean and having links to that mean? There is no harm in having a debate, having a conversation about these things and how we can better protect our citizens, our community. No doubt about that, no issue about that at all. But we’ve got to apply practical commonsense and not make decisions in the heat of the moment and knee-jerk type reactions to circumstances, as tragic as they no doubt are. It also has to be grounded in fact. Fact. I’ve had a number of people approach me this week and say ‘until I heard you speak, I didn’t know that parole meant a person had already served a prison sentence’. Let’s just start there for the benefit of at least some of your viewers. A person doesn’t get parole until they’ve served a term of imprisonment. They’ve been sentenced by a judge and they go to jail. Whether that is one year, three years, five years or 10 years at the end of that area they are ready to come out. They have served what’s called the non-parole period. What do you then do? Do you just let them back into the community? No. The concept of parole is not just to award the prisoner who has served a term of imprisonment, it is for the benefit of the community as well, to help assimilate that person back into the community. That is done by experienced parole officers keeping a track of that individual once they’ve served their non-parole period and they begin their assimilation into the community.
So you take that away you have lost your ability to be able to track what that person is up to and hopefully integrate them back into the community in a proper way. Just very quickly before we go Minister, some of the ideas being kicked around like internment camps, like overturning the presumption in favour of bail, these cut to the very heart of our legal system, of the notion of personal liberty. Can you guarantee us that there will be no snap decisions on this before we have had a very, very robust and educational public debate about this?
Well I’d separate those two issues you raise there. Obviously internment camps are something the Government is not considering in any way shape or form. But when it comes to presumptions against bail and parole, yes that’s something that was agreed to by first ministers yesterday at COAG. I actually think that that’s very important. I made this point in my speech this week Andrew, that I think we have been far too soft on all sorts of violent extremism. Whether it’s terrorism or otherwise through our justice system. Too many criminals get out on bail and go and commit serious crimes. Too many get out early and too many are getting short sentences. So, in the context of the terrorism debate, some of those will go on and commit terrorist offences or other violent crimes. So we do need to get smarter and tougher in the way we deal with this and certainly the Commonwealth Government is doing that.
Alright, thank you all for your time.
Senator Zed Seselja , Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs
Media and Community Affairs Adviser
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