I rise today with my colleagues on this side and those on the other side to condemn terrorism. I also speak on behalf of all Canberrans in condemning terrorism. It gives me great sadness to reflect on the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Mali, Beirut and Istanbul and the one late last year in Sydney.
Before that, there were the attacks in New York, Bali, Nigeria, Yemen, Cameroon and many, many other places around the world. It is heartbreaking to think of the families who have lost loved ones at the hands of a terrorist.
The only thing that gives me hope is the way that horrific events such as in Paris, Istanbul and Mali and horrific situations such as we have seen in Sydney have exposed the worst of human nature but also exposed the best. The outpouring of support and love, care and compassion that we have seen flow after these attacks in Paris, Beirut, Istanbul and Sydney has been remarkable, deeply moving and incredibly powerful. People have rallied around those countries and communities and the people who live there, sending messages of support and prayers from every part of the world.
This is what needs to happen. In these challenging times that we face at the moment we must focus on what unites us and not on what divides us. Now, more than ever, is the time to support one another and stare down this hate. We must do everything we can to defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Qaeda offshoots. It is promising to see world leaders uniting on this. It was the focus of everyone's attention at the G20, at APEC and at the East Asia Summit. It is promising to see world leaders coming together with a strong determination to come up with coordinated strategies to defeat ISIS. This gives me hope that we will defeat ISIS —because we must.
Terrorism is an affront to all humanity. There is no question just how little regard ISIS has for human life. We have seen public murders, slavery and systematic sexual abuse. We have seen the most unspeakable acts of sexual violence, where rape and sexual abuse are not just a by-product of war but used as a deliberate military strategy to degrade the enemy.
Horrifyingly, we have learned that girls from Iraq and Syria have been stripped, sold and, in many cases, made to undergo over a dozen virginity reparation surgeries. There are of course countless reasons to destroy, degrade or contain terrorism in all its forms, but the sorts of horrific stories we are hearing about those women and what they have to endure are reason enough. What I find most deplorable is the fact that, as I said, sexual slavery and the degradation of women and girls has become not just a by-product of war but a deliberate strategy.
We were all horrified to hear just recently about the mass grave that was dug up and the 100 Yazidi women found there who were aged between 40 and 80. That story did not just speak about the fact that these women had been killed—and I hate to think about how they were killed—but also spoke about the other women. What happened to the girls? What happened to the other girls in that community who were in their teens, 20s and 30s? What happened to all the women who were aged under 40? Where are they? That is what I worry about. That is the thing that really keeps me driven on this issue. This is the reason I want to see this hateful organisation overcome. What happened to those young girls? They are probably sex slaves. God knows where they are now. They are probably scattered throughout the region. It reminds us again about what happened to those schoolgirls that Boko Haram took more than 12 months ago. I think we are getting up to 18 months. What happened to them? Where are they? And where are the Yazidi girls? What are they enduring each day at the hands of these barbarians?
As I said, there are countless reasons to destroy, degrade or contain terrorism in all its forms and bring down ISIS and Boko Haram and all those evil offshoots of al-Qaeda. But, for me, the use of sexual violence as an act of terror is one of the worst possible crimes against humanity and the most compelling reason to defeat this evil. We absolutely must fight this evil in every way we can.
According to the United Nations, sexual violence in conflict is one of the greatest moral issues of our time. It is a moral issue we face now, and it has been a moral issue for time immemorial. Historically, rape was characterised as a private crime and not a matter of universal human rights. It was considered a crime against a woman's honour rather than an act of gross physical violence. To date, the focus on sexual violence has been on state actors. However, the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, as an orchestrated, institutionalised, industrialised terror tactic and as a combat tool is a more recent phenomenon—and a horrifying and unimaginable one at that. What we are seeing with ISIS is a non-state actor engaging in the most unspeakable acts of sexual violence. It is different to other uses of sexual violence in conflict because women's bodies have now become part of the terrain of conflict, according to a report by Amnesty International. As I said, rape and sexual abuse are not just a by-product of war; they are used as a deliberate military strategy.
The United Nations estimates that ISIS has forced some 1,500 women, teenage girls and boys into sexual slavery, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the true figure is far greater. I have seen reports of between 1,500 and 6,000, but, after the mass graves of Yazidi women and girls were found recently—which makes you wonder what happened to them—I am sure the figure is far greater than that 6,000. The UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict found that girls from Iraq and Syria were made to engage in the most unspeakable acts of sexual violence. What these women, young girls and boys have had to endure is just unspeakable. The intense shame that accompanies these acts is too much for many women to bear, with a number later committing suicide.
As I said earlier, it is a great moral issue of our time, as described by the Special Representative of the SecretaryGeneral on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura. As I also said earlier, there are countless reasons to destroy, degrade or contain terrorism in all its forms, but for me it is especially for the women and children, who often suffer the most during and after conflict. In order to protect these women and children and all of those living in the Middle East region, as well as those who have been forced to flee, we must defeat ISIS. The situation we face is complex, with many elements, so the solution must include military, political, diplomatic and humanitarian strategies and assistance for refugees.
I am proud of Labor's bipartisan approach to national security. So far Labor has supported and enhanced four rounds of national security legislation and the government's decision to deploy our ADF personnel to the Middle East to protect civilians and build the capacity of Iraq's security forces. We can and must provide Iraqi armed forces with the skills and training needed to defeat ISIS. Labor also welcomed the government's commitment— after we had called on the government to increase our existing refugee intake—to take in an additional 12,000 refugees.
While Labor has consistently sought to provide bipartisanship on national security, we have also called for greater transparency. We have been calling on the government to develop and make public a long-term, inclusive and coherent strategy to end the conflict and to make Australia's objective as transparent as possible. Australians have the right to know what the strategy involves and, most importantly, what our exit strategy would look like, so we will continue to call for greater transparency.
After the most recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the world has united as never before to defeat those who would wish us harm—to defeat ISIS. This has involved our ADF personnel, who have played a vital role in that strategy. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the men and women of our Defence Force for their courage, dedication and bravery. It is these qualities that make our Defence Force what it is—a world-class Defence Force.
There are 780 Australian Defence Force personnel currently deployed in the Middle East region, including Iraq, and another 1,461 deployed elsewhere overseas. These men and women spend months—sometimes years— away from their home and loved ones. They often put their lives on the line in order to protect Australia and our national interests. We owe them so much. We also owe their families, who make a great sacrifice, so much. I would like to extend my thanks to our ADF personnel and their families, and to Australia's security agencies, who are working around the clock to keep Australians safe.
I would like to offer my deepest condolences to those who have lost someone they love as a result of terrorism. ISIS, Boko Haram and the al-Qaeda offshoots are a scourge on our nation and the world, and we must do all we can to defeat them. They are evil. We must do everything we can in a military, diplomatic and political sense. There has to be a holistic, coherent and cohesive approach. We have to have a military response; we have to have a political response; we have to have to have a diplomatic response; and, as I said before, we have to have a humanitarian response. The best way for us to respond is by standing together in solidarity—united, not divided —and joining together in love, not dividing in hate.
I want to conclude with the words of the French ambassador. The foreign minister and I were at a function with French industry at his residence last week. He made a very powerful and compelling speech that was deeply moving for everyone who was there. I encourage all Australians to follow his words, which were, in a way, an act of defiance. He sent a very positive message to all Australians and to the world: we are alive and we are not afraid.