AUSTRALIA’S Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has recommended the federal government consider listing Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organisation.
The committee today tabled its report on the Review of the re-listing of Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code.
While the committee supported the re-listing of Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation (ESO) under the Criminal Code, it has also recommended that the government consider expanding the listing to include the whole organisation of Hezbollah.
Committee chair Senator James Paterson said that the committee is supportive of the government’s decision to re-list Hezbollah’s ESO but is concerned that Australia is falling behind its Five Eyes partners and many other countries.
The US, Canada and more recently the UK have listed the entire Hezbollah organisation as a terrorist group while New Zealand has proscribed Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group.
“The evidence provided to the committee was overwhelmingly supportive of proscribing Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organisation, rather than only the ESO. On the strength of this evidence, the committee thinks it’s time for the government to consider expanding the listing as all of our Five Eyes partners have done,” Senator Paterson said.
Deputy chair Anthony Byrne MP concurred, “It’s clear that the distinction drawn between the ESO and the rest of Hezbollah is arbitrary, and in the committee’s judgement, not something Australia should persist with.”
Jewish community leaders in Australia also welcomed the recommendation.
The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), as well as the Zionist Federation of Australia and Executive Council of Australian Jewry, each presented a written submission to the committee noting that expanding the listing would be both in Australia’s national interest and would prevent Hezbollah taking advantage of Australia as a safe haven – as other countries have moved to ban the militant group.
“This is a mighty step in the right direction for Australia and reflects the seriousness with which the committee takes the deadly activities of Hezbollah,” AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein said.
“I thank chair Senator James Paterson, shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus and all the other committee members for their thoughtful consideration of this matter.
“I urge [Home Affairs] Minister Karen Andrews to seriously consider the committee’s recommendations. This committee, which reached its recommendations unanimously, very rarely proposes a change to the Minister’s decision when it comes to terrorism listings. The fact that it has recommended a change to the current listing needs to be respected.”
Three years ago, the last time the listing of the Hezbollah’s ESO was reviewed, the committee recommended the Australian government extend Australia’s terrorist listing to the entirety of the military wing. That recommendation was not accepted by then-Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.
“It is now the right time for the Australian government to list Hezbollah in its entirety,” Rubenstein added. “During the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, we saw Australians flying Hezbollah flags on Sydney streets and read vile comments from Australians who support the murderous group on social media.”
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said, “The distinction Australia makes between the ESO and the rest of Hezbollah is arbitrary, wrong and repeatedly rejected by the Hezbollah leadership. The PJCIS recognises this. We urge the Minister to adopt the committee’s recommendation and proscribe the entire organisation.
“The bipartisan consensus of the committee reflects a deep commitment on both sides of politics to both Australian security and the international role Australia should play in undermining Hezbollah. This is an excellent outcome, though I won’t pop the champagne until Hezbollah in its entirety has been proscribed.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim said the committee’s report has “at last shattered the myth that Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation operates as a discrete entity within it”.
“We are especially heartened by the rare bipartisan unanimity on the committee about the need to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety,” Wertheim stated.
“The onus now falls squarely on the Department of Home Affairs and DFAT to acknowledge that Hezbollah operates with one heart and mind and that terrorism and other forms of criminality are an inseparable part of its enterprise, so that the whole organisation can be proscribed.”