By Rachel Clun
The entirety of Palestinian group Hamas has been listed as a terrorist organisation by the federal government as Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says the Coalition has no higher priority than national security.
Reaction to the decision has been mixed, with a Jewish group welcoming the move as an Australian Palestinian group said it was the wrong decision.
The federal government has also listed Syrian-based Sunni Islamist militant group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, al-Qaeda-affiliated group Hurras al-Din and neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Order under the criminal code.
“The views of Hamas and the violent extremist groups listed today are deeply disturbed, and there is no place in Australia for such views,” Ms Andrews said on Thursday.
Hamas’ military branch, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the Australian government since 2003. A bipartisan inquiry by the intelligence and security committee late last year recommended all of Hamas be listed, saying the group’s military wing was intertwined with its political arm.
The government’s decision could have diplomatic ramifications. Australia has a consular presence in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas administers government services.
The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network president Bishop George Browning said the decision showed the Australian government had failed to advance the cause of peace.
“The entire process leading up to this designation has been led by those who have a political barrow to push, with only pro-Israeli groups being sought out for evidence,” he said.
The Zionist Federation of Australia said it was the right decision and brought Australia into line with the positions of the United Kingdom, Canada, United States and European Union on Hamas.
“The idea that Australia could artificially differentiate between different parts of Hamas never really passed the pub test,” said the federation’s director of public affairs, Bren Carlill. “This decision rights a wrong, and what’s really important is that it was bipartisan.”
Ms Andrews said listing a group as a terrorist organisation was a move the government took extremely seriously and it first considered advice from several government agencies.
“I have received information from a number of our agencies in relation to Hamas and I am of the view that the threshold to list as a terrorist organisation has been met,” she said.
When asked how ordinary Palestinians living in Australia would be protected from getting caught up in the expanded Hamas listing, Ms Andrews said the Attorney-General would work on the offences under the Criminal Code.
“There is more work that will be done … to make sure that the rights of those people who are not supporting terrorist organisations are not impacted,” she said. “However, let’s be clear that we have listed these organisations because they meet the threshold to be listed as terrorist organisations and there will be criminal offences.”
The federal government has increased its focus on national security ahead of the federal election, likely to be a weekend in May, and has attacked Labor in the last week over its approach to crime and foreign interference.
The Home Affairs Minister said people who actively supported acts of terrorism or a terrorist organisation, people who were members of terrorist groups, those who provided funding for terrorism activities or participated in training could all face criminal charges.
“There is no higher priority for the Morrison government than the protection of Australia,” Ms Andrews said.
On Thursday, the federal government also re-listed the Philippines’ Abu Sayyaf Group, al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb and Jemaah Islamiyah as terrorist organisations.