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Monday, 28 November 2005
Page: 81

Mr TURNBULL (5:58 PM) —All of us would prefer that we had no need to make laws of the kind contained in the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2005. This bill is a response to the threat of terrorism. It is a responsible and measured strengthening of our capacity to perform the highest duty of any society: protecting the security and safety of its citizens.

We live in dangerous times. We are facing an assault on our free society from murderous totalitarians who, in the name of Islam—a religion they defile with their violence and intolerance—are determined to destroy us. We speak of a war against terror, but we know that truly this is no more a war against terror than the Second World War was a war against tanks or aeroplanes. Terror is the tool used by those totalitarians who not only seek to destroy Western society and our freedoms, but seek to overthrow the vast majority of governments of Islamic nations which do not conform to the extreme totalitarian ideology of the terrorists.

All of us have been horrified by the way in which young men and women born in the West have been brought into this terrorist campaign. One of the London bombers was a 20-year-old, cricket-loving son of a small businessman. How many of us would have fitted that description when we were 20? Yet he decided, or was persuaded, that his mission was to destroy his own life and that of many others.

It has already become obvious that there have been efforts to radicalise members of the second generation of Muslims living in Europe. Too many of the children of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East, far from integrating with the host society—and seeing themselves as French, British or German—are being urged to adopt a pan-Islamic identity as a substitute for the national identity of the countries of which they are citizens.

The identities of all of us are made up of different elements—nationality, religion, cultural background and locality, to name just a few—but a cohesive and secure society cannot afford to allow those trying to subvert it to develop within that society a hostile minority which not only rejects any common identity with other citizens, but is so despising of the host society, our society, that it seeks to destroy it. There are people in our midst who promote hatred and who glorify terrorism and violence—both within and without our borders. Our greatest challenge is to stop these inciters of hatred from misguiding the young minds they seek to pervert to violence. And to do that we need strong laws, good intelligence and efficient police work; but above all we need the co-operation and support of our fellow Australians of Muslim faith. We must not forget that a key objective of the terrorists is to stir up resentment against Muslims, so that as they feel more alienated from the wider Australian society they are more vulnerable to the terrorists’ propaganda.

The only truly effective weapon against extreme totalitarian Islam is moderate Islam. Any Australians who respond to terrorism by demeaning or denouncing Muslims are reacting precisely in the way the terrorists intend them to. And that is why our defence against the terrorist threat must be conducted on many fronts. Swift action by police and intelligence agencies is vital and should be applauded, but so is the winning of hearts and minds. And in that regard, the leadership shown by the Prime Minister in engaging the Muslim community of Australia has been as important as his leadership in responding decisively to immediate threats of terrorist attack.

The Prime Minister met with leading members of the Muslim community on 26 August 2005 and a Muslim community reference group was subsequently formed, which could work with the Australian government, and with their respective community groups in creating communication and support networks that will promote understanding between the Muslim community and the wider Australian community. The obligation is upon all of us to promote communication, understanding and mutual support between the wider Australian community and the Muslim community—because it is the Muslim community that is most under threat from terrorism.

This bill effects several significant changes to our law. When we last considered it I confined my remarks, in the time I had available to me, to the provisions concerning sedition. Since then the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has produced its report on this bill. That report was tabled only an hour or so ago. I note that the committee recommends that the sedition amendments be removed from the bill in their entirety and that the Law Reform Commission be tasked with conducting a public inquiry into the most appropriate legislative vehicle for addressing the issue of incitement to terrorism.

As you know, the Attorney-General has already undertaken that he will conduct a review of the sedition provisions next year. So the Senate committee contends that the government would be better conducting the review before any changes at all are made to the law on sedition. The government has in the time available, therefore, a choice between leaving the law on sedition in its current unsatisfactory state—unsatisfactory not least because a spotlight has now been shone on provisions that had generally been considered dead—and having a thorough inquiry into the best way to proscribe incitement to terrorism before passing new laws, or on the other hand, passing the amendments in this bill, which, as I said previously, arguably improve the law, and certainly make it no worse, and then reviewing it all in the New Year. This is essentially a practical question for the Attorney-General to determine. The course of action recommended by the Senate has much to commend it, but, as I said when parliament last sat, I am content to support the bill in its current form on the basis that there will be a review of the law on sedition in the New Year. I do not resile from that commitment.

The most important provisions of this bill, however, are the introduction of control orders and preventative detention. These provisions bring about a significant change to our criminal justice system because they enable persons to be detained where there is insufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge. All governments, and the vast majority of Australians, while recognising the significance of these innovations, accept that the threat of terror calls for a strong response.

The control order provisions enable a court to impose, at the request of the Australian Federal Police, restrictions on the movement and conduct of a person in circumstances where the court is satisfied that making the order would substantially assist in preventing a terrorist act or where the person concerned has provided training to, or received training from, a listed terrorist organisation.

The court is obliged to satisfy itself that the restrictions are appropriate and necessary for the purpose of protecting the public. In forming that view, it must take into account the effect of the prohibitions on the person’s financial and personal circumstances. The court’s order is appealable in the usual way. Applications may be made to revoke it or vary it at any time.

Preventative detention works somewhat differently. In that case, a person may be detained for a short period to prevent an imminent terrorist act occurring or to preserve evidence of a recent terrorist act. A senior AFP officer may, if he or she suspects a person will be or has been engaged in terrorist activity, detain that person for 24 hours only. An additional period of 24 hours can be obtained from a judge, former judge or magistrate.

Such orders are subject to review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and, of course, judicial review by the Federal Court and High Court in their original jurisdictions. An officer independent of the investigation has to monitor the person in detention, report on their situation and treatment and receive representations from them. In each case, if one accepts that control orders and preventative detention are necessary additions to our counter-terrorist capacity—as I believe all of us in this House do—it must be recognised that the bill provides a high level of accountability, review and oversight, including by parliament.