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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 11442

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (7:43 PM) —The government opposes these amendments. The proposal by the government would allow the provisions to operate retrospectively from the time of public announcement by the minister. The Attorney-General announced on 5 June 2003 that he intended to list the terrorist wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation as soon as it was open for him to do so. The regulations, which would be made within 60 days of the day on which the Criminal Code Amendment (Hizballah) Bill 2003 received royal assent in order for it to operate retrospectively from the date of the announcement, would put that into effect. The situation where we have had legislation acting retrospectively from the time of a ministerial announcement is accepted by convention, as long as the retrospectivity does not go back more than six months. In this case, it is for a short period of time, one which is acceptable in the normal convention of formulating legislation where there has been a public announcement. People have been placed on notice by virtue of the Attorney-General's announcement.

What is more, it is patently in the interests of Australia to have this retrospective action. We have seen today in the debate that there is a sense of urgency in having this legislation put in place in order to protect Australia's interests. We need to have this legislation relate back to the point at which the Attorney-General made the announcement. The retrospective operation of the regulation in no way pre-empts or diminishes the decision making process of the Attorney-General, who still needs to be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation is a terrorist organisation as defined in the act. We have provided express provision in the legislation to ensure that the public is kept fully informed, particularly where a listing will operate retrospectively. The ministerial announcement that I mentioned put people on notice as to what the government intended and these amendments will be circulated widely following that announcement by the Attorney-General. There is no transgression in relation to what the government is proposing here. It is simply relating things back to the time of the ministerial announcement on 5 June 2003.