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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Page: 132

Senator GREIG (5:29 PM) —I move Democrat amendment (1) on sheet 4597:

(1)    Page 2, after clause 3 (after line 11), insert:

4  Cessation of operation of Act

                  The amendments made by this Act, and the National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004, as amended, cease to operate at the expiration of 3 years after the commencement of this Act.

I spoke about this in my second reading contribution and made the point that we had recommended in our minority report to the inquiry on this bill that we believed there were strong grounds for including a sunset clause in the bill—that is, the opportunity to revisit and then re-enact the legislation if parliament were to desire that. I note that the government has given an undertaking to conduct a review of the legislation, and I understand that review will be after three years. However, that review is not legislatively mandated. We believe that a wiser, more cautious approach would be to see how the legislation operates over the next three years, then give parliament the opportunity to come back and debate it again in full. The key issue which will need to be monitored closely over this time of course is whether the legislation strikes the appropriate balance: the balance between protecting national security and protecting the rights of parties. The evidence may prove otherwise.

We do not take lightly the application of a sunset clause in this bill. As I have made clear, we are very concerned about the potential impact of the legislation. Our strong concerns in relation to the original act are in fact exacerbated by this bill. It is important to point out that we are not alone in holding these views. We share them with many well-known and reputable organisations, from human rights organisations like HREOC and Amnesty International to ethnic and cultural organisations such as the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network, which I spoke of. Perhaps the most significant concerns are those which have come from the legal profession. After all, it is lawyers who are most familiar with the court processes and who are therefore in a good position to judge the potential impact of this bill. Given the very serious concerns raised by these and other organisations—concerns that we Democrats share—we believe there is a sensible and compelling argument in favour of a sunset clause, and I commend the amendment to the chamber.