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Thursday, 20 September 2007
Page: 46

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (11:56 AM) —On behalf of the Australian Democrats, I move:

Schedule 1, item 3, page 3 (line 18), after “if”, insert “it is intended or might reasonably be regarded as intended by the creator of the material that”.

We believe this amendment reflects the need to exclude instances where material clearly has a purpose other than advocating terrorism. We believe that the bill is confused, because in some respects it asks the classifier to focus on the intention of the person who created the material and in other respects it clearly focuses on the effect of the material, intended or otherwise. The amendment will ensure that only material that might reasonably be regarded as intending to advocate terrorism—so acknowledging that intention role—will be refused classification. The amendment reflects HREOC’s view. It is one of the organisations that have been critical of the legislation before us. I quote from HREOC’s submission:

... a way of ensuring that legislation in this area is carefully targeted and proportionate—

there is that word again—

is to expressly require both a specific intent to incite the commission of a terrorist act and a concrete danger of this act being committed as a result of incitement.

In putting that comment from HREOC on the record, I remind the government that a number of organisations have been critical of the legislation; once again, it is not just the crossbenches. There are organisations and groups like the Law Council, the Gilbert and Tobin Centre, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the Australian Publishers Association—obviously we are dealing with some really vexed and important issues relating to freedom of speech and academic pursuit—the Classification Review Board, the Australian Press Council, the Sydney Centre for International and Global Law—which has given some helpful points on issues in this debate or surrounding issues, including a bill of rights—and the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties. I suspect that organisation might be regarded as a usual suspect by some in the government, but nonetheless their concerns have been duly noted.

There is a very strong argument from a number of groups that the law as it currently stands is sufficient; hence the concerns that the government have not provided sufficient justification. So, if you get away from the issue of constitutionality or the so-called power grab or anything to do with the state, territory and Commonwealth dilemmas or arguments, there are many other arguments in relation to this legislation, including the so-called empirical or lack of empirical justification. HREOC recommended that the proposal be reconsidered on the basis that it was not convinced of the necessity for tighter censorship laws in order to combat incitement and/or glorification of terrorism. The current provisions of the Classification Code provide that material must be refused classification if, among other things, it promotes, incites or instructs in matters of crime and violence. That is what we are talking about.

While I know the minister implores us to strip emotion away from the politics, I once again put on record that terrorism is emotional. Yes, we have to be clear-headed and hard-headed legislators in addressing and coming up with responses to terrorism, but we also have to be careful that we do not become political for the sake of it and, once again, incite fear in the community when we could be addressing in very clear and rational ways not only the causes but the perpetuation of violence, be that terrorism violence or any other violence in our community. Hence, the intent of our motion is to deal with intention and effect. I hope that the Labor Party and the government will duly consider the amendment before them.