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New counter-terrorism measures.
2 October 2001
NEW COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES
Cabinet today approved the preparation of legislation that will assist in dealing with international terrorism, for introduction after the election. The legislation will:
Supplement the existing warranting regime under which the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation exercises special powers; âï¿»ï¿»ï¿»
Create a new general offence of terrorism and an offence related to preparing for, or planning, terrorist acts; and âï¿»ï¿»ï¿»
Amend the Proceeds of Crime Act 1987 to allow terrorist property to be frozen and seized. âï¿»ï¿»ï¿»
Cabinet also agreed that Australia should sign the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism as soon as practicable.
The measures were recommended as part of a high-level review of the implications for Australian security and counter-terrorism arrangements of the terrorist attacks in the United States. That review is continuing and will make further recommendations on Australia’s counter-terrorism arrangements in due course.
The Howard Government is confident that Australia has well practised and cooperative counter-terrorism plans. We also have a raft of Commonwealth, State and Territory legislation that deals with terrorism. While there is no intelligence available to indicate that Australia is an intended target of further terrorist attacks, we must remain vigilant and take appropriate defensive measures.
Under legislative reforms agreed by Cabinet, the Director-General of Security will be able to seek a warrant from a federal magistrate, or a legal member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, that would require a person to appear before a prescribed authority (such as a federal magistrate or a legal member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal), to provide information or to produce documents or things. These reforms would allow ASIO, before a prescribed authority, to question people not themselves suspected of terrorist activity, but who may have information that may be relevant to ASIO’s investigations into politically motivated violence.
The legislation would also authorise the State or Federal Police, acting in conjunction with ASIO, to arrest a person and bring that person before the prescribed authority. Such action only would only be authorised where the magistrate or tribunal member
was satisfied it was necessary in order to protect the public from politically motivated violence.
While these are significant new powers, to deal with significant new threats, stringent safeguards will be introduced in relation to the exercise of these powers. It is proposed that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD be required to review these provisions and report to the Attorney-General by 1 December 2002. It is also proposed that, under the legislation, ASIO would be required to give the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security a copy of the warrant and a statement containing details of any detention that has taken place as soon as possible after such action has taken place.
We will also introduce new general offences of terrorism modelled largely on those in the UK Terrorism Act 2000 and subject to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. These offences will cover violent attacks and threats of violent attacks intended to advance a political, religious or ideological cause which are directed against or endanger Commonwealth interests. The proposed new offences will provide a useful adjunct to the fight against terrorism. A large number of terrorist acts are already covered by existing Commonwealth and State and Territory criminal laws.
The Australian Federal Police and Customs officers will be given increased powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to search for and seize property of any kind that is used or intended to be used for terrorism or is the proceeds of terrorism. This would cover, for example, money derived from stock-market manipulation of the kind that is alleged to have occurred shortly before the incidents of 11 September.
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