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Tuesday, 4 November 2003
Page: 21933

Mr JULL (4:16 PM) —The honourable member for Griffith has made accusations that this government has done nothing or very little in terms of its control of terrorism. I was watching the clips of the Senate estimates committee this morning where the Director-General of ASIO, Dennis Richardson, was answering some questions about this Brigitte affair. I thought it was quite interesting that one of the lines that he used and that we have not heard quoted in the chamber today was simply the fact that, as a result of this particular operation, we should wait to see what might evolve and that he expected, as I read it, some quite startling evidence to come forth.

I think that what we have seen today is a rather flippant contribution by the member for Griffith, who has not really given the true facts of the situation or given true credit to the government for exactly what it has achieved and what it has done in the two years since September 11. There has been an absolute swathe of legislation. There has been a tremendous amount of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the various state governments to put in place almost everything one could possibly imagine that would be required to protect the people of Australia. There is a realisation by this government that ensuring the security of the nation is the most important role that we have to play. I could read chapter and verse the legislative initiatives that we have seen come through this parliament in recent months, but I will only mention some.

There was the Criminal Code amendment that dealt with hoaxes. There was another amendment to that code about strengthening our espionage laws. There also was the amendment which made it an offence to murder, commit manslaughter or intentionally or recklessly cause serious harm to an Australian outside Australia. There was the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002, which was a huge move to ensure that Australians had protection. There was the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Act 2002, which cut off the funds for terrorism—you are never going to beat terrorism unless you cut off the money. That legislation was enacted to specifically ensure that we could prevent the movement of funds for terrorist purposes and enhance the exchange of information about financial transaction reports with foreign countries.

Another measure was the Criminal Code Amendment (Suppression of Terrorist Bombings) Act 2002. There was also the Telecommunications Interception Legislation Amendment Act 2002, which allowed for the use of intercepted material by law enforcement agencies investigating a range of criminal activities, including terrorism. I wonder how much that had to do with the Brigitte case. It goes on and on. There was the Border Security Legislation Amendment Act 2002, which had to do with the surveillance and movement of people and goods. There was the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2003. We remember what went on with that. We remember the various changes to the ASIO Act that came into this House, were passed and went to the Senate, where they sat while the Labor Party decided that they wanted changes, even though the joint select committee had agreed to this legislation, and that they were going to delay it, and delay it they did. There was the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2003, which was a major piece of cooperation between the states and the Commonwealth, giving the Commonwealth certain powers to legislate on matters concerning terrorism. There was the Criminal Code Amendment (Hizballah) Act 2003. And we know we have to go further than that.

It was interesting today to hear the Labor Party say, `Oh yes, we will back any act like that.' I wonder whether, in those terms, they are aware of or would be prepared to take the actions that some other countries around the world have taken—all of them are much tougher than ours. For example, in the United States the Secretary of State can designate an organisation for two years on finding it to be a foreign organisation that engages in terrorism or which threatens the security of that country or its nationals. In the United Kingdom, the Home Secretary can add or remove names from a list if he believes the organisation is involved in terrorism. In Canada, there is provision for terrorist organisations to be listed in regulations if the Solicitor General has reasonable grounds to believe the entity knowingly carried out or participated in terrorist acts. In New Zealand, the Prime Minister can list a terrorist identity if she has good cause to suspect that the entity has been knowingly involved in a terrorist activity—and that listing has a life of three years. But in Australia, we had to put through our own separate act of parliament, and we are going to do it again to list two other organisations. There must be a better system.

I have heard in radio reports and in question time today that the Labor Party has put through a proposition whereby we might be able to go to a judge. I would have thought it was the responsibility of the government and of this parliament to make sure that we had the best, quickest and most effective protection that we could possibly provide to our citizens. I suggest that it would be a much better proposition if we could have that provision with protections to make sure that we do have the capacity to list those entities that might be a threat to Australia.

In terms of the cooperation between the national government and the states, while we have legislation in place, there have been many practical examples of how the states and the Commonwealth have been coming together to provide that protection. There is the National Counter-Terrorism Committee. We have our own national counter-terrorism plan. There are specific exercise and training programs. There have been specific provisions made for the provision of equipment to state and territory police and tactical groups in terms of overcoming problems with chemical, biological or radiological attacks. Already there have been some major contributions made to securing the safety of air travellers, and a lot of work has been done in the maritime area as well. So it is simply not true to say that the government have done nothing. But it is true that as we go on through this journey of trying to control the scourge of terrorism there will be other aspects of operations that come out and we will have to come back time and again and change our legislation or provide new legislation to ensure that we give the people of Australia the best possible protection.

There is just one thing that I hope: that the words we have heard today from the opposition will be acted upon in a spirit of real cooperation; that we will have speedy resolutions to some of the problems that will come up in terms of that legislation; and that we will not have some of the delaying tactics that we have seen in the 12 or 18 months gone by. I believe that we have left ourselves open in some cases because of those delays. In the next couple of weeks we are going to see some examples of that. There is specific legislation coming up dealing with ASIS. I hope that we will see the speedy passage of that ASIS bill through both houses of this parliament, because that legislation is involved in the protection of Australia's agents overseas and it is a very important piece of legislation.

I would hate to think that we are going to see some of the delaying tactics that we have seen on previous bills being undertaken in the Senate again. I hope that, as the shadow Attorney-General has given us today, we will have a guarantee that we will see the speedy passage of the proscription legislation and that we can get that into place just as fast as we possibly can. As I say, the principal role of any government or parliament is to make sure that the people of Australia have absolute security available to them. We have that obligation. I hope that, rather than playing some of the games that we have seen in this place in recent months, we will have a sense of cooperation and commitment and that, for once, we can join together to provide that protection for the people of Australia.

Mr Ruddock —In my response I referred to Mr Sadleir as the director-general of ASIS. In fact, I understand he was the Director-General of ASIO.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Order! The discussion is now concluded.