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Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Page: 4057

Mr KEENAN (5:27 PM) —I rise to speak on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. I think it is worthwhile that this House recall that as we debate this bill today, in numerous places around the world members of Australia’s armed forces, the Australian Federal Police, and officers of Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, are undertaking dangerous and difficult tasks in pursuit of Australia’s national security. The tasks that they are performing are difficult but necessary.

Equally important to Australia’s national security are our anti-terrorist intelligence operations. In the post 9/11 world, Australia has expanded its counterterrorism capacity through the state police forces and the Australian Federal Police, through ASIO and through ASIS. The fact that there has been no terrorist attack on Australian soil testifies to our success, and in this vital area it is imperative that the Rudd government continues to build on the good work of the previous coalition government. The former coalition government understood that keeping the Australian people safe is the most basic duty of government.

One important facet of Australia’s national security where this Labor government has failed dismally is in border security. Since August 2008, when the government dismantled our effective border protection system, there have been 128 illegal boat arrivals, carrying 5,932 people. This year alone there have been 60 illegal boat arrivals carrying 2,961 people. The Prime Minister’s failed immigration and border protection policies are now bringing illegal boats in record numbers but unlike the coalition the Prime Minister is unwilling to take the necessary action to fix the chaos that has been created by his own inability to leave well enough alone, when he came to office.

Instead, we now find Labor asking churches to take asylum seekers as the Christmas Island detention centre overflows and onshore detention centres swell under the weight of Labor’s inept immigration and border protection policies. The rate of arrivals is literally overwhelming the available capacity of our border protection forces, who do incredibly difficult and hard work keeping Australia safe.

Labor’s failed border protection policies have cost taxpayers an extra $1 billion over four years, according to figures announced in the recent budget. The government is chasing its tail with these costs. It is doing nothing to stop these costs from skyrocketing. Its answer is just to keep shovelling money to pay for these blow-outs, which have now contributed to this ridiculous and unnecessary $1 billion blow-out—money that the Australian taxpayer would never have been required to spend in these areas if Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party had just been able to contain themselves and not mess with the successful border protection system that we had in place. This $1 billion blow-out could just be the beginning. It may well go higher, and it will go higher if the government is not changed and if they are the ones who keep ineptly managing our borders. People smuggling is an insidious trade that takes advantage of those in the most vulnerable situations. This Labor government needs to recognise this fact and take action towards stopping the boats from leaving in the first place rather than luring them with a Christmas Island reception centre.

I will just move to some of the detail of the proposals within this bill. The bill proposes amendments to legislation in four principal areas: treason, sedition and terrorism offences; powers to investigate terrorism and serious crime; the listing and proscription of terrorist organisations; and the protection of national security information and court proceedings. I want to talk about the first part—the treason, sedition and terrorism offences. The bill proposes that the offence of treason in the Criminal Code be amended by confining the offence to those who owe allegiance to Australia or who voluntarily place themselves under Australia’s protection, and clarifies that the offence of assisting the enemy refers to material assistance.

The offence of sedition is proposed to be renamed ‘urging violence’ and includes urging the overthrow of the Constitution or the government and urging interference in parliamentary elections. These provisions will require an intention that force or violence would be used. A new offence is also proposed of urging the use of force or violence against a group distinguished by race, religion, nationality, national origin or political opinion. There is a lesser offence if the force does not threaten the peace, order and good governance of the Commonwealth. The defence of ‘acts done in good faith’ is clarified by making it relevant that acts were done in the context of artistic work, in genuine academic or scientific discourse or in the dissemination of news or current affairs.

It is proposed to repeal the offences relating to unlawful associations. These are claimed to be outdated and subsumed by the terrorist organisation laws. Amendments to the definition of a terrorist act propose to include the United Nations as a target of the act. The definition of the harm intended to be caused by a terrorist act is extended to include psychological harm.

The new offence of committing a terrorist hoax is proposed, with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 10 years. The offence of advocating the doing of a terrorist act will be amended to provide that the prosecution must establish that there is a substantial risk that it could lead another person to commit a terrorist act. This is consistent with the concept of risk elsewhere in the Criminal Code. The offence of providing support to a terrorist organisation is clarified to mean material support. I would like to acknowledge at this point the very substantial contribution of the former Attorney-General, the member for Berowra, who was very proactive in dealing with these issues.

I will go to section 2, powers to investigate terrorism and serious crime. Amendments are proposed to the Crimes Act which are said to arise from recent operational experience. The division relating to powers of detention will be separated into two subdivisions to deal with terrorism and terrorism offences. In the case of terrorism offences, the maximum length of time that a person can be detained during an investigation period is proposed to be seven days and 20 hours. The provisions relating to re-entry under an existing search warrant will be amended to permit re-entry within one hour in normal circumstances and 12 hours in an emergency situation. In addition, it is proposed that entry without a warrant be permitted in emergency situations when investigating terrorism. It is proposed that there be a right of appeal both to prosecutors and defendants against bail decisions if there are exceptional circumstances.

Moving to the third area of amendments, the listing and proscription of terrorist organisations, minor amendments are proposed to provide for listing if the minister is satisfied of the proscribed matters on reasonable grounds. Listings are to be reviewed every three years. As stated in the bill’s explanatory memorandum:

Currently under subsection 102.1(3) of the Criminal Code, the listing of an organisation ceases to have effect two years after its commencement, or if the Attorney-General ceases to be satisfied that the organisation is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act, whichever occurs first.

The purpose of the automatic expiration is to ensure that if the Government wishes to continue the proscription, the Attorney-General has considered afresh all the relevant information and is satisfied that there is a sufficient factual basis to justify the proscription for a further period.

The proposed amendments … will provide that a regulation proscribing an entity as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code will automatically expire on the third anniversary of the day on which it took effect. This is consistent with a recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security … in its Inquiry into the Proscription of ‘terrorist organisations’ under the Australian Criminal Code (September 2007). The Committee, which is responsible for reviewing all listings of terrorist organisations … concluded that extending the period of a listing regulation from two to three years would offer an adequate level of oversight.

The fourth area consists of amendments to the National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004. The purpose of the act is to protect information from disclosure in federal criminal proceedings and civil court proceedings where the disclosure would be likely to prejudice Australia’s national security. The act has been invoked some 38 times, and the experience informs some relatively minor amendments, principally to clarify that notification should be made to a party’s legal representatives and to streamline the definition of situations in which disclosure would be permitted. In some situations, answers to questions in court may be made in writing.

I turn now to the concurrent bill, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010. The establishment of the committee was a proposal of the discussion paper on proposed reforms to counterterrorism and national security legislation. The proposed committee will replace and extend the functions of the current Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, of which I am privileged to be a member. The principal extension is the inclusion of the Australian Federal Police. The committee will be asked to examine trends and changes in criminal activities, practices and methods, and to report on any desirable changes to the functions, structures, powers and procedures of the ACC or AFP. It will also inquire into any question in connection with its functions that is referred to it by either house of parliament.

Unregulated and increasingly voluminous people movements are testing this Labor government’s border security policies; and, as we know, Australia has essentially become a magnet for this insidious trade peddled by people smugglers. It was my privilege very recently to visit Christmas Island. I met some of the brave Australian service personnel—in this instance, serving on HMAS Albany—who engage with Border Protection Command in patrolling our northern waters to intercept illegal boat arrivals. The crew were called Attack 4 division and they were led by Lieutenant Commander Paul Garai as part of Operation Resolute, the ADF’s contribution to protecting Australia’s borders. They obviously work alongside personnel from Customs and other agencies. Up to 400 ADF personnel are assigned to Operation Resolute. It is the largest ADF operation outside Afghanistan. I think it is very important that we in this House acknowledge that there are grave dangers for our personnel who are involved in Operation Resolute. Indeed, going back to the incidents surrounding the SIEV36, it is possible that Australian service personnel on the intercepting patrol boat could have been injured or killed. So it is very important, I think, that we knowledge that the work they are doing is vital to Australia’s security and also involves some personal danger to themselves.

When I visited Christmas Island I had the chance to meet with Customs and Australian Federal Police officers, who are doing an excellent job of performing the policing and customs functions on the island, as well as dealing with illegal boat arrivals. All Australian government personnel deal compassionately yet firmly with the range of people seeking entry to Australia. I salute the professionalism which Customs, AFP and our armed forces apply when performing this very important task. We, the Australian parliament, expect a great deal of them and they have a right to know that the Australian people are fully behind them.

It is worth noting that the bill, together with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill, has been referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 15 June. The coalition reserves its right to move amendments in the Senate, pending the committee’s recommendations. The coalition strongly believes that governments have a responsibility to do everything within their power to improve national security and to deal with all potential threats that face Australia. Waiting for a terrorist attack to occur is unacceptable. It is integral that this package of reforms delivers strong laws that protect our safety while at the same time it preserves democratic rights to protect our freedoms. Therefore, the opposition supports the thrust of both the bills.