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Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Page: 4066

Mr HAYES (6:08 PM) —I rise today to speak on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010—two bills which I strongly support. I am really happy to follow my friend the member for La Trobe. I do agree with him on a number of things, but sometimes he has to let that political bias just slip off his collar. I do pay respect to the occupation he came from. I know he was a detective in the Victorian Police, a group of people I have had the honour to represent on numerous occasions before coming into this parliament.

We are very much in a rapidly changing world when it comes to issues of terrorism—and, as my friend would no doubt hasten to point out, the nature of organised crime. As a national government we have a responsibility to protect all our citizens. Indeed, it is probably the single-most central position of government to ensure national security.

In doing so, our laws will not stay static. We need to make sure our laws actually are capable of protecting citizens by giving the levels of threat and the natures of those threats. The proposed amendments included in this package of reforms are designed to give the Australian community confidence that our counterterrorism laws are precisely that, and that they are precise and appropriately tailored, and that our law enforcement agencies and our security agencies have the necessary investigative tools they need to combat and counter terrorism as it applies.

Additionally, the purpose for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill is to establish the new Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement that will replace the former Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission. It will broaden that committee so it applies not only to the Australia Crime Commission but also to the Australian Federal Police. This is a matter which has been subject to considerable input over a long period of time. It is certainly something that we undertook to do to at the last election.

I particularly thank for their submissions—obviously they were made to the government at that stage, who did not act on it; but the submissions also made it to the opposition, which is what we were prior to the election of November 2007—the Police Federation of Australia, also a body which I had the opportunity to work for for a prolonged period of time and to consult to, and its CEO, Mark Burgess, as well as Jon Hunt Sharman, who is the president of the Australian Federal Police Association. Both of those bodies were very strong in their lobbying to ensure that a similar oversight that we provided to the Australian Crime Commission would be provided to the AFP. The basis of that came about, indeed, from the Clarke review of the Haneef case. In that inquiry a number of things were looked at, a number of things were addressed and a number of recommendations were made.

One of the things that always stood out to me—because this is a change which has been agitated for by the Australian Federal Police Association—was, ‘Why would they want to put themselves under greater scrutiny?’ The fact is that they have a regard for their professionalism, their commitment and operating to the letter of the law. Also, the fact is that they want to make sure we will not get ourselves into another situation where a policing activity became, as it did, a political football. The way that developed was a low point for Australian politics. One way to correct that for the future is to provide a degree of oversight of the activities of the AFP.

I know that I had discussions at the time with various people in the leadership positions of the AFP, and I know that at one period of time these changes would have been resisted. They thought that it was inappropriate to have government oversight of a law enforcement agency of the nature of the AFP. However, the AFP has seen first-hand—because they have been part of the inquiries conducted by the joint parliamentary committee into the ACC—what that oversight is. This is not interference; this is oversight provided by the elected government and committee which also includes, on a bipartisan basis, members of the opposition from both houses. This is something that was not resisted by the rank-and-file members of the police force. It is something that they sought to have added to their role and to actually give a more transparent acceptance of the grave professionalism that was being discharged by their officers.

When you think about it, the role and functions of this committee are quite similar. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Law Enforcement will be responsible for providing broad parliamentary oversight on the AFP as well as the Australian Crime Commission, as I mentioned. The functions of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement will include monitoring and reporting to parliament on the performance of the ACC and its functions; the same in respect to the AFP and its functions; examining trends and changes—and this is the important part—in criminal activities, practices and methods; and reporting on the desirable changes to the functions, structures, powers and procedures of both the ACC and the AFP.

Unfortunately, my colleague the member for La Trobe has left, but I know he has been a very significant contributor to the joint parliamentary committee on the ACC and has been part of many of its recommendations. Oddly enough, this is one of the committees I can honestly say operates on a bipartisan basis. To date, I do not think there has been a minority position taken on that. The members of that committee certainly approach it on the basis of what is needed—what are the tools that our law enforcement agencies need to do the job that we expect them to do, which is to protect our communities. If that same approach is taken in our monitoring of the AFP, which it will be, this can only be of benefit, not only to the members of the AFP but to the AFP itself. That is one of the strong things that comes out of this.

The other thing that is important is examining the trends and changes in criminal activity in the Australian law enforcement field. One of the things that is certainly pretty clear to me is that there has been a change in serious and organised crime in this country. That is one of the reasons—and by the way it emanated from the recommendation of the Australian Crime Commission Committee or the PJC oversighting the Australian Crime Commission—why we introduced laws late last year on unexplained wealth. One of the things that was pretty clear in our examination of trends in Australia and overseas—particularly in Ireland and a number of the European states—was the need to address the act of criminality and to cause people under suspicion to explain their unexplained wealth. I know my colleague from La Trobe went some distance to explain the issue about bikies and having a gang register or something of that nature. I think in a modern police force what we really need, and we have recommended and will probably continue to recommend, is a national police management system. One of the things that probably does not help us is having six different jurisdictions and a Commonwealth having different police management systems, where people might cross the borders and do something else. You then do not know precisely what they have been doing elsewhere. One of the things that strikes me is it was clear to us, in the evidence given to our committee by the Australian Crime Commission, that we needed to do more—and we did. We brought down that legislation and regrettably, I note to the embarrassment of the member for La Trobe, it was watered down a little in its passage through the Senate. That might be something that needs to be revisited, in due course.

We are trying to be vibrant, as vibrant as the criminal element is, not only in this country but also internationally. We see that crime is not something that recognises geographic boundaries. It certainly does not recognise state or federal constitutions, nor does it limit itself in the way it applies itself to-ing and fro-ing overseas. One of the things we need to look at is best practice and how we provide the necessary tools to empower our law enforcement agencies to do what they need to do, which is protect our community, to address issues of organised crime and, importantly, in the raft of bills before us today, to provide counterterrorism.

As the member for Macquarie is currently in the chamber, I should mention that he has played an extraordinary role in shaping law enforcement legislation not only in this parliament but also in the New South Wales parliament. Particularly when it came to sedition laws, he took a very strong view—a politically less popular view than his Premier might have liked at that stage! I have known the member for Macquarie to be forthright throughout his time in public life. He has made a significant contribution to the development of the New South Wales government’s approach to law enforcement and he has also made a significant contribution to the development of the Rudd Labor government’s approach to law enforcement and counterterrorism.

We are in extraordinary times. Going back before 9/11, I do not think we were thinking the same way about counterterrorism as we do today. There is no point in simply saying that we are working our way through these things. We will continue to have reviews of terrorism based legislation. Every piece of counterterrorism legislation we put through this House winds back people’s liberties. There is no question about that. The member for Denison is in the chamber. He is a person who champions civil rights and he does so quite responsibly. He acknowledges that everything we do in this regard winds back someone’s rights. So we should not necessarily wind back those rights unless it is evidence based and needs to be done to ensure the protection of our community. That is the framework we should be operating in and that is how we should continue to develop laws in this place.

We have had to act upon a number of recommendations from the Clarke inquiry into the Haneef case and I would like to mention a couple of them. But I would firstly like to say that this bill will amend the Criminal Code Act 1995, the Crimes Act 1914, the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945, the National Security Information (Criminal And Civil Proceedings) Act 2004 and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986. In terms of schedule 1 of the proposed amendments to the treason and sedition offences that are currently outlined in division 80 of the Criminal Code, the government accepts the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission, which include removing the term ‘sedition’ and replacing it with the phrase ‘urging violence’ and clarifying and modernising the elements of that particular offence. Once again, I pay credit to the member for Macquarie in respect of this amendment. Schedule 1 of the bill will also extend the offence to cover the urging of violence to stop a group or individuals on the basis of national or ethnic origin, race, religion or political opinion—even in relation to the political system itself. That certainly streamlines the provision and gives greater definition of what it is that we are seeking to outlaw in that respect.

Schedule 2 of the bill includes the proposed amendment to division 102 of the Criminal Code. This division of the code contains the definition of ‘terrorist organisation’, the process of proscribing terrorist organisations and the terrorist organisation offences. This will amend the definition of ‘advocates’ to clarify that ‘an organisation advocates the doing of a terrorist act if the organisation directly praises the doing of a terrorist act in circumstances where there is a substantial risk that such praise might have the effect of leading a person to engage in a terrorist act.’

When proscribing organisations, it also became necessary to look at the time that those organisations would remain proscribed. Importantly, in this act that time is going to be extended for a period of 12 months; it will extend the current listing of a terrorist organisation from two years to three years.

There are many other amendments which relate to the definitional provisions to implement the government’s policy to ensure that various matters are consistent throughout Commonwealth legislation. I understand, particularly in terms of same-sex partnerships, that these matters must be agreed to by the states. However, I am advised that states and territories have already indicated their approval for these matters to proceed.

In the Clarke review it was also indicated that there should be certain changes, particularly to the exercising of search and detain powers by the police—in particular, the powers of stop, search and question in relation to terrorist acts. Division 3A of the Crimes Act 1914 was inserted into the Crimes Act by the Anti-Terrorism Act (No. 2) 2005 to provide police with specific powers in relation to terrorist acts in addition to the existing police powers. However, division 3A does not provide police with the power to enter without a warrant premises where there is material that may pose a risk to the health or safety of the public in emergency circumstances relating to terrorism offences.

What is being proposed here is that where there is such a risk to the public—it may be through the making of explosives or something of that nature—police will have the power under schedule 4 to enter those premises without a warrant to address that emergency circumstance. As I understand it, that does not relate to entering premises with a view primarily to collecting evidence, but rather it relates to protecting the public. Schedule 5 proposes that the amendments will modify the search warrant provisions of part 1AA of the Crimes Act so that in emergency situations the time available for law enforcement officers to re-enter those premises will be extended by another 12 hours or where the issuing authority addresses the exceptional circumstances and prescribes a longer time.

Again, those amendments are based on public safety—ensuring that the public are protected from harm. There are many other issues that I would like to address, but I am out of time. I just say that we are committed to looking after the men and women of the Australian Federal Police, who do such a sterling job in protecting our community. I praise their professionalism, commitment and dedication to their uniform and the way they do their jobs. One of the things that we must do in this place is ensure that they have the appropriate tools and skill sets to do the job that we ask of them—and that job is to protect our community. I commend these bills to the House.