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Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Page: 810

Mr KEENAN (5:48 PM) —Clearly the preceding bill, the International Tax Agreements Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2010, was not particularly controversial because it really was dispatched incredibly quickly.

Mr Ripoll —It is called efficient government.

Mr KEENAN —It is about the only thing that is efficient about this government, but I digress. I rise to talk on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010. As we debate these bills today, in numerous places around the world members of Australia’s armed forces, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service are undertaking tasks that advance our national security. They all perform hard but necessary jobs. Equally important to Australia’s national security are our antiterrorist intelligence operations.

In the post 9-11 world Australia has expanded its counterterrorism capacity through our state and federal police agencies, ASIO and ASIS. The fact that there have been no terrorist attacks on Australian soil testifies to their success, and in this vital area it is integral that the Gillard government continues to build on the good work of the former coalition government. We understand that keeping the Australian people safe is the most basic duty of the federal government.

One important facet of Australia’s national security where Labor has failed dismally is border security. Since August 2008, when the government dismantled our effective border protection system, there have been 174 illegal boat arrivals carrying over 8,200 people. This year alone there have been 106 illegal boat arrivals, carrying over 5,200 people. The Prime Minister’s failed immigration and border protection policies are now bringing illegal boats to Australia in record numbers; however, unlike the coalition, the Prime Minister is unwilling to take the necessary action to fix the chaos those policies have created.

Instead, Labor are opening two more detention centres, as Christmas Island overflows and onshore detention centres swell under the weight of Labor’s inept immigration and border protection policies. With one of the two new detention centres being located in the Western Australian town of Northam, it begs the question as to why Western Australia has to foot the bill for Labor’s failed border protection policies. The Northam Shire president, Steve Pollard, said Northam had mixed feelings about hosting a detention centre. He said:

There was a Facebook website page set up about three or four months ago with about 500 people posting their thoughts on it and 95 per cent of those were fairly much against the detention centre …

It would also appear that the Prime Minister did not bother to consult with the South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, until an hour before Labor announced their decision to use the South Australian town of Inverbrackie as a location for a new detention facility. As reported by the ABC, Mr Rann was disappointed the state government was not consulted and he wants to know how the influx might affect state services. For a government obsessed with talkfests, they are showing an unprecedented level of arrogance by using regional Australia as a dumping ground for the surge of illegal arrivals.

Labor’s failed border protection policies have cost taxpayers in excess of $1.1 billion over four years, according to figures released in the 2010-11 budget. That is about $500 for every Australian man, woman and child. The government is chasing its tail with these costs. It is doing nothing to stop these costs from increasing. Its answer is just to keep shovelling money to pay for the blow-outs in our borders, which have now blown out in the budget. Blow-outs of $1.1 billion are just the beginning of all this. The figure will go higher and higher as long as this government is running our borders. People smuggling is an insidious trade that takes advantage of those in vulnerable situations. The Labor government needs to recognise this tragic fact and take action towards stopping the boats from leaving in the first place rather than luring them to the Christmas Island reception centre.

The coalition is committed to securing our borders against illicit drugs, disease, illegal foreign fishing and people smuggling. The integrity of our borders cannot be maintained without proper resourcing of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. Since coming to office, Labor has cut funding to Customs for cargo screening by $58.1 million, making Australia’s borders less secure and our nation more vulnerable. In this year’s budget, Labor revealed it would axe up to 250 staff and $146.3 million from Customs and cut the funding of the Australian Federal Police by $23.5 million—the Australian Federal Police being our premier law enforcement agency. By taking an axe to Customs, Labor has made it much easier for illicit drugs and materials that are biosecurity threats to enter Australia. Labor has cut funding for essential border security activities, yet wasted billions of dollars on school halls and pink batts programs. Labor’s mismanagement means our communities face the threat of more illicit drugs entering the country.

I will move on to the proposals that are specifically contained within the bills. The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 proposes amendments to the 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 in court proceedings.

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 have voluntarily placed themselves under Australia’s protection and clarifying 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 will be used. Also proposed is a new offence 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 government 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, 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 are proposed to include the UN 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. A 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 would 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 that the former Attorney-General the honourable member for Berowra was very proactive when dealing with these issues.

Amendments to the Crimes Act are proposed 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 non-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 at 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 warrant will be permitted in emergency situations when investigating terrorism. It is proposed that there be a right of appeal both to prosecutors and to defendants against bail decisions if there are exceptional circumstances.

I turn to the listing and proscription of terrorist organisations. Minor amendments are proposed to provide for listing if the minister is satisfied that the prescribed matters are on reasonable grounds. Listings are to be renewed every three years. As mentioned 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 comes 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 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 the recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. In its inquiry into the proscription of terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code, 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 adequate oversight.

The purpose of the National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) 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 will be permitted. In some situations, answers to questions in court may be in writing.

I turn now to the second bill that we are debating concurrently today, 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. 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, structure, powers and procedures of the ACC and the AFP. It will also inquire into any question in connection with its functions that is referred to it by either house of parliament. The coalition strongly believes that governments have a responsibility to do everything possible to improve national security to deal with potential threats to 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 preserve the democratic rights that protect our freedoms. In conclusion, I commend the bill to the House.