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Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Page: 813

Mr HAYES (6:01 PM) —I rise today to speak on both the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010—two bills that I strongly believe contribute to a well-balanced response to the issues of a just and secure environment for our people. I had the opportunity to speak on these bills during the last parliament. As you will recall, Mr Deputy Speaker, prior to parliament being prorogued, this matter proceeded through the House. My support for the intentions underpinning both of these bills has not changed.

In today’s rapidly changing world, one of the most important issues is the security of our people and, as such, national security itself. The responsibility for a nation’s government to protect its land and its citizens is the most paramount responsibility in the hands of all governments. The proposed amendments included in this package of reforms are designed to give the Australian community confidence that our counterterrorism laws are precise and appropriately tailored and that our new law enforcement and security agencies have the investigative tools they need to counter terrorism. Additionally, the purpose of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill is to establish the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, which will replace the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission. The new committee will be responsible for the oversight of not only the Australian Crime Commission but also the Australian Federal Police. Notably, this is a significant change agreed to by the government previously. The new committee will have oversight of both of our premier law enforcement bodies.

Many of the amendments in both bills are the result of recommendations of various independent and bipartisan reviews that were designed to improve the practical operations of the law. The reviews include, but are certainly not limited to, the Clarke inquiry into the matter of Dr Mohamed Haneef, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and the review of security and counterterrorism legislation. Public consultation also played a significant part in the shaping of these bills. It was encouraging to see a meaningful level of participation by relevant stakeholders. We take these comments and suggestions seriously and, as you will see, they have certainly found their way into the legislation. Indeed, this is important because we as a government must ensure that our counterterrorism laws are properly understood in our communities and are appreciably consistent with community principles.

As I said, we did consult. Two of the stakeholders that made major contributions in terms of these matters were the Police Federation of Australia and the Australian Federal Police Association. They lobbied very strongly to ensure that there was oversight for not only the Australian Crime Commission but also the Australian Federal Police. One might ask why unions responsible for officers of the Australian Federal Police would seek to do that. I would offer this explanation on their behalf: they believe in their professionalism as police officers and their commitment to ensuring the professional operation of their organisation and in being able to demonstrate that they operate to the letter of the law. Those submissions were made by the representative bodies for police officers. The question was raised as to whether those sorts of organisations would seek to have that level of oversight. They not only agreed to it but sought this change. That is indicative of the way those organisations are run in looking after the professional interests of police officers in this country.

I will now take a little bit of time to go through some of the aspects contained in the bills. The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill contains amendments to treason and sedition offences in the Criminal Code. The government accepted the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission report, which included removing the term ‘sedition’ and replacing it with the phrase ‘urging violence’ and clarifying and modernising elements of the offences. The bill also extends the offence to cover urging violence against a group or individual on the basis of national or ethnic origin in addition to race, religion, nationality or political opinion.

The bill amends the definition of ‘advocates’ in the Criminal Code 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. This is necessary because currently an organisation may be listed as a terrorist organisation only if the Attorney-General is satisfied that the organisation advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

The bill also extends the period of a regulation that lists a terrorist organisation from two to three years. Currently under the Crimes Act it is clear that an arrested person may be detained, prior to being brought before a magistrate or other judicial officer, for the purpose of investigating whether that person committed an offence for which they were arrested or for the purpose of investigating whether the person committed another Commonwealth offence that an official suspects them of committing. The amendments in this bill will clarify and improve the practical operation of part 1C of the Crimes Act to address issues that were raised in the Clarke inquiry into the Dr Haneef matter.

The Crimes Act does not currently provide police with the power to enter premises without a warrant in emergency circumstances relating to terrorism offences where there is material that may pose a risk to public health and safety. I know that has been spoken about in this place on a number occasions when there are extraordinary circumstances. Circumstances when police do need to enter premises include when they need to secure issues that may relate not only to terrorism but also the product of what they may be doing, whether it be bomb making or other things, to actually secure premises to protect the public. This bill will make it abundantly clear and will provide new power for police to enter premises without a warrant in those emergency circumstances.

Further, the time available for law enforcement officers to re-enter premises under a search warrant can be extended by 12 hours or, where authorised by an issuing authority in exceptional circumstances, a longer period. Again, this is to have regard to the fact that not everything is being done simply to collect evidence. Some of those issues of re-entry could be very much in relation to ensuring the protection of the community and the health and safety of residents, et cetera, and therefore those flexibilities are built into this legislation. This amendment is necessary as the time limitation does not provide sufficient scope for police to re-enter premises if they need to evacuate the premises because they have discovered, for example, something that may endanger the life and safety of police officers. As a consequence, delay in the period of the warrant has been occasioned.

The bill also gives the Prime Minister the ability to request the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to inquire into an intelligence or security matter relating to any Commonwealth department or agency. This reflects the increasing interaction between a range of Commonwealth departments and agencies and the Australian intelligence community on intelligence and security matters.

As I said earlier, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010 will also improve oversight of the Australian Federal Police by establishing the new committee on law enforcement. This committee will replace and extend the functions of the current Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, of which I have been a member ever since I came to this parliament some 5½ years ago. The Joint Committee on Law Enforcement will be responsible for providing broad parliamentary oversight of the AFP and the Australian Crime Commission.

Again, it is important to note that the establishment of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement implements the government’s election commitment to improve oversight of the Australian Federal Police. Finally, the Australian government remains conscious of the need to protect our community from the threat of terrorism without unnecessarily encroaching on the individual rights and liberties that are fundamental to our democratic system and way of life.

In introducing measures which will clarify the operation of the laws and bolster existing safeguards and accountability mechanisms, the government is able to ensure that laws remain responsive to human rights and the fundamental freedoms that we enjoy. I am confident that this package of reforms that has been framed following extensive consultation, which I referred to earlier, will go a long way to helping us meet the problematic issue that confronts modern nations—that is, national security challenges. I commend the bill to the House.