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Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Page: 818


Mr PERRETT (6:22 PM) —I commend the former speaker for his contribution to the debate and I rise, obviously, to speak in support of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010. I understand these bills have already passed the House of Representatives but lapsed when the 42nd Parliament was dissolved. Nevertheless, I am pleased to take this opportunity to speak on these bills, which work together to improve transparency, accountability and public safety.

Terrorism and organised crime pose a great challenge to all modern democracies. We heard this today in Prime Minister Gillard’s opening remarks in the debate about the war in Afghanistan and Australia’s involvement in that. All governments face a great challenge to protect their citizens. In fact, when all is said and done, perhaps our greatest fundamental responsibility as a government, as a federal government particularly, is to ensure that Australians can sleep safe and sound in their beds at night. And that requires the Gillard Labor government to give our law enforcement agencies the powers they need to defeat terrorism and organised crime and provide comfort to all Australians. However, in doing this we must uphold our ideals of a democracy and freedom or we will destroy the country that we are elected to protect.

The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 implements a number of improvements to antiterrorism laws. This is part of the Gillard Labor government’s response to independent and bipartisan reviews of Australian national security and counterterrorism legislation. It clarifies the operation of treason, sedition and certain terrorism offences in the Criminal Code. The name of sedition offences will be changed to ‘urging violence’, and the events of urging violence against a group on the basis of race, religion, nationality or political opinion will be expanded to cover urging violence or violence on the basis of ethnic or national origin and will be expanded to include urging force or violence against an individual, not just a group. The offence will also now apply where the use of force or violence does not threaten the peace, order and good governance of the Commonwealth.

The bill also implements the recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to extend the period of regulation that lists a terrorist organisation from two to three years. Currently organisations may be listed as a terrorist organisation if the Attorney-General is satisfied that the organisation advocates carrying out a terrorist attack. This bill amends the definition ‘advocates’ to include an organisation that directly praises the doing of a terrorist act where there is substantial risk that such praise might lead a person to engage in a terrorist act. This is an important change.

The bill also amends the investigation and retaining powers largely in response to the Clarke inquiry into the shameful case of Dr Mohamed Haneef. Surely all students of law will remember that this was not justice’s finest hour in Australian history. We all remember when Dr Mohamed Haneef was detained without charge following the London car bomb attacks in 2007. We may never know the full extent of communications between the Federal Police and Scotland Yard. However, I remember the sick feeling in my guts when this Indian doctor, who was working hard for his Australian patients on the Gold Coast, was detained. I had a feeling that he was just not getting a fair go, and I attended public forums in my electorate to express that concern. This bill clarifies that a person always needs to be under a valid state of arrest to be detained under part IC. It also sets a maximum seven-day limit on the amount of time that can be specified by a magistrate and clarifies the procedures that apply when making an application to extend the period of investigation.

As I said from the outset, our laws which protect us from terrorists must not compromise our freedoms. If they ever do so, that is when the terrorists win. So this bill amends the Crimes Act 1914 to give police the power to enter premises without a warrant in emergency circumstances relating to a terrorism offence where there is material that may pose a risk to public health or safety. Police exercising this power do not have the same powers as a general search warrant, and are limited in what they can do once on the premises. This bill also grants the prosecution and the defendant a specific right of appeal against a decision to grant or refuse bail, and this amendment will ensure consistency and clarity across all states and territories.

I turn now to the related bill before the House, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010. This bill will improve oversight of the activities of the Australian Federal Police. It does so by establishing the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, which will replace the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission. The new committee will continue the work of its predecessor and also provide broad parliamentary oversight of the AFP. The committee will also be expected to examine trends in criminal activities and report on recommendations to improve the functions, structure, powers and procedures of the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Federal Police. This parliamentary committee is the appropriate body for the accountability of oversight of this agency and I commend the Attorney-General on this initiative.

We cannot become complacent in the fight against terrorism. That means ensuring our laws protect the community from the threat of terrorism while upholding these important individual rights that stretch back to the Magna Carta and beyond. Through these bills, the Gillard Labor government is demonstrating its commitment to responsive counterterrorism laws with appropriate safeguards and accountability mechanisms. I commend the bill to the House.