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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1672

Mr HAYES (9:20 PM) —Sadly, it is a fact that Australians have experienced and still are experiencing grief and suffering as a result of terrorist activities around the world. Since September 11, in 2001, over 300 Australians have been either killed or seriously injured in terrorist incidents overseas. Providing assistance to the victims of terrorist acts is undoubtedly a highly significant issue and, certainly, one that the government take seriously—and I do not think that has been contested by anyone—as, by the way, did the previous, coalition government, particularly after the Bali bombings. So I am a little surprised by the way this matter has been brought before us, in the Assisting the Victims of Overseas Terrorism Bill 2010. The Leader of the Opposition knows full well the position of the Attorney-General’s Department and the work that is being undertaken there presently to progress this in a cooperative way that hopefully satisfies everybody’s interests. However, bringing forward a bill that is deliberately vague—as we were told—lacks specificity and relies on regulations is not the way to go about providing proper opportunities for redress for the victims of terrorist attacks overseas.

I will digress slightly. In order to combat the rising global issue of terrorism, Australia has certainly been taking action, both here and abroad. Experience shows that the most effective way to protect Australia from the threat of terrorism is to take the fight to the source. In our region, the Australian Federal Police work particularly closely with their Indonesian counterparts on counterterrorism matters. The Australian Federal Police were successful in establishing the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, whose responsibility it is to enhance the ability of regional law enforcement to deal with transnational crime, particularly with a focus on counterterrorism. Much is happening in that space with the AFP providing critical assistance in the aftermath of the Bali bombing in 2002, the Jakarta embassy bombings and the Marriott Hotel bombing in 2005. The AFP has also deployed counterterrorism assets overseas.

When it comes to victims and their families, I know the Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare, Kate Ellis, sitting at the table, some time back, when we were in opposition and after the attacks in Bali in 2005, made requests of the then Attorney-General, Mr Ruddock, to address this very issue. Clearly, the way the government at the time responded in Bali was quite effective. I know Mr Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, played a very significant role in that as well to make sure that people were looked after. But that does not mean to say that is the way it has got to stay.

When it comes to providing for the victims of terrorism and their families, we do have a responsibility. We will not be able to avoid that by simply saying that there is no legislation to support it. It happens and it happens now. The Attorney-General’s Department, which is accessing all the various agencies, is looking at the best ways of ensuring that we do put into a legislative scheme an arrangement that provides for matters such as ex gratia payments to victims of terrorist attacks overseas, provides for the families, provides assistance for funerals, provides for bereavement, provides for travel costs and recognises things such as lost wages that occur from terrorist acts. These are not uncommon things and I believe the Leader of the Opposition knows that because he has had discussions with the Attorney-General on these things. He knows this is being progressed. These are matters that should not be coming into this House as a way to politicise the fact that the legislation has not yet been produced.

Mr Abbott —Well, produce your legislation then.

Mr HAYES —Tony, as you are aware, this is being progressed. You are being consulted on it. This is not being done a partisan basis. This is one that you have personally been consulted on. To take those consultations and bring this bill before the House— (Time expired)