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Thursday, 9 February 2012
Page: 683


Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (11:54): I rise to lend some comment to the Nuclear Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. I precede my remarks by saying that the coalition intends to support the bill. There are a number of worthy aspects to it. It seeks to add new offences to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987. This will be accomplished by implementing the new provisions outlined in the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, otherwise known as the nuclear terrorism convention. It is a multilateral treaty, which of course makes it open for each nation to ratify. It is designed to promote judicial and constabulary cooperation in order to prevent, investigate and penalise criminal acts in relation to the convention's intended purpose.

As some in the chamber would be aware, Commonwealth legislation already implements most of our obligations under the nuclear terrorism convention. This bill seeks to ensure that all criminal offences specified in article 2 of the convention are appropriately covered by the application of Commonwealth legislation.

The amendments contained in the bill create new offences for possessing radioactive material or a device considered under the convention to be a nuclear explosive device that would emit radiological material that may cause death or serious bodily harm or damage to property or the environment; making such a device as prescribed under the convention; using or damaging such a device, including threatening to do so; demanding another person create radioactive materials, devices or nuclear facilities; and demanding a person allow a third party to access or control such facilities, devices or materials.

The bill stipulates with regard to these offences that there must be an intention to use or make available the material for prohibited purposes. There is a suitable penalty—20 years imprisonment—that applies to offences created by this bill. However the bill does not criminalise the lawful possession and use of radioactive material. The importance of the use of radioactive material in the form of isotopes is known by all those involved in medicine and by those who have been the recipients of some of the great advances in medicine. It is also apparently contained in household smoke alarms, which gives me a whole new perspective on accessing smoke alarms, I can tell you.

It is important to note that there are also provisions that protect Australian Defence Force, ADF , personnel from prosecution when they act in accordance with the duties normally required of them and in the defence of the nation's interests. This is in line with the n uclear t errorism c onvention , which itself does not govern the actions of armed forces during armed conflict. Naturally, th e exemption does not apply to Australia's military forces if their activities are not related to their duties and to their work in securing Australia's national interests. Quite simply, if you are a soldier, sailor or airman or airwoman and you are acting unlawfully, then you will be liable for persecution under the terms of the bill, as you should be for any unlawful activity. It is a sensible measure, and I personally support it as the shadow minister for defence personnel, science and technology. It is important to reiterate that this bill specifically precludes ADF members from being liable for prosecution when undertaking what can broadly be termed as their normal working duties. It is sensible and it ensures our defence personnel are provided with the legal protection they need when carrying out lawful general orders in the prosecution of armed combat.

We support the bill. It makes measurable sense. The protections provided for military personnel are sound. If we cast our eye to the possible use of nuclear material within terrorism in general, we start to get a feel for why measures such as this are needed. According to the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System, a database run by the National Counterterrorism Cent e r in the United States , as at the end of October 2010 there ha d been 17,833 separate terrorist attacks across the world perpetrated by Islamic extremists . This is an inordinate number of terrorist attacks since September 11—something like 1,300 per year or four per day.

Furthermore, i n their report for 2009 the National Counterterrorism Cente r stated that there had been 299 suicide bombing attacks in 2009 in 13 countries. We should probably more rightly call them 'homicide' attacks, because suicide bombers are not seeking to kill themselves; they are seeking to use maximum bloody force to destroy as many people as possible in the closest possible circumstances. There were 299 suicide bombing attacks in 2009 alone in 13 countries. There appear to be more Mumbai-style attacks as terrorist organisations continually adapt. We see that in the prosecution of combat operations in Afghanistan, where a resilient enemy learns, adapts and grows, and we see that with the improvised explosive device threat. Fifty thousand people were killed or wounded in terrorist attacks during 2009, with over 50 per cent of victims being Muslim. There have been almost 18,000 terrorist attacks in the last 11 or 12 years. There were 300 suicide bombings in 2009 and tens of thousands killed in 2009. The vast majority of attacks were perpetuated by Islamic extremists, the majority of the victims being those who practise the Islamic faith. The world sometimes truly is a screwed-up place.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to recall that since September 11 over 110 Australians have been killed by terrorist attacks. In the September 11 terrorist attack in the US, 15 Australians were killed. On 12 October 2002, at Kuta, Bali, 88 Australians were killed—202 people were killed and 209 injured in total. On 9 September 2004, at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, nine Indonesians were killed and 150-plus injured. On 7 July 2005, in the London train and bus bombings, one Australian was killed and 11 were injured—in total 56 people died and 700-plus were injured. On 1 October 2005, at Jimbaran Beach in Kuta, Bali, four Australians were killed and 19 injured out of a total of 26 deaths and 100 injuries. Of course, on 17 July 2009, at the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta, three Australians were killed—seven people were killed and 53 injured in total. International terrorism represents a significant, clear and very, very present danger to the world as a whole, including Australians. We are not isolated on our wonderful island continent in the southern part of the world, as 110 deaths in terrorist related incidents since September 11 unfortunately bear testimony to.

One need only look to the Middle East and to the lunacy of President Ahmadinejad and his thirst for power in terms of progressing the advent of nuclear weapons, which is where Iran wants to go. This simply bears testimony to the lunacy of some of the regimes that we face across the world. North Korea, of course, has detonated a number of nuclear devices. Reports in the media indicate that the military junta in Burma is seeking similar advances down that path. The stopping of the proliferation of nuclear weapons needs to be a key activity of the governments of all freedom-loving nations of the world. The governments of North Korea, Burma, Iran and other similar nations that purposefully pursue a nuclear program with the intent of the destruction of human life need to be made aware by the rest of the international community that their actions will not be condoned or tolerated.

Walls are built brick by brick in defence against terrorism and Islamic extremism. One of those bricks is this bill, which seeks to enshrine some of the prosecutorial elements of the convention. Australia as a sovereign nation and as a member of the wider international community will act to limit the potential damage caused by terrorists. We will act abroad in concern for our interests; we will act in concert with our allies, as we do in Afghanistan and other parts of the world; and we will act on a legislative basis to ensure that citizens, residents or visitors to our country do not involve themselves in these activities. We support the government on the bill and we wish it well in its implementation.