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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 12


Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) (1:17 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment Bill 2004

This bill amends the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979.

It is another important step in the government's counter-terrorism efforts.

The safety and security of its population is the most important responsibility of any government.

Our response to the threat of terrorism has been comprehensive and wide ranging, including a national review of hazardous materials by the Council of Australian Governments.

Ammonium nitrate has been given priority because of its history of use by terrorists and its ready availability to the general public.

Of particular interest to Australia is that Jemaah Islamiyah had planned to use ammonium nitrate to bomb United States and other western targets in Singapore, including the Australian High Commission.

In June this year COAG agreed on a national approach to ban access to ammonium nitrate for other than licensed users.

The licensing regime will ensure that ammonium nitrate is only accessible to persons who have a demonstrated legitimate need for the product, are not of security concern and will store and handle the product safely and securely.

This scheme balances security considerations with the legitimate needs of industry and farmers.

This is a great example of state and territory governments working in partnership with the Australian government on our national security.

The Queensland government has introduced its licensing regime and similar regimes will begin to apply in all other states and territories over the coming months.

The licensing regime requires ASIO to furnish security assessments for the states and territories.

With the passage of this legislation, ASIO will be ready to fully perform this role when the requests start coming in from the states and territories.

ASIO is able to furnish security assessments to assist the states and territories in controlling access to the places where ammonium nitrate is stored.

This bill, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment Bill 2004, expands and clarifies the circumstances in which ASIO can furnish security assessments.

These amendments will better underpin ASIO's ability to furnish assessments in relation to a wider range of activities which may be carried out in relation to, or which involve ammonium nitrate—including purchasing, importing, manufacturing, storing, guarding, transporting, supplying, exporting, using, possessing, disposing, or handling.

It is important to note that for the security assessment regime to apply, a person's ability to perform an activity in relation to, or involving ammonium nitrate must be controlled or limited on security grounds.

The amendments are proactive—they are intended to be sufficiently broad to cover, to the extent that is possible, issues which may arise in the future such as a person's ability to perform an activity in relation to, or involving other hazardous materials.

The Bill expands and clarifies the circumstances in which ASIO can furnish security assessments for the states and territories, while also looking to the future.

The measures in the bill ensure, as far as is possible, that the security assessment regime will continue to operate flexibly and effectively in our changing security environment.

(Quorum formed)