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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 117

Senator LUDWIG (5:41 PM) —This amendment relates to a bill which was proposed by the Attorney-General in fulfilment of an agreement made some time ago now, on 25 June 2004. It relates specifically to a part of a national licensing regime regulating the access and ownership of materials considered a threat to national security. At the time the bill was introduced and dealt with, the opposition indicated that we would be agreeing to the passage of the bill on the basis of the requirements to meet national security. However, we did, and still do, believe that it could be improved significantly. We sought to include a provision which ensured that the word `thing', which was contained in paragraphs 35 and 39, had a bit more substance around it and could be dealt with by regulation and, by way of definition, the regulation could then assist in describing the word `thing'. The opposition was concerned with what is called incremental legislative overreach, whereby you can, by regulation, expand definitions that should not be expanded without significant oversight by the parliament. It ensures that, by way of regulation, it can in fact be done.

There is, of course, the ability to have a disallowance motion provided for to give notice and disallow, but that is used only in circumstances where there is clearly overreach by the legislators. We are not suggesting that would be the case here, but it is one of those parliamentary scrutiny measures that deserved consideration by the government. We are disappointed that they did not include the amendment in the bill, because it would have made it a much better bill as a consequence. However, the overriding position that the Labor Party has adopted in respect of this particular issue is that the bill is a beneficial bill. As I have said, it provides a licensing regime which will allow states, in the normal course of checking on people's backgrounds, not only to check their criminal databases but also to access ASIO's terrorist database. In allowing them to do that, the provision will assist in ensuring that people do not obtain ammonium nitrate or other chemicals which could be used for explosive devices without at least adequate security checks being in place and without a licensing regime administered by the states.

Although it is belated and it provides a bit of a catch-up on national security, it meets the test of being a bill that is needed and that will provide enhanced national security for Australia. Therefore it deserves support, notwithstanding the inability of the government to recognise the need for the amendment made by Labor in this instance. We will not be insisting on that amendment because we think overall that the bill should pass, come into operation and be part of our national security response.