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Monday, 23 June 2008
Page: 3016


Senator TROETH (3:46 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—

Since the terrorist attacks on the USA on September 11 2001, and other attacks on Australian nationals ascribed to terrorists, the Australian parliament has enacted more than 30 laws dealing with terrorism. The legislature has agreed on a bi-partisan basis that protecting Australians from the threat of terrorism demands exceptional restrictions on civil liberties and freedom of speech and association.

The Attorney-General has been given powers to “list” organisations as involved in terrorism, and membership and support of such organisations are criminalised.

ASIO can detain people for interrogation.

Those suspected of terrorist involvement may be subjected to control orders and preventative detention.

These measures and others have proved to provoke considerable debate within the community and the parliament about the necessity for and the desirability of such measures. Parliament has agreed to them, though not always unanimously and often with reservation.

Some have expressed views that aspects of the current regime are draconian. Obviously, our response to the threat of terrorism cannot simply be more and more stringent laws, more police and more intelligence personnel. Rather, we need to provide adequate safeguards to ensure scrutiny, accountability and transparency. This point was made by the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Mr Franco Frattini in a speech to the EU Conference on Public Security, Privacy and Technology on 20 November 2007 and acknowledged by the Attorney- General, Robert McClelland in a speech to a Security in Government Conference at the National Convention Centre in Canberra on 7 December 2007.

The challenges of protecting security without undermining fundamental rights requires constant vigilance. In an effort to address this, when Parliament passed the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act of 2002, the then Opposition instigated a requirement that the Attorney-General establish a one-off public and independent review of the operation of a number of counter terrorism laws.

This saw the establishment of the Security Legislation Review Committee headed by the retired NSW Judge Simon Sheller with members including the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (who oversees bodies such as ASIO) the Human Rights Commissioner and two lawyers nominated by the Law Council of Australia. This was known as the Sheller Committee.

It reported in 2006 and its first recommendation was to establish a mechanism for further independent review- either the appointment of an independent reviewer, or a further review by an independent body. The United Kingdom has had an individual independent expert for a number of years.

This idea was subsequently examined in detail by the Australian Parliament bi-partisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which unanimously endorsed the proposal in September 2007..

For instance, two laws which are not subject to review are the Commonwealth Anti- Terrorism Act 2004, which increased maximum questioning and detention times by police for terrorist offences and the Anti-Terrorism Act (No. 3) which provides for the confiscation of travel documents and prevents people from leaving Australia.

The joint committee’s recommendation for a position of an independent reviewer of terrorism laws to be created was first made in 2006 and re-iterated in 2007. The former government did not respond to the unanimous and emphatic recommendation, and so far Attorney-General McClelland has not commented on the proposal and has simply advised that the Rudd Government is considering a number of useful recommendations made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee as well as the Sheller committee and the Australian Law Reform Commission.

So I move this bill.

The Independent Reviewer as proposed would be appointed by the Governor General, and the Prime Minister of the time would consult with the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives prior to the recommendation; this is modelled on the appointment provisions of Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986- section 6.

The Independent Reviewer would review the operation, effectiveness and implications of the laws relating to terrorist acts, and can conduct reviews on his /her own motion, at the request of the Minister (Attorney-General) or at the request of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. He/She will also determine priorities as they see fit.

The Reviewer must inform the Minister of a proposed review, must have regard to the work of other agencies to ensure co-operation and avoid duplication (Ombudsman), and would have the power to obtain confidential information necessary for reviews (this was recommended by the Joint Committee)

The Reviewer will provide an annual report and reports of reviews of laws to the Minister. These must be tabled in Parliament and the Minister must provide a response to reports of reviews of laws. As well, the reports must be considered by the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

The Reviewer will be appointed for five years, and will be able to be re-appointed for one further term of five years (same as Inspector General for Intelligence and Security) The Officers can only be terminated by Governor-General for specified reasons e.g. Misbehaviour (same as Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security)

The legislation is essential to ensure the reviewer’s independence and to give the powers needed to do the job well. I am indebted to my colleague, Mr Petro Georgiou MP, Federal Member for Kooyong, who provided much of the detailed information for this speech and who introduced the bill into the House in March this year. It was regrettable that the Labor Government, which had strongly supported the creation of this position when in Opposition, used its numbers in the House to prevent any discussion of the bill without giving a reason.

I hope it swiftly reconsiders and decides to support the implementation of this much needed measure.

I hope Parliament is given the opportunity to endorse the proposal and ensure its implementation as a matter of priority.


Senator TROETH —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.