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Fed Gov't pushing for laws to keep terrorists in jail after their sentences expire -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Australia is taking another step toward indefinite detention for some convicted terrorists.

The Federal Government is pushing for legislation in every state so terrorists could be kept in jail after their sentences expire if a court says they would reoffend.

The Prime Minister has written to State and Territory leaders asking them to quickly agree on laws that could keep terrorists in jail if the threat is assessed as serious.

Political correspondent Louise Yaxley reports.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Some States already have laws to keep sex offenders in jail after they have served their sentence if they still pose a serious risk to the community and the High Court has upheld those controversial laws.

The Federal Attorney-General George Brandis wants all states and territories to agree soon on the same regime for some terrorists.

GEORGE BRANDIS: It would only apply to very high risk offenders who, when approaching the end of a sentence of imprisonment, appear not to have shown any signs of rehabilitation.

They are people who would be assessed to pose a continuing and serious risk to community safety.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Who would make that judgement?

GEORGE BRANDIS: It would be made by a court. There are various models and this is one of the things we want to discuss with the state and territory attorneys-general but my preference is that it should be made by a judge.

LOUISE YAXLEY: He says it could amount to indefinite detention.

GEORGE BRANDIS: Well, it certainly is a scheme which contemplates that for as long as a serious offender continues to pose a continuing and serious risk to community safety then the safety of the community demands that they be detained.

Now that would be reviewed on a periodic basis but I make no apology for the Government taking the view that if a person, having served a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime, shows every indication of a willingness to repeat that crime, to reoffend as soon as they are released, they should remain behind bars.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Senator Brandis won't say if there are terrorists in jail now who would be kept beyond their sentences if these laws pass.

GEORGE BRANDIS: I am not going to talk about individual cases for obvious reasons.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Keeping terrorists in jail after their sentence expires raises legal concerns about procedural fairness and double punishment.

Existing measures like control orders might be used instead for some terrorists, meaning rather than staying in jail longer they would have to wear a tracking device, report regularly to police or be banned from the internet.

GEORGE BRANDIS: That's another option. This is a scalable set of options. It all depends on the facts of a particular case and I am at pains to emphasise that the measure we have in mind would only apply to the most serious category of offender.

LOUISE YAXLEY: State leaders were briefed by ASIO's director general last December at Malcolm Turnbull's first Council of Australian Governments meeting and agreed to this idea. They then endorsed the next step in April.

Senator Brandis wants it implemented soon but says there will be safeguards.

GEORGE BRANDIS: This would be a judicially supervised process subject to all the appropriate oversight mechanisms.

LOUISE YAXLEY: He acknowledges there is a risk that leaving terrorists locked up beyond their sentence might provoke their supporters.

GEORGE BRANDIS: These are all fine judgements that have to be taken into account but always subject to getting the right balance between two very, very important considerations. One is community safety and the other is the rights of the individual.

What we as the national Government have to do and the state governments in collaboration with us is to ensure that we have all our bases covered, all the potential circumstances in which community safety could be threatened by terrorism provided for.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Federal Attorney-General George Brandis ending Louise Yaxley's report.