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Labor inconsistent on listing terrorist organisations.



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ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON. DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP

NEWS RELEASE

26 June 2002 66/02

LABOR INCONSISTENT ON LISTING

TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS

Today’s Senate debate on the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 reveals Labor’s confusion over the key issue of listing terrorist organisations.

The Government’s position has always been clear.

The events of September 11 last year showed that we can no longer sit back and assume we are safe from terrorism. We need to be prepared and to take all reasonable steps to protect the community.

The Government has consistently argued that, in order to do this, we need strong laws to both deter and prevent terrorism as well as to punish those who plan or carry out terrorist acts.

One of the key mechanisms that we believe is necessary to achieve this is the ability to identify terrorist organisations and stamp out their activities.

The Government proposed a regime that would allow us to do so in three ways.

• A court could determine whether an organisation is a terrorist organisation in the course of a criminal prosecution;

• The Attorney-General could identify a terrorist organisation by listing it in a regulation tabled in the Parliament. Either House would be able to veto this decision; and

• The Attorney-General could similarly introduce a regulation giving effect to the listing of a terrorist organisation by the United Nations Security Council. Again, either House would be able to veto this decision.

Each provision contains extensive safeguards. In both cases the Attorney-General has to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to list an organisation. And any regulation under the two latter provisions could be challenged in the courts as well as by the Parliament.

Unfortunately, the Opposition and minor parties chose to use their numbers in the Senate to remove the Attorney-General’s ability to list terrorist organisations by regulation.

The Opposition has indicated that it is fundamentally opposed to listing.

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Despite this fundamental opposition, Labor supported the ability of the Government to make a regulation listing a terrorist organisation on the basis that it appears on a list put out by the United Nations Security Council.

This is called having it both ways. Senator Faulkner’s posturing on this issue reveals the fundamental inconsistency in the Opposition’s position. The two listing powers are subject to the same safeguards.

Senator Faulkner says the ability of the Attorney-General to list a terrorist organisation - with parliamentary oversight - would undermine the United Nations Security Council.

This is patently false.

Australia has its own concerns, separate to the rest of the world. And Australia should retain the right to respond to circumstances where an organisation poses a terrorist threat and deal with it under our domestic legislation.

The Opposition’s position provides no flexibility for Australia to deal with groups that may not come to the notice of the Security Council, such as those operating only in our region.

Not only does Labor have no faith in the Australian Parliament, it also clearly has no faith in the Australian court system. It is proposing to remove the provision allowing courts to determine that an organisation is a terrorist organisation for the purposes of prosecuting a membership offence.

Instead, Labor has moved an amendment to link the membership offence solely to United Nations Security Council decisions on terrorist organisations.

The Opposition’s position is incomprehensible. It is an insult to our judicial and parliamentary systems.

But the package as a whole is too important to hold up. The Government takes its responsibilities seriously and we need to get on with the job of protecting Australia from terrorism.

We stand by our position on the listing provision and the membership offence despite the contradictory actions of Labor in acting to defeat these provisions.

Media Contact: Carina Tan-Van Baren (02) 6277 7300/ 0419 423 965 www.law.gov.au