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State cooperation essential to fight terrorism.



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PRIME MINISTER

STATE COOPERATION ESSENTIAL TO FIGHT TERRORISM

One of the most important issues listed on the COAG agenda was the proscription of terrorist organisations and entities.

Regrettably this issue, which goes to the heart of national security, was not discussed due to the walkout by the State Premiers and Chief Ministers from the recent COAG meeting.

Today, I have written again to Premiers and Chief Ministers asking them to urgently reconsider their opposition to the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill.

Under the existing provisions of the Criminal Code, which is in part based on a reference of power, their agreement is required to make amendments to the process for listing terrorist organisations.

The Bill would allow the Attorney General, on advice from our security agencies, to list a terrorist organisation or entity without the need for that organisation to be proscribed by the United Nations Security Council.

The UN Security Council under Resolutions 1267 and 1333 can currently only list organisations and entities that are related to Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or Bin Laden.

The United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, all provide for a listing process independent of the United Nations.

The Labor Premiers and Chief Ministers prefer to introduce specific legislation on an ad-hoc basis every time the Federal Government wishes to proscribe an organisation not listed by the United Nations Security Council.

This is impractical. The Bill will enhance our ability to act quickly, comprehensively and decisively against terrorist organisations.

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For example, it was only following the Bali bombing and subsequent pressure exerted by the Australian Government and other governments in the region that Jemaah Islamiyah was listed by the United Nations.

There are extensive safeguards that apply to the listing of terrorist organisations under the Bill.

These safeguards are comparable to those used by other countries and include judicial review, disallowance by either House of Parliament and a two-year sunset clause.

The Premiers and Chief Ministers are always happy to proclaim their support for the Government’s strong stance on national security, now it is time for them to act.

10 September 2003