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Labor ignores facts for political point-scoring.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP
Media Contact: Carina Tan-Van Baren (02) 6277 7300/ 0419 423 965 www.law.gov.au/ag
2 June 2003 62/03
LABOR IGNORES FACTS FOR POLITICAL POINT-SCORING
The Government will not support the Opposition’s Bill for listing Hizballah as a terrorist organisation. The Government has already introduced a Bill addressing the issue of Hizballah that is not plagued by the same constitutional uncertainty.
Despite the protestations of the Leader of the Opposition, there is a simple but significant difference between the two Bills. The Government’s Bill works. The Opposition’s Bill is constitutionally uncertain and has the potential to undermine the future prosecution of terrorists
It should be remembered that the problem we are trying to fix was created by the Opposition when it insisted on removing Australia’s independence in listing terrorist organisations posing a threat to Australia and Australian interests.
Instead, the Opposition supported a requirement that paralyses Australia’s ability to list terrorist organisations until the UN Security Council has formally identified them as such. As a result the Government is powerless to take action against Hizballah under current Australian law, regardless of advice from our intelligence agencies.
Conveniently forgetting that his party created this problem, Mr Crean has today suggested that the Government has changed its stance on the constitutionality of the Opposition’s Bill. We have not. We have repeatedly stated that our legal advice is that the Opposition’s Bill is constitutionally uncertain. This advice has not changed.
Mr Crean is clearly trying to divert attention from the real issue - his party’s continued and determined obstruction of a simple solution to this problem, removing Australia’s reliance on the UN Security Council to list terrorist organisations before we can act.
The only aspect of the listing provisions that the Government is proposing to amend is that which requires a UN listing before any regulation can be made listing the organisation. This is in order to take back Australia’s independence to act against threats to our interests, not just those which an external organisation deems worthy of international action. The other strict safeguards in the listing process - Parliamentary scrutiny and judicial review - will rightly remain.
Mr Crean is focused on perpetrating his politically convenient myth that the difference between the Government and Opposition Bills is mere “semantics”. But our legal advice is that the difference is quite significant. The Opposition’s Bill is
constitutionally uncertain. The Government’s Bill is constitutionally sound. The Opposition may be willing to take this risk. The Government is not.
If the Opposition is serious about national security, it will support both the Government’s Bill addressing the listing of Hizballah and it will support the longer
term solution of removing our reliance on the UN Security Council to tell us what organisations constitute a threat to Australia and Australian interests.