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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31458


Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (9:45 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Members are familiar with the contents of this bill.

These provisions were originally contained in the Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 2) which is currently before the parliament.

However, since the introduction of that bill, the shadow minister for homeland security has written to me offering to facilitate passage of schedule 5 of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) which deals with disaster victim identification and criminal investigation following a domestic mass-casualty incident.

The member for Barton has rightly recognised the importance of our ability to respond if a terrorist attack or other mass-casualty disaster were to occur within Australia.

This bill will amend the forensic procedure laws in Part 1D of the Crimes Act 1914 to ensure that, if a terrorist attack or other mass-casualty disaster were to occur within Australia, forensic services from all jurisdictions in Australia can work together, using the national DNA database system, to identify the victims of the disaster and conduct a criminal investigation.

In the spirit of cooperation I have agreed to excise schedule 5 from the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) and progress it in a separate bill, the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 3), in recognition of the importance of this measure and its relatively non-controversial status.

I will be moving amendments to remove schedule 5 from the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2).

In a similar vein, I will also be excising schedules 1 and 2 from the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) and have included the provisions from those schedules in the bill I am introducing today.

Schedules 1 and 2 deal with the need to ensure that a person who carries both an Australian passport and a foreign passport cannot leave Australia on a foreign passport after the person's Australian passport has been cancelled by Australian authorities.

This bill contains amendments to the Passports Act 1938 that will, among other things, give competent Australian authorities the power to request an order for the surrender of a person's passport.

The amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 will give the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation the power to demand a person surrender their Australian and foreign passports if the person is subject to a request for consent to apply for a questioning warrant.

This will prevent a person who may have vital information about a planned terrorist attack from fleeing Australia before ASIO has the opportunity to question the person.

I welcome the member for Barton's constructive approach to matters of national security but I caution him that the importance or urgency of national security matters is not dependent on the Labor Party's assessment of what is important or urgent.

I take my advice on what is in the national interest from our intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

I am advised that both the passport and victim identification measures are important and urgent and should not be delayed because the bill in which they are contained has, as is the usual practice for this opposition, been referred to an already over-burdened Senate committee system.

I call on the opposition—and I hope the member for Hunter, at the table, will share this with his colleagues—to support this bill which has been developed in a response to an initial constructive suggestion by the shadow minister for homeland security.

I challenge the opposition to not respond in a predictable fashion and oppose the bill simply because it does not meet their precise specifications.

I cannot imagine that even the opposition believes it is acceptable that a person who carries both an Australian passport and foreign passport can leave Australia on a foreign passport even though that person's Australian passport has been cancelled by Australian authorities.

Securing our borders against incoming or outgoing terrorist suspects is an important weapon in our fight against terrorism, both domestically and internationally.

We are not interested in letting terrorists enter Australia.

Nor are we interested in exporting terrorists who are then free to pursue their deadly ambitions in other countries—against other peoples and possibly even our own nationals travelling abroad.

I trust that the opposition do not need a Senate committee to repeat these basic facts in order for them to acknowledge the importance and urgency of these measures.

I commend this bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Fitzgibbon) adjourned.