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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31695

Mr GEORGIOU (3:50 PM) —Sometimes debate in this House involves people just shouting at one another, but I am glad I have sat here through debate on the Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2004. I think contributions have been of a very high calibre and, for somebody who has not really focused on the issue of passports, I was very intent on the points made on this by the member for Calare.

Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but the scale and destructiveness of terrorist attacks in the 21st century have dramatically demonstrated their capacity to impact on us. The terror attacks of September 11 and the Bali bombings crystallised our recognition of the terrorist threat and our vulnerability to it. The government has responded strongly to these threats. Part of the government's response post-September 11 was to introduce legislation to strengthen our antiterrorism laws and the antiterrorist powers of our security organisations.

The legislation, as originally proposed in 2002, loosely defined and severely punished terrorist acts and terrorist crimes. It overturned the presumption that people accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty and it gave the executive unprecedented detention and interrogation powers. The original legislation negated the right to silence, the privilege against self-incrimination and the right to legal representation. Understandably there were grave concerns about the impact of these measures on our democratic values and institutions. As I said in debate on some of these amendments in 2002, ultimately the responsibility of democracies is to defend both the security and the freedom of their citizens. We have to recognise terrorist dangers and we have to respond in a measured, effective and proportionate way.

A great deal of consideration is required to achieve the difficult balance between maximising our safety and security, while defending the core values of our society, and it has to be underscored that those values are the very values that the terrorists seek to destroy, and they are ultimately the reason our society is being targeted. They are: the rule of law, due process, civil liberties and freedom of speech. I believed that some of the measures originally proposed in 2002 would have fundamentally and unjustifiably eroded the protection given to Australians by the law. (Quorum formed)