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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31706

Mr McCLELLAND (4:52 PM) —The opposition opposes these amendments. If I can give some background: on Tuesday of this week we wrote to the Attorney-General offering to pass as separate and distinct legislation those provisions contained in the bill as currently drafted relating to forensic procedures. The Attorney-General responded on Thursday by introducing a separate bill, the Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 3) 2004, which contained not only those forensic procedural matters but also those matters relating to foreign travel documents and ASIO questioning warrants, as described in these amendments as circulated. The reason we object to other than the forensic procedures being removed from the bill is that, as I have indicated to the Attorney-General, we believe that there are issues of substance in respect of the provisions dealing with foreign travel documents—and, in particular, ASIO questioning warrants—that justify appropriate consideration by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee. We believe that, wherever you are dealing with the creation of offences which, of necessity, potentially impact on civil rights—some carrying jail sentences of two years and some carrying jail sentences of five years—it is appropriate that the legislation be scrutinised, preferably by an appropriate legislative committee, in this case the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, or at least by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills.

I am concerned that if we remove these provisions from this bill it will prevent the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee from undertaking deliberations in respect of those matters. On that basis we believe those provisions should remain in this bill, which would be supported through the House of Representatives by us, and instead only those provisions relating to forensic procedures should be excised. We have indicated that it would then be a matter of amending the Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 3) 2004 to restrict the bill to those matters relating to forensic procedures. We would then pass that bill expeditiously, as has been offered. I think that if a terrorist event occurred in Australia—of course we all hope and pray it will not—that legislation should be passed.

I apologise to the clerks for the language I used when I found out that these amendments had been brought in by the Attorney-General, which meant that the amendments had not been notified to me. That has placed me in a somewhat difficult position which I believe has also caused the clerks some embarrassment. While my language was unparliamentary, it was off the record. I now apologise to the clerks for my annoyance and put that on the record. It is for these reasons that I think these provisions relating to foreign travel documents and ASIO questioning warrants should remain in the legislation but agree with the forensic procedures issues being taken out.