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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31708


Mr McCLELLAND (4:59 PM) —Very briefly, what the Attorney-General has said has substance in terms of the purpose and intent of these provisions. On the face of it, they seem to be appropriate insofar as they treat foreign passports and travel documents—akin to the treatment we provide in respect of Australian passports and documents. The matters in respect of ASIO's powers to seek a questioning warrant have, by their nature, been controversial. Quite frankly, the difficulty is that we received a briefing on these matters last Thursday evening. There was an issue we acknowledged in respect of Willy Brigitte and a fellow called Lohdi, as I recall, who was Pakistani—he held both an Australian and a Pakistani passport. His Australian passport was confiscated, and I understand that his Pakistani passport was confiscated by the Pakistani consul general in Australia—an action which I understand is the subject of a legal challenge by Lohdi.

Obviously, it is desirable to clarify the laws, but we have been on notice for some weeks, if not months, that that issue has been in existence, and the government has not demonstrated a pressing urgency in respect of these matters that would warrant departure from an appropriate consideration or scrutiny of legislation that is, after all, imposing terms of imprisonment of two years and five years. We are saying, as a matter of principle, that that sort of legislation should be the subject of appropriate scrutiny. Indeed, we acted even before the bill came into the House to refer it to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee for report back before the parliament resumes. That is an appropriate course of action. We all know that an election may well be in the wings and may occur before that time, but we cannot allow that possibility to make us depart from what I think is the sound practice of having these sorts of measures scrutinised by an appropriate committee. I thought the member for Kooyong made an excellent speech before in terms of the need to tread cautiously.

That is essentially the reason the opposition thinks these measures should remain in the bill. The measures could then be supported and passed by the opposition in the House of Representatives. That is essentially the reasoning. The purpose then is to enable a separate bill—Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 3)—which would then be amended to refer to the forensic procedures only, to be passed immediately. That seems to us to have the best of both worlds—having those measures advised by Tom Sherman AO as being urgent passed before the House rises, while having those measures remaining to be considered by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee before we next resume. That seems to us to be a commonsense position which should easily be accommodated.

Question agreed to.