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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6474

Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (6:43 PM) —With respect to the first issue, can I remind the honourable member that the laws being applied currently in the area of counter-terrorism are laws of the former government. Can I also refer him, with respect, to a statement to the House by the member for Berowra, who said on 29 March 2004:

It is not the practice of the Attorney to comment on matters of legal advice to the government. Any advice given, if it is given, is given to the government.

It would be entirely unsafe and inappropriate for me to advise the Victorian police or the Federal Police on what law enforcement powers should appropriately be exercised by them in any given circumstances. I would refer the honourable member to the fact that, last December, we indicated a range of areas where we are contemplating amendments to the counterterrorism laws. Shortly, we intend to issue a discussion paper in respect to those amendments, with the proposed amendments actually set out. I would certainly welcome the honourable member’s feedback in respect to any areas of enhancement, clarification or otherwise.

In terms of the issues of general national security spending, we are talking about a very substantial amount of money as part of the overall portfolio. Within the Attorney-General’s portfolio, we identify that we will be spending in the order of $3.4 billion on national security initiatives this year.

In the context of enhancements, since 2001, overall there has been a 115 per cent increase in national security spending by government: the Attorney-General’s emergency management by 228 per cent; the Australian Crime Commission by 138 per cent; the Australian Federal Police by 169 per cent; Australian Security Intelligence Organisation by 196 per cent; AUSTRAC by 226 per cent; CrimTrac by 135 per cent; and Customs by 37.1 per cent.

I have indicated previously that in the last budget we allocated—in addition to that $3.4 billion that is being spent for this year, part of which includes this allocation—an additional $1.3 billion to spend on border security initiatives and law and order counterterrorism initiatives over the next five years. That funding includes funding for the air marshals program. There is also in place a review by Roger Beale into the role of the Australian Federal Police, examining, among other issues, the extent to which governments may have unwittingly or unwisely constricted the ability of the Federal Police to allocate resources according to priorities that they identify. There was a Mr Early engaged by the Federal Police in the period of the last government, who said, ‘If you are going to spend a massive amount on any measure of the public’s resources on the area of the security, you need to assure the public that the money is being used as effectively as possible.’

In terms of a review, there will obviously be an examination of national security priorities. Since the air marshals program was established, a lot of initiatives have been put in place, including a range of initiatives in the area of airport security, where we will be spending 53.1 per cent. There are issues in respect to the hardening of cockpit doors. In terms of the issues of the national security college and of emergency management capability and developing an all-hazards approach with the capacity for the members of the private sector to be engaged in that expertise, that is clearly a matter that is being considered by government. The government will be issuing a counterterrorism white paper later this year. And we are doing a lot of work in the area of emergency management—I issued a statement on that today.

It is appropriate, I would concede, for the opposition to point to areas where there have been ‘efficiencies’; the opposition would argue otherwise. If the opposition are going to talk about the overall budget situation, then it is incumbent upon them to identify where they are going to achieve efficiencies. I have—and I shall refer to them subsequently—where those efficiencies are occurring. (Time expired)