Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 3297

Mr WALLACE (Fisher) (16:50): The first duty of any government is ensuring the safety of its citizens. That's a phrase that's often used in this place—one that can be sometimes overused—but its principle remains paramount. Whether it be protecting us from crime, combatting foreign agents or cybercriminals who want to undermine our interests or defeating terrorists who want to destroy our way of life, defending our security must be our government's first priority. This government has always understood that responsibility and prosecuted it with dedication and rigour. This is a government that just last year provided an extra $321.4 million for the Australian Federal Police and, in total, has increased funding for law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies by $1.5 billion. This government is funding 100 more intelligence experts, more than 100 more tactical response and covert surveillance operators and a further 100 more forensic specialists at the forefront of the fight against crime and terrorism. This government has passed eight tranches of national security legislation to strengthen our law enforcement and intelligence agencies and to give them the tools they need to deal with terrorists. We have given the ADF the power to target international terrorists with lethal force and given our law enforcement officers the power to arrest homegrown terrorists before their plots come to fruition. We've invested $100 million in grassroots crime prevention projects and $45 million in counter-radicalisation programs to try to suppress these threats before they are fully developed.

However, this government also understands that the threats we are facing are evolving and growing in complexity and sophistication. Since 2014, Australian intelligence and law enforcement agencies have successfully disrupted 14 imminent terrorist attacks and charged 85 individuals with offences relating to terrorism. Just one of these attacks, a rigorously planned plot against an A380 airliner leaving Sydney, would have led to hundreds of deaths had it not been narrowly averted. We expect the volume of passengers entering our borders to increase by 22 per cent in just the next three years, while the ongoing instability in the Middle East continues to provide a source of potential terrorists and training. At this point, I'd also like to send a huge shout-out to our armed services, our men and women in the ADF, who are doing an absolutely sterling job in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East more broadly to help keep this country safe.

New technology and online channels like powerful mobile encryption, the dark web and advanced cyberwarfare techniques have given state and non-state actors alike new tools to threaten us. Research conducted by Telstra, for example, shows that as many as 60 per cent of organisations in Australia suffered some sort of cyber attack in 2016 alone. However, the government has shown through Operation Sovereign Borders that national security problems of huge scope and considerable complexity can be overcome through a coordinated and integrated approach. This dramatically successful operation has involved the cooperative work of 16 separate agencies. It shows what can be achieved when our security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies work together in a close-knit, common effort.

That success and that experience has led the government to institute the Department of Home Affairs to bring together the management and coordination of our nation's national security, intelligence and emergency management agencies. It's a model that has proved its value overseas. And, like the UK Home Office, the Department of Home Affairs is now able to provide far-reaching strategic planning and policy development that incorporates knowledge from all our myriad experts. It also provides the best possible distribution of resources and closest possible coordination between ASIO, the AFP, the Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to ensure that Australia is a safer and more secure place.

The minority who oppose this move, however, point to the many weighty and serious responsibilities that are being concentrated in the hands of one minister, the former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and now Minister for Home Affairs. Personally, I can think of no-one I would rather have responsible for our nation's internal security. The minister was a Queensland police officer for a decade, protecting not only Queenslanders, in the drug and sex offenders squads, but all Australians, through the National Crime Authority. The minister saw and combatted the worst of crime in our society, and he understands what works. That knowledge and that experience have been manifest in his tireless and resolute work on national security to date.

This government's amendments to the Migration Act allow the minister to cancel visas of noncitizens who are convicted of a serious crime. Those we have welcomed into our country but who have chosen to commit a crime with a sentence of more than 12 months in prison or who have chosen to commit a sexual offence against a child do not deserve to be allowed to stay in Australia, and our duty to protect our citizens requires that they should be removed. The government's new law has allowed this minister to drive a 12-fold increase in the number of these visa cancellations and keep our society safe from people who have chosen to so outrageously abuse our hospitality. Since December 2014, when this minister gained responsibility for the relevant portfolio, the coalition government has cancelled the visas of over 3,000 dangerous criminals. That includes 61 murderers, 135 rapists, 260 child sex offenders, 500 drug dealers and 170 criminal motorcycle gang members. These deportations have made my community of Fisher on the Sunshine Coast safer, as they have for every community across this country. Once again, there are 3,000 dangerous criminals who, through this process alone, can no longer threaten our citizens because of the decisive and robust action of this minister.

But the minister has gone further and driven the extension of this important power to take the strongest possible action to protect us from terrorists trained overseas. By leading the legislation to give the government the power to revoke the citizenship of any dual national who engages in a terrorist act, engages in hostile activity with a terrorist organisation overseas or is convicted of a terrorist act or other terrorism-related offence, this minister has shown that he is not afraid to make the difficult decisions needed to protect our cherished way of life. Critically, this minister has also spent almost 2½ years being responsible for Operation Sovereign Borders. For more than 800 days he has ensured that not one person has arrived in Australia illegally by boat. In this way, he has saved thousands of lives and many millions of dollars while helping to keep closed 17 unnecessary detention centres. Just yesterday we saw again how important his action has been, with a people smuggler's boat carrying 131 people stopped by Malaysian authorities while on its way to Australia.

He has displayed strength in pursuit of our security, but that strength has been accompanied by compassion. By protecting the integrity of our border protection and citizenship systems, this minister has helped the government to accept more refugees under our already generous humanitarian program, rising to 18,750 next year, not to mention permitting a special intake of 12,000 Syrian refugees. So, the current Minister for Home Affairs has amply and consistently demonstrated the strength, the commitment, the decisiveness and the compassion needed to shoulder the broad and serious responsibilities that come with this new portfolio.

But, as a lawyer, I know that we must legislate not for the minister of today but for all the ministers who might come in the future. There must be safeguards in place to ensure that these centralised responsibilities will never be misused. The government recognised this need and from the beginning has ensured that the Attorney-General will continue to have a very powerful oversight role. However, it was the recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that these safeguards be strengthened even further. The government considered these recommendations and it has responsibly and comprehensively taken them on board. That is why we have proposed these additional amendments. Transparency and clarity are at the foundation of proper oversight.

Historically, it has often been the case that, where responsibilities are unclear, opportunities can emerge for the unintended and unwarranted expansion of powers. This bill, the Home Affairs and Integrity Agencies Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, therefore contains a range of measures to ensure that there is absolute clarity as to which minister is authorised to execute which powers and which minister should be held to account. First, the government's amendments embodied in this bill will ensure there is clarity as to the fact that it is the Attorney-General and not the Minister for Home Affairs who holds the key powers under the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act. Further, the bill amends 36 other pieces of legislation to ensure that it is clear when it is the Minister for Home Affairs, the Attorney-General, other ministers, secretaries or departments that should exercise a wide range of powers and responsibilities.

The government has also identified that it is critical to proper oversight that the Attorney-General continues to be responsible for issuing ASIO warrants and authorising special intelligence operations. We've also accepted the joint standing committee's recommendation that this fact needs to be made clearer. This bill therefore amends the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act to reflect that important responsibility. Likewise, this bill's amendments will ensure that it is only the Prime Minister who is able to request that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security undertakes an inquiry under section 9 of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act.

This bill will help us to make Australia safer—safer from crime, from cyberattack, from people smugglers, from terrorists and from those who would seek to undermine our way of life. Facilitating the creation of the Department of Home Affairs will protect our national security and our prosperity at a time of increasingly complex and evolving threats. However, by clarifying the lines of responsibility and cementing the critical oversight, accountability and integrity roles of the Attorney-General, this bill will also make Australia safer by respecting the rights and liberties of all Australians.

I started this speech by saying that the duty of every government—its first duty—is to protect its citizens. This is a bill, a very important bill, that seeks to proactively measure and achieve that very goal at a time of sinister new threats. For that, I commend the bill to the House.