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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8098


Senator NETTLE (4:32 AM) —The Australian Greens believe that the Senate must insist on the amendments to this horrendous legislation. We must do this because the original bill put up by the government and the bill with the amendments passed by the Senate are both fatally flawed pieces of legislation. They are fatally flawed in the central issue that they allow for the detention of ordinary citizens going about their daily lives—innocent civilians, not suspected of being involved in any terrorist activity—who are suspected of having some information that could lead to results in investigating a terrorist act. The bill, as originally put up by the government, allowed for indefinite detention of these people incommunicado and with no right to silence.

We have gone through a process that put forward a range of amendments. Those amendments dramatically improved a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation. But it did not matter how many bandaids were put onto this piece of legislation; it was broken and it would remain broken. We have heard the Australian Labor Party talk about how they believed their amended bill brought balance to a perspective of personal security and civil liberties. The Australian Greens do not believe that it did that. We believe that it went much further than any other comparable piece of legislation in Western democracies around the globe in seeking to throw the net wide open to catch as many people as possible—as many nonsuspects as possible—as part of the government's law and order agenda.

I found the contribution to the debate in the other place this evening by the member for Brand to be particularly insightful. In his contribution to the debate he was saying: `The model that the opposition are putting forward is so close to the government's model. Come on and support our model.' He quite clearly stated that there continue to be arguments about whether what the opposition are proposing is a questioning regime or a detention regime. He went quite clearly to the point that, although the Labor Party put forward their model as providing only 20 hours—only 20 hours!—of a questioning regime, it is eight hours beyond anything that currently exists in the Criminal Code.

It is not comparable to the Australian Crime Commission model, where people are issued with a summons and, if they do not appear, a warrant brings them before a questioning authority. He quite clearly said that the model being put forward by the opposition, which they claim is a questioning regime, would involve the detention of people for two to three days. That takes us straight back into the detention model proposed by the government. We recognise that these changes were an improvement, but it is inaccurate to say that they are not a mixture of a questioning and a detention regime.

In debating this matter this morning, we have come dangerously close to taking a sinister step down the road to establishing an Australian secret police force. Ultimately, the bickering of the opposition and the government over detention regime details has resulted in a reprieve for the civil rights of Australians. The government should take this opportunity to focus on making our current security capabilities effective and to forgo the desire to enact hysterical legislation which will have a grievous impact on the very tenet of Australian society.

This bill's failure will have absolutely no impact on the ability of our security and police forces to protect Australians from terrorism. It does, however, uphold a fundamental respect for personal rights, about which Australians can be proud. The Greens have consistently called for the scrapping of this dangerous and unnecessary bill. The detention of innocent people, forced to talk under threat of imprisonment, can never be an appropriate response to terrorism. Instead, the opportunity is there for the government to truly address the root causes of terrorism, rather than trying to condone the symptoms of terrorism and continuing with a draconian law and order agenda that we are seeing reflected in the responses from state governments around the country, certainly from my own state of New South Wales.

Should the government seek to reintroduce this bill in the new year, the Australian Labor Party ought to take the time to reflect on the need to oppose any measures which run contrary to international law and long-held conceptions of civil and political rights. Civil rights of Australians have had a win tonight, because the exhaustive Senate committee system has laid bare the many fatal flaws in this legislation in its original form and in its amended form. As a result, the bill has ultimately failed.

Question negatived.

Resolution reported; report adopted.