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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4444

Senator BRANDIS (2:26 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, Senator Wong—

Senator Conroy —Did you write this question?

Senator BRANDIS —I did. I refer the minister to the Attorney-General’s speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on 21 July, in which he announced that the government proposed to expand the scope of current anti-terrorism laws. In what particular respects does the government consider that the existing anti-terrorism laws are inadequate?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I do not have any particular details on what—

Senator Abetz interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Continue, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG —Certainly, Senator Abetz, if I were to be scripted, it would not be by you! I do not have any precise details on the speech to which the senator refers. I am aware that the government has indicated—

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Wong, continue to answer. Ignore the interjections.

Senator WONG —I have been interjected upon before, but not by grunting! But Senator Macdonald can choose to grunt if he wishes. I am aware that the government has flagged a discussion paper on amendments. I do not have any information as to whether further details of that have been released. If those have been released, I will see if anything further can be provided to the senator. But, as I said, I understand that the Attorney-General has flagged a discussion paper on amendments to national security and counterterrorism laws. If I have further information on that, I will see if it can be provided.

Senator BRANDIS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware that funding of the AFP’s counterterrorism program was cut by $1.4 million, that funding of its intelligence program was cut by $3.2 million and that funding of its economic and special operations program was cut by $8.1 million in the last budget? Would not the government’s commitment to counterterrorism be taken more seriously if it stopped cutting the funding of Australia’s front-line national security agencies?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —As has previously been the case, it is the fact that this government has provided additional funding—particularly, for example, in border security. You might recall—through you, Mr President—that in the 2009-10 budget, for example, the government committed some $654 million to fund a whole-of-government strategy to combat people smuggling and border protection. We have also created the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, to provide unified operational control.

Those opposite might want to try and play a bit of politics with this issue, but the fact is that this government has provided very substantial provision through the budget to our security agencies, including the AFP, and additional funding was announced in the 19th budget to combat people smuggling and to enhance border protection. (Time expired)

Senator BRANDIS —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Wouldn’t the war on terrorism be better prosecuted by properly resourcing the national security agencies than by engaging in hairy-chested rhetoric about new laws? Isn’t this just another example of Rudd government rhetoric saying one thing but the government’s spending priorities showing the opposite?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I again remind Senator Brandis that this government is providing some $1.3 billion over six years for non-defence national security and border protection measures and that this year’s budget included significant new funding for counterterrorism, people smuggling, border protection and surveillance, national disaster resilience, e-security, aviation and airport security, regional cooperation and international deployments, as well as the national security public information campaign. The government recognises that there is an ongoing threat from terrorism. We remain committed to Australia’s national security. We remain committed to protecting Australia’s borders. The second budget continued the strong focus on Australia’s security needs, ensuring that we continue to meet the challenges of the future.