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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 1471

Senator TROOD (2:39 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, Senator Ludwig. I refer the minister to a joint press release by him as the Special Minister of State and Robert McClelland, the Attorney-General, of 18 March 2010 in which they announced their intention to appoint a National Security Legislation Monitor. Does the minister recall that the statement said:

The Government expects to announce the appointment of the new Monitor shortly.

Does the minister consider a period of eight months to fall within the commonly accepted definition of ‘shortly’? Can the minister advise the Senate when the appointment will be made?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —The monitor will of course be a person of high standing with a sound understanding of Australia’s counterterrorism and national security legislation. The monitor will be appointed by the Governor-General on the Prime Minister’s recommendation in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. A short list of preferred candidates is currently being actively considered by the Prime Minister and a decision on the appointment will be made in due course. It is expected that it is not that far away. As indicated during the debate on this bill, of course it is a significant appointment. It is an important appointment to oversee national security legislation and it will be made, as I have indicated, in due course by the Prime Minister.

The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act which came into effect this year does provide for the establishment of an independent National Security Legislation Monitor. It will be an independent statutory officer who will be required to report findings and recommendations regarding counterterrorism and national security legislation to the Prime Minister each year. The issue of the timing of the appointment has been raised not only by the opposition but also by Senator Ludlam, and we have indicated that it will be dealt with in a short while.

Senator TROOD —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I am grateful for the assurance that the person will be one of integrity. But I refer again to the press release of 18 March in which the Attorney-General said that he was proud to be able to facilitate the passage of national security monitor legislation. Is the Attorney-General also proud of what is now an eight-month delay in the appointment of the independent reviewer?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank Senator Trood for his apparent interest in the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010. It is one that I know the coalition did not bring into parliament. I know it is one that the coalition did not bring forward in the three years—

Senator Brandis —It was coalition legislation that forced your hand.

Senator LUDWIG —I see that Senator Brandis cannot help himself in this. It is one that the coalition never turned their mind to in the years that they introduced legislation dealing with antiterrorism. It is one that the coalition have failed significantly in bringing forward.

Senator Brandis —If it hadn’t been for Mr Georgiou and Senator Troeth, you would never have done it and you know it. Stop lying!

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Brandis, you must withdraw that.

Senator Brandis —All right.

Senator LUDWIG —You cannot help yourself, Senator Brandis.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Ludwig, just address your comments to the chair and ignore the interjections.

Senator LUDWIG —I am being provoked, Mr President, by someone who failed to deal with this when they had the opportunity. When the opposition had an opportunity, right through from the early days of 2001 when national security legislation was brought forward, they failed to do so. (Time expired)

Senator TROOD —Minister, I think you have an incomplete recollection of the history of this matter. Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Isn’t the delay in making this appointment yet another sign of the government’s woeful commitment to supporting the legislation monitor position and a further indication that the Gillard government has a lack of serious interest in national security?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank Senator Trood for his very belated interest in this issue. Where were the opposition from 2000 onwards? When they were bringing forward national security legislation, they did not consider the need for a monitor during that time. It is interesting to note that they are now arguing strongly for a national security monitor. It is one that this government is committed to and we will bring it forward in 2010.

Senator Brandis —It was our proposal that you resisted.

Senator LUDWIG —We recognise that it is our legislation that will put the statutory position in place. It is comforting to know that you have now come on board with the national security monitor and, as I indicated, it will be the Prime Minister on recommendation and in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition— (Time expired)