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Thursday, 27 March 2003
Page: 13895

Mr CIOBO (11:50 AM) —I am very pleased to rise today to speak on the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002. It is an important piece of legislation, and I am very pleased that it is being debated here in the Main Committee. The reason that pleases me is that, if it is in the Main Committee, there is bipartisan support behind this legislation. The people of Australia should take comfort in the fact that there is bipartisan support for this legislation. In so many different ways, it is important that we as parliamentarians send a clear message back to our electorates that we are working in a combined and coordinated way to overcome the scourge that is modern-day terrorism.

An important part of overcoming this scourge is the government's A Safer and More Secure Australia policy that it took to the 2001 election. As part of that policy, the government stated that it would, if re-elected, convene a leaders summit to seek outcomes on: (1) ways to improve Australia's ability to combat transnational crime and terrorism; (2) develop options for reforming or replacing the National Crime Authority to ensure we have a national body fully equipped to deal with future transnational criminal activities; and (3) provide a reference of constitutional power to the Commonwealth to support an effective national response to threats of transnational crime and terrorism.

This bill forms part of that third limb, but I will make some brief comments with regard to the second limb; that is, developing the options to replace the National Crime Authority. As a number of speakers prior to me have said in this debate, the world did change on September 11. It heralded the beginning of a substantial shift to the new threat and risk paradigm of a combination of the armies of nation states of old and the individuals of terrorist organisations of new. That is the new threat environment in which we must develop laws and agencies that are flexible enough to meet the fluid challenges of one, two or three people being involved in a terrorist organisation versus the old threat of an entire army.

The National Crime Authority was the front-line vehicle that was historically used but, in recognition of the fact that there is now a new threat environment within this country and internationally, we have had to develop a new body. The creation of the Australian Crime Commission was the way in which the Australian government responded very proactively to this new threat.

I note that the member for Dickson has just joined us and I know that he, as a member of the Joint Statutory Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, has done a lot of work in this area. I am certainly hearing from a number of people both within government and in the community that they are pleased to see the Australian Crime Commission operating effectively and at the forefront of a number of new initiatives that are taking place in law enforcement within Australia.

With regard to the third limb—the reference of constitutional power to the Commonwealth—this bill is the embodiment of that reference. The central element of the Commonwealth and state legislative package that was agreed to at the leaders summit in April 2002 was, in substance, this bill. This bill draws on references of state power to re-enact the terrorism offences enacted last year. It does this because there is an important and necessary need to tie any possible loose ends together.

The legislation which the federal government introduced created a number of offences in relation to terrorist acts, terrorist organisations and terrorist financing. These offences were based on existing Commonwealth constitutional powers. However, because the Commonwealth does not have a vast array of powers that expressly relate to terrorism offences, it has been necessary to develop a patchwork of different powers in order to introduce the laws. The simple fact is that these new laws are extensive and complex. It is impossible to rule out the possibility that there may be a legislative lacuna that could cause unforeseen problems for the Commonwealth and be exploited by those seeking to avoid prosecution. As a consequence, it has been necessary to develop this reference of powers by the states. The enactment of the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 will rule out the problem of a legislative lacuna.

This bill ensures comprehensive national application of the federal counter-terrorism offences. As a number of members speaking in this debate have said, it operates to re-enact part 5.3 of the Criminal Code—the part that contains terrorism offences—such that now it will attract the support of the state references of power. This is provided for under the Commonwealth Constitution in section 51(xxxvii). This is an important but rarely used section of the Constitution, and the government seeks to have it operate now in relation to this bill to ensure that we get widespread coverage as a result of this legislation. Once this bill is enacted it will re-enact those terrorism provisions so as to provide blanket coverage. It means that our terrorism offences will be capable of operating throughout Australia without any potential limitations arising from existing limits on Commonwealth constitutional powers. An important realisation, as well, is the fact that this bill provides for concurrent operation of state offences that might deal with similar types of activity. In no way does the Commonwealth seek to cover the field in this particular area. What it does seek is to work cooperatively with state governments to ensure that Commonwealth legislation is uniform and also respect the fact that states have jurisdictional rights to enforce powers in the same area.

This bill, as I mentioned, is part of a counter-terrorism legislative package that delivers on this government's commitment to ensuring the best possible protection for the people of Australia against those who would commit such egregious acts. The safety and security of all Australians are absolutely instrumental. Western democracies have at their very core liberty and freedom, and an important component of liberty and freedom is the ability to feel secure. I contend that they are mutually inclusive: if you cannot feel secure you cannot possibly have liberty and freedom. You must have both.

On that basis, it is important that we have in place laws that go to the core of addressing people's existing concerns about whether Australia could fall victim to the type of terrorist activity we saw on September 11. Indeed as a nation we have fallen victim: on October 12 in Bali. Whilst the Bali attack was a strike on Australians, it did not occur on home soil. I am sure that is reassuring for some, but it is not the position of the government to be too complacent about these issues. Accordingly, it is important that we have this type of legislation in place to provide the safety that people are looking for. Not only do Australians want to feel safe in their homes, safe in their cities and safe as they go about their daily lives but that safety is a crucial component of the long-term economic wellbeing of Australia. Industries such as the tourism industry—which I would highlight—are fundamentally reliant on the long-term safety and stability of our nation. The tourism industry is vital to a city such as the one I represent: the Gold Coast.

Mr Pyne —A fine city!

Mr CIOBO —It is a fine city, and I thank the member for Sturt for that interjection. The Gold Coast is rapidly growing. It is the fastest growing city in Australia. The tourism industry is an absolutely vital component of our city, accounting for some 37 per cent of local GDP.

Mr Pyne —A wonderful figure!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Gambaro)—I thank the honourable member for Sturt for his enthusiasm.

Mr CIOBO —On that basis it is important that this piece of legislation assist the tourism industry to send the message internationally that tourists will be safe when they come to Australia. We can flippantly look at this type of legislation as not being directly tied to the long-term benefit of the tourism industry. But the fundamental fact, as we heard from the member for Cook, is that, if an act were committed within Australia that shook the tourism industry to its foundations, it would have a vastly negative impact on the tourism industry on a long-term basis. When you consider that tourism is our second-largest export industry, accounting for some $24 billion—

Mr Pyne —Madam Deputy Speaker, will my honourable friend give way to a question?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —No, the give-way rule has not been renewed. It concluded at the end of last year.

Mr Pyne —I thought it had been renewed this year.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —No, we have not yet resumed the give-way rule, but at a discussion of the Speakers Panel the other evening we considered whether we would reintroduce it. So I cannot give way to the member for Sturt on this occasion, as much as I would like to.

Mr CIOBO —As I indicated, the tourism industry accounts for some $24 billion in exports. It is our second largest export industry. The member for Cook, who spoke earlier in this debate, said that the tourism industry in Bali has been completely destroyed as a consequence of the terrorist act that took place there. The simple fact is that if an act like that did occur in Australia we could, for a very long period, say goodbye to the exports that we generate through tourism. I am very pleased, as the member for Moncrieff, to stand in this chamber this morning and say that this legislation goes directly to the core of ensuring that the people of Australia not only feel safe as they go about their business but also recognise that we are on the lookout to ensure that there is long-term economic growth in industries such as tourism—the kind of growth that can be sustained and protected through legislation like this. I commend this bill to the House. It is an important component of the federal government's terrorist legislation. It is simply one additional tier and one additional response to the way the federal government is ensuring that the long-term safety and security of all Australians is protected against the current terrorist activity.