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Wednesday, 23 October 2002
Page: 5784

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (6:51 PM) —Notwithstanding the very short notice we have been given of the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2002, the opposition have carefully considered the bill, and we will support the bill. We are of the view that the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2002 is uncontroversial and will improve the operation of Australia's antiterrorist laws. As the Senate knows, following the commencement of the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002 on 6 July 2002, terrorist organisations can now be proscribed under Australian law by way of regulation.

Before the Governor-General can make a regulation specifying a terrorist organisation, the minister must be satisfied that the organisation is identified in a UN Security Council decision relating wholly or partly to terrorism and that the organisation is directly or indirectly engaged in preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act. The act stipulates that these regulations take effect after the last day on which they can be disallowed—that is, 15 sitting days after tabling.

The consequences of being proscribed as a terrorist organisation in Australia are severe. If someone directs the activities of, is a member of, recruits for, provides training to or receives training from, receives funds from or gives funds to, or provides support or resources to a listed terrorist organisation, they commit very serious criminal offences, with penalties ranging from 25 to 50 years in prison. The offence occurs whether or not the conduct, or result of the conduct, occurs in Australia. If an organisation is listed, it is deemed to be a terrorist organisation and prosecuting the relating offences is easier. Without a listing, all of the terrorist organisation offences are still in play; however, the prosecutor would have to prove that the organisation was a terrorist organisation rather than rely upon the listing.

The first regulation made under this legislation was made on Monday, 21 October this year—that is, the sitting day after the Attorney-General was asked a question in the House of Representatives about listing al-Qaeda. The 21 October 2002 regulation listed al-Qaeda and seven related terrorist organisations that had been listed by the Security Council. Under the legislation as it currently stands, the regulation to ban al-Qaeda would not take effect until the end of the disallowance period. This means al-Qaeda would not become a listed terrorist organisation in Australia until 13 December 2002—that is, 15 sitting days after tabling.

The Australian government has asked the Security Council to as a matter of urgency list Jemaah Islamiah as a terrorist organisation. As everyone would know, this is the organisation suspected of being responsible for the Bali bombings and other terrorist violence in South-East Asia. Under the legislation as it currently stands, even if the Security Council listed Jemaah Islamiah today and the consequential regulations were made immediately, the organisation could not be proscribed in Australia until the end of the second sitting day in 2003.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2002 will rectify this situation and ensure that regulations relating to the listing of terrorist organisations come into effect in the normal way, namely upon tabling. Specifically, this bill will remove the provisions of the current act preventing terrorist organisation regulations coming into operation straightaway and ensure that the regulations made on 21 October 2002 proscribing al-Qaeda and related organisations come into effect on that date—in other words, do not have to wait until the end of the disallowance period.

The opposition consider that this bill is consistent with the clear and balanced principles insisted upon when the package of security legislation was debated and considered at some length in this chamber earlier this year. We believe that the bill before the Senate is sensible and an improvement and, accordingly, the opposition support it.