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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7603

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (6:28 PM) —I hope that Senator Greig is not suggesting the opposition would have opportunistic motives relating to the electoral cycle. I know Senator Greig is a very good mathematician, and of course it is true that if a three-year sunset clause were established it would take effect in a political cycle subsequent to the current one. The substantive point that the senator makes is an accurate one, and all of us who understand that we have three-year terms for the federal parliament in this country realise that a three-year sunset clause inevitably means that it would apply in a subsequent political cycle.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.

Senator FAULKNER —We were talking before the break about the proposal that a sunset clause be added to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002. Senator Greig, I think appropriately, questioned the decision of the opposition to propose a sunset clause with a time period of three years. We agreed before the dinner break that this would be likely to come into effect in the middle of the next political cycle. We can certainly say definitively that it would be after the next election. I think it is also fair to say that a period of three years does give an adequate period of time for us to see how effectively this legislation works, and three years is of course the time period that has now been recommended by three parliamentary committees. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD have made this recommendation as have the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee and the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee. I think it is an appropriate period for a sunset clause.

It is also fair to say that it is not common for the parliament to agree to sunset clauses in legislation. It is a most unusual circumstance, particularly in legislation like this. There are times when parliament agrees to a sunset clause for legislation on superannuation or tax, or agricultural levies and the like. But it is unusual—and I do think this is a proper point to make—for the parliament to agree to a sunset clause effectively because legislation is controversial. That is, of course, a key reason why this amendment is being proposed. It will give us an opportunity to consider how effective this regime has been after a reasonable period in which to make an assessment. It will require the parliament to agree to the regime if it is to continue after a three-year period. It will give us a capacity to review its effectiveness, and it will require the government to put forward a case for the efficacy of the legislation and both houses of the parliament to agree to such a regime continuing in force.

I say quite seriously that, even though the legislation itself is absolutely unprecedented—it does give unprecedented powers to ASIO—it is almost unprecedented for parliament to agree to such a sunset clause in legislation like this. It is not proposed lightly by the opposition—which, for example, as this committee would recall, would not contemplate a sunset clause in the antiterrorism legislation that was dealt with earlier this year. Those are some of the sorts of issues that were weighed up in determining the appropriate time period. I can say to Senate Greig that committees of the parliament did receive evidence on this and I feel that the amendment I have moved on behalf of the opposition puts forward a sunset clause of an appropriate time period for very proper reasons. This is one of the most important of the safeguards that the opposition believe are essential to have in place if this legislation is to be passed.