Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 21 February 2019
Page: 1337

Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Home Affairs) (11:15): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Keeping Australian communities safe from those who seek to do us harm is, and will continue to be, the Australian government's number one priority.

Since the national terrorism threat level was raised in September 2014, the government has passed 17 tranches of national security legislation, 93 people have been charged with terrorism offences and there have been 15 major counterterrorism disruption operations.

Terrorism remains a global challenge, and Australia will continue to work closely with our international partners to manage this constantly evolving threat. Even after the defeat of Islamic State on the battlefield, the issue of foreign terrorist fighters will continue to be a challenge for our national security agencies and international partners for years to come.

As our national security challenges continue to evolve, we must constantly review our legislation and capabilities to address emerging threats. We must continue to disrupt and deny terrorists the ability to undertake attacks.

The Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Bill 2019 supports the government's commitment to keeping Australians safe. The bill will introduce a Temporary Exclusion Order (TEO) scheme to provide greater control over returning Australians of counterterrorism interest, including foreign fighters.

Since 2012, around 230 Australians have travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight with or support groups involved in the conflict. Around 100 are still active in the conflict zone, having fought for or otherwise supported Islamic extremist groups.

Following the collapse of Islamic State's territorial control, more Australians participating in or supporting the conflict are seeking to leave the conflict zone, and return to Australia. The government is determined to deal with these people as far away from our shores as is possible to ensure that if they return it is into the hands of authorities. This will enable law enforcement and security agencies to reduce the threat returnees pose to Australia.

There will be two components to the TEO scheme.

First, an Australian who is overseas may be subject to a TEO prohibiting them from returning to Australia for up to two years at a time. A TEO can be made when the minister suspects on reasonable grounds that the order would substantially assist in preventing terrorism-related activities, or if ASIO assesses the person to be a risk to security for reasons related to politically motivated violence. This component will prevent Australians of counterterrorism interest returning without warning or adequate protections in place.

Entering Australia if a TEO is in force will be a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment up to two years. It will also be an offence punishable by up to two years' imprisonment for an owner or operator of a vessel or aircraft who knowingly permits the vessel or aircraft to be used to bring such a person to Australia in breach of a TEO. This is intended to act as a deterrent to people smugglers and others in control of vessels from conspiring with and facilitating a person who is the subject of a TEO to enter Australia. The offences will not capture persons or transport service providers who bring a person into Australia, but are unaware of the fact that a TEO is in place in relation to that person. The offence does not apply where a person is being deported or extradited to Australia.

A TEO cannot be made against a person who is younger than 14 years old. If the person is between 14 and 17 years old, the minister must have regard to the protection of the community as the paramount consideration, and the best interests of the minor as a primary consideration.

A person who is the subject of a TEO could have their Australian passport cancelled by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and may not be eligible to apply for or be issued with a passport.

The second component of the TEO scheme—a return permit—will mitigate the risks to the community should an Australian of counterterrorism interest return to Australia. While a TEO is in force, a person will only be able to return to Australia with a return permit issued by the minister. This will ensure that if an Australian of counterterrorism interest does return to Australia, it is with adequate forewarning and into the hands of authorities.

Under a return permit, the minister can impose conditions to control the manner in which a person subject to a TEO may return to Australia. A condition of a return permit may prohibit a person from entering Australia for up to 12 months, and the ability to delay a person's return to Australia will enable authorities to assess the threat posed by the person and make appropriate arrangements for their return.

The permit may also specify when and how the person is to return to Australia. This will ensure the person will arrive into the hands of authorities with no surprises.

Returning to our country in breach of a return permit will be a criminal offence, punishable by two years imprisonment. Knowingly facilitating the return of a person to Australia in breach of a TEO or a return permit will be a criminal offence, punishable, again, by up to two years imprisonment. Importantly, the fault element for the offences will be knowledge. Again, the offences will not capture transport service providers who are unaware and have no knowledge of the fact a TEO or return permit condition is in place.

If the person does not return to Australia, the return permit will expire and the minister may make another TEO in relation to the person.

The bill also provides that a return permit may specify conditions with which the person must comply once in Australia. Failure to comply with a condition will constitute a criminal offence, punishable by two years imprisonment.

The conditions specified under a return permit will assist law enforcement and security agencies to monitor the whereabouts, activities and associations of a person, by requiring the person to provide timely notification to authorities. Following a period of investigation and further assessment, authorities may use other powers to address risks posed by the person, such as a control order or arrest and prosecution.

In imposing any conditions, the minister must be satisfied that such condition or conditions, taken together, are reasonably necessary, and reasonably appropriate and adapted, for the purpose of preventing terrorism-related conduct. Unlike a control order, the person will not be restricted or prohibited from undertaking certain activities, appropriately reflecting the fact that the person continues to be the subject of further investigation and assessment. A return permit may be varied or revoked on application by the person, or as decided by the minister.

The bill does not permit the permanent exclusion of any person who holds Australian citizenship. The minister must issue a return permit if a person who is subject to a TEO applies, or if the person is being deported to Australia. The minister also has a discretion to issue a return permit should the minister consider it appropriate to do so.

In conclusion, this bill not only ensures Australians remain safe from threats of terror, but also enables authorities to manage the return of Australians of counterterrorism interest in cooperation with international partners. In light of the evolving terrorism threat, it is essential that Australian authorities have the ability to comprehensively plan for and manage the arrival of people returning from the conflict zone. TEOs will not only assist in this endeavour, they will also enhance agencies' ability to monitor the movements and activities of such people once they do return, to mitigate any risks they pose to fellow Australians and Australia's interests.

Debate adjourned.