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Thursday, 1 December 2016
Page: 5146

Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice) (12:30): I present the explanatory memorandum to the bill and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill introduces a framework into part 5.3 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code that will provide for the continued detention of high-risk terrorist offenders serving custodial sentences who are considered by a court to present an unacceptable risk to the community.

The bill has had the benefit of consideration by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS). The government has accepted all 24 recommendations of the committee, and all states and territories have indicated their support for the government amendments, now made in the Senate, arising from that and from further consideration of the bill. The government again thanks the states and territories for their partnership in this way in protecting the community against terrorism.

I also acknowledge with gratitude the valuable bipartisan work of the committee, very ably chaired by Michael Sukkar.

Terrorism poses a serious threat to Australia and its people. There have been 24 counterterrorism operations since September 2014. Across the jurisdictions, there are a total of 17 terrorist offenders serving a custodial sentence and 40 people currently before the courts.

While a majority of states and territories, as well as international counterparts, including the United Kingdom and New Zealand, have enacted postsentence preventative detention regimes dealing with high-risk sex or violent offenders, there is no existing Australian regime for managing terrorist offenders who may continue to pose an unacceptable risk to the community following the expiry of their sentence.

Law enforcement agencies can seek to rely on control orders to manage the risk of terrorist offenders upon their release from prison. However, there may be some circumstances where, even with controls placed upon them, the risk an offender presents to the community is simply too great for them to be released from prison. This is a significant public safety issue.

Commonwealth, state and territory governments are committed to ensuring that Australia's counterterrorism framework remains responsive to the evolving national security threat.

At a Council of Australian Governments meeting in December 2015, leaders agreed to develop a nationally consistent postsentence preventative detention scheme to enable a continuing period of imprisonment for high-risk terrorist offenders.

At a COAG meeting in April, states and territories agreed in principle for the Commonwealth to lead the process of developing a postsentence preventative detention regime that could apply uniformly across all jurisdictions.

On 5 August, the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis, met with state and territory attorneys-general to discuss the issue. The jurisdictions agreed in principle to the creation of a national postsentence detention regime on the terms of the Commonwealth draft bill. Subsequent to this meeting, all jurisdictions agreed to the provisions of the bill in accordance with the Intergovernmental Agreement on Counter-Terrorism Laws, which underpins the existing referrals of power on counterterrorism matters by the states to the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth considers that the new framework has a sound constitutional foundation. Out of an abundance of caution, however, the Attorney-General has asked the states to enact amendments to existing referrals of power relating to part 5.3 of the Criminal Codeto make explicit that state support extends to the postsentence preventative detention regime.

The regime is modelled closely on existing state and territory postsentence detention regimes for high-risk sex or violent offenders. The government thanks the jurisdictions for the collaborative spirit in which this bill has been developed.

The object of the bill is to ensure the safety and protection of the community by providing for the continuing detention of terrorist offenders serving custodial sentences who pose an unacceptable risk of committing a serious terrorist offence if released into the community upon the expiry of their sentence.

The bill will enable the Supreme Court of a state or territory to make two types of detention orders against a person. The first is a continuing detention order, which will enable a person to be detained in prison for up to three years. However, further applications may be made, and there is no limit to the number of such applications. An order can only be made against a person who is currently imprisoned and serving a sentence for specified offences under the Criminal Code, including offences related to international terrorist activities using explosive and lethal devices; serious terrorism offences or certain foreign incursions and recruitment offences.

The second type of order a court may make is an interim detention order, which can last for up to 28 days. An interim detention order will be available in circumstances where the terrorist offender's sentence or existing continuing detention order will end before the court has had the opportunity to determine a continuing detention order application.

The bill contains significant safeguards to ensure respect for the rule of law. Only the Commonwealth Attorney-General may make an application for a continuing detention order to the Supreme Court of the state or territory in which the person is currently imprisoned. The court must be satisfied to a high degree of probability, on the basis of admissible evidence, that the offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious terrorism offence if the offender is released into the community. A serious terrorism offence is an offence in part 5.3 of the Criminal Code that carries a maximum penalty of seven or more years of imprisonment. The court must also be satisfied that there is no other less restrictive measure that would be effective to ensure community safety.

A continuing detention order is appealable and must be reviewed every 12 months. Furthermore, a person must be at least 18 years old when their original sentence ends and cannot be accommodated or detained in the same area of a prison as persons serving ordinary sentences of imprisonment except in certain circumstances.

This government has worked and will continue to work closely with the states and territories on this important scheme to protect the community.

Commonwealth, state and territory governments are committed to ensuring that Australia's counterterrorism framework remains responsive to the evolving national security threat.

Countering terrorism is a priority for all Australian governments. We greatly appreciate the ongoing partnership with states and territories in protecting the community from terrorism.

This bill forms part of the government's comprehensive reform agenda to ensure Australia's counterterrorism framework is effective in keeping the Australian community safe. I commend the bill to the House.

Leave granted for second reading debate to continue immediately.