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Thursday, 1 December 2016
Page: 5152


Mr WOOD (La Trobe) (12:53): I rise today to speak on the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016. As a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I congratulate the committee chair, the member for Deakin, Michael Sukkar, for his great work, and also the deputy chair, who shares a boundary with me, Mr Anthony Byrne, the member for Holt.

The sad reality in my electorate of La Trobe, in south-east Victoria, is that in recent times we have had the awful situation of young people getting involved in violent extremism. There have been a number of arrests, including for attacks against police—and I will go into that further on in my speech. The first thing we want to do when it comes to this sort of situation is to try to do everything we can—and this legislation is obviously tough legislation—to prevent young people entering into that world of violent extremism. We had a program in my electorate called MyHack, and I congratulate Abdullah Alim, who is now the Western Australian Young Person of the Year, who ran the program in my electorate so well. It is a fantastic program. I recognise in the House the member for Cowan, Dr Anne Aly, who is an expert in the prevention of violent extremism. This is an outstanding program and needs to be run right across the country.

Terrorism is a concern we unfortunately face regularly in Australia now, and we cannot sit back and allow our legislation not to evolve with the problem that is evolving. I thank all the law enforcement officers—from the Australian Federal Police, the state police, the joint task force and all those members involved—for the work they do in making Australia such a great please to live. Sadly, we have had a number of terrorist attacks—three in New South Wales and one in Victoria. We have narrowly escaped 11 since September 2014—which, again, is due to great intelligence and great police work. As a former Victorian police officer and also involved in the counter-terrorism unit, I cannot give enough praise to those members who have protected us for so long.

One of the most awful planned attacks was for an attack in Melbourne this past Anzac Day. The plan was to stab and shoot police officers and members of the public. I remember how alert the police were at Anzac Day services and how concerned they were for their own safety. One of those charged was Sevdet Ramadan Besim, 19 years of age. After his plan was foiled, he pleaded guilty to a plot to run over and then behead a police officer before using his gun in a rampage.    In the Victorian Supreme Court in September 2016, Besim was given a 10-year jail sentence, and must serve at least 7½ years before he is eligible for parole.

There were also advanced plans to kidnap members of the public in Sydney and Brisbane and then behead them on camera and release the footage—absolutely shocking. Two schoolboys, who were allegedly preparing for a terror attack in Sydney's south-west, with police alleging they had links to Islamic State, were arrested and refused bail in October 2016. There was a plan to detonate bombs at a Mother's Day running event. There was also the plan to target government buildings, including the Garden Island Navy base and the Parramatta Court House. Again, the targets are regularly what we call the green and blue—the police and defence.

This is a real concern that we must take seriously.    One way to take this threat seriously is to support this amendment to part 5.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. I also congratulate Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has led the charge on this legislation. This amendment inserts a new regime which will enable the court, upon application by the Attorney-General—and I acknowledge the great work he has done on this along with Minister Keenan—to make an order for the ongoing detention of high-risk terrorist offenders serving custodial sentences.

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. 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, treason, serious terrorism or foreign incursions and recruitment. Sadly, we have people travelling overseas and getting involved in terrorism and endeavouring to come back to our country.

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

Now, I see that there may be public concern about this around whether this amounts to being able to keep someone detained indefinitely. My simple answer to this is: no, it does not. The orders available under this bill are time limited. An order for continuing detention can be made by a court only for a maximum period of three years, although there is no limit on the number of orders that a court can make in relation to a person. The court must review an order for continuing detention every 12 months. And a court's decision to issue a continuing detention order, or a decision to affirm the order upon review, can be appealed.

Adding to this, the bill contains significant safeguards to ensure respect for the rule of law. For example, only the Commonwealth Attorney-General or his legal representative may make an application for a continuing detention order. The court is the decision maker and 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. This is saying that the person in jail refuses to be rehabilitated and, if they are released into the public, there is a high probability they will get involved in a terrorist attack—which I am sure, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, you would be horrified to hear.

Some may ask why this is necessary. The object of the post-sentence preventative detention regime 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 serious terrorism offences if released into the community. This takes into account those who we know, through intelligence, have been radicalised in prison. There are so many people radicalised in prison, going back to the days of Richard Reid, the shoe bomber who was radicalised in Manchester prison. I had the great pleasure of going to the Victorian Police's Echo Taskforce, who look after the outlaw motorcycle gang members, presentations about the concerns in Barwon Prison in Melbourne, where you have violent extremists being patched over to the Mongols Motorcycle Club. The great news is that immigration minister Peter Dutton, strongly supported by the Prime Minister, put in place the need to have the ability to deport these people who are dual citizens. It is simply not worth the risk of allowing someone we know has terrorist inclinations back into society, because they may commit an act of terrorism. We just cannot take that chance.

At present, once a sentence of imprisonment has been served, convicted terrorists re-enter the community regardless of the risk they pose. It is important to remember that post-sentence preventative detention schemes are not new to Australia. In fact, the majority of states and territories, as well as international counterparts, including the United Kingdom and New Zealand, have enacted post-sentence preventative detention schemes for dealing with high-risk sex or violent offenders. New South Wales and South Australia, like the UK and New Zealand, have schemes which cover both sex offenders and violent offenders, while other states have schemes limited to sex offenders, but there is no existing Australian scheme that provides for post-sentence preventative detention of convicted terrorists.

To date we have had to rely on control orders for monitoring convicted terrorists and terrorism suspects upon their release from prison. These can include reporting requirements to police stations, the provision of fingerprints, restrictions on leaving Australia and prohibition from communicating or associating with a number of individuals. This is simply not good enough. With control orders it is very difficult to follow terrorist suspects. You cannot do it 24 hours a day. When I say 'terrorist suspects', I mean those who have been released with no sign of being rehabilitated. It is the equivalent of releasing a convicted terrorist and saying, 'Be good,' when we know that that specific person still has inclinations towards committing acts of terrorism. If we can preventatively detain sex offenders and violent offenders, there is no reason why we should not be able to do the same with convicted terrorists in order to protect our society.

This bill forms part of the government's comprehensive reform agenda to ensure the safety and protection of the community and it follows other legislative measures that have kept Australia's counter-terrorism framework responsive, effective and efficient. This is not an issue we can afford to drag our feet on. I strongly urge all states and territories to agree to these amendments, as this is very important right across the country.

I would also like to raise an issue that I have been greatly concerned about, even back in the Howard days—what is known as preventative detention. That is where a person is detained by police under preventative detention orders. This is completely separate to what we are talking about at the moment. The police have that person 'on ice', in policing terms. They cannot ask the person any questions regarding the activities they may have been involved in. If the police need to interview that person, they must be released and arrested under part IC of the Crimes Act. I have been greatly concerned about this since it was initially introduced. In relation to the evidence that this is not effective, there has never been a Commonwealth preventative detention order taken out. We have always relied on the states. To me, this is not good enough.

We saw the awful incident with Lindt Cafe in Sydney and we know—and I have previously spoken about this and I highly commend this—that New South Wales have gone down the UK path and have what we call a pre-arrest detention, where they can interview the person in custody. This is something which I know the Victorian state Labor government is dragging its feet on. This is something we need to ensure goes right across the country. The great concern I have is that you can have a person in preventative detention in a police interview room not being asked any questions yet that person has specific knowledge—for example, they know that, once a co-offender involved in a terrorist attack becomes aware that the person in custody got picked up, they will carry out a terrorist attack. To me, that is totally unacceptable and must be changed, and I have had so many frustrations about this over the year. Luckily, we have never had this situation occur, but it is one that I have spoken to the AFP about. No-one can guarantee that it will not occur. Today I strongly recommend the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Vasta ): I call the honourable member for Cowan, and I welcome her to the 45th Parliament.