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Thursday, 1 December 2016
Page: 5155

Dr ALY (Cowan) (13:07): I support the proposed Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016, with the implementation of the recommended amendments. I also commend the PJCIS on the work that they undertook of thoroughly examining the bill and the improvements to it in the form of 24 substantive recommendations. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague on the other side, Mr Jason Wood, the member for La Trobe. I had the pleasure of working with Mr Wood in this area before I entered the parliament and I would like to take this opportunity to commend him on his dedication to this field and to recognise the wealth of experience he brings to this parliament through his former role in law enforcement.

I note that the bill proposes a continuing detention order regime for high-risk terrorist offenders who are deemed by the court to present an ongoing risk to the community. I also note that the PJCIS made reference to proposed subdivision C, which includes provisions for the appointment of so-called 'relevant experts' to conduct and provide assessments about the likely ongoing risk presented by detainees, defining a 'relevant expert' quite loosely as a person who would be 'competent to assess the risk of a terrorist offender committing a serious offence under Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code' if that offender were to be released into the community. The PJCIS rightly recommends that the definition of 'relevant expert' be clarified and that each party be able to bring forward their preferred relevant experts.

Apart from the relative lack of expertise in Australia, it is also pertinent and utterly important to raise my concerns about this bill's absolute lack of a framework—any framework—for assessing the risk of reoffending in terrorist cases. There is no terrorist profile, and throughout history all attempts at profiling who is likely to become a terrorist or who is likely to reoffend among terrorist cases have come down to being able just to categorise some very broad demographics. It is generally accepted that terrorist behaviour can be seen as some form of equation which consists partly of cognitive radicalisation, which is the internalisation of extremist or radical beliefs; behavioural radicalisation, which is the acceptance of violence as a means of furthering those beliefs or the cause related to those beliefs; and, importantly, opportunity, which is the opportunity to carry out violent acts.

In addressing the bill today, the Minister for Justice, Mr Keenan, correctly pointed out that it is important that our counterterrorism framework remains responsive to the threat, and I would certainly agree with him. So I think it is very important that we continue to assess the changing nature of the threat and the changing nature of terrorism. What we are seeing, and what we have been seeing over the last five years in particular, is not what we were seeing five or 10 years ago. The cognitive and behavioural mix, in terms of terrorist behaviour, has changed. Most importantly, the opportunity factor in the equation has also changed.

Nowadays, opportunity to commit a violent or terrorist act does not rely on the ability and capacity of groups to form and communicate. Opportunity is as low tech as having access to a knife or a gun—or, indeed, any kind of household implement. In assessing risk, it is vastly more important that we take that into account and, in forming risk assessments, particularly around whether or not a detainee is likely to pose an ongoing risk to the community should they be released into the community, that we take that opportunity aspect of the equation into account.

Labor takes a bipartisan stance on all national security legislation. Our priority is to keep Australia safe. To do that we need a measured, effective and smart approach, with programs and policies that actually work. While this bill has been given the proper scrutiny and now properly targets terrorist offenders—no longer including treason or some of the other offences that were in the original bill—it would be remiss of me if I did not also speak to the urgency of other counterterrorism measures beyond legislative amendments that only impact a small number of people and are limited in the immediate impact they have on our ability to counter terrorism.

This government has promised several million dollars for countering violent extremism, which is the preventive aspect of counterterrorism. The government's much-lauded directory of services has not materialised, so we continue to operate in an environment where there are no programs, no support and no intervention. We have a situation now where we will have terrorist offenders being assessed with no robust assessment framework, in the absence of any robust expertise and, if released, with no programs for ongoing assessment and monitoring.

Before I entered this parliament I researched every single deradicalisation program in the world—those that occur in prisons, in the community and in specialised facilities. Best practice says that no deradicalisation program works without ongoing support, ongoing monitoring and ongoing programs. I must also mention that Professor Hamed El-Said, who is a much-lauded international expert in this field from Manchester Metropolitan University, has recently written an article about deradicalisation in Australian prisons and makes the point that there is need for further rehabilitation programs in Australian prisons.

In concluding, the substantive changes that have been brought to this bill clearly demonstrate that Labor is not just committed to ensuring that all Australians are safe and secure but, importantly, that we are also committed to ensuring that programs, policies and legislation actually work; that they actually target terrorism, they actually have an impact and they are actually effective. No more is this evident than in the fact that this bill, without the amendments that were largely pushed by Labor, would be ineffective, insufficient and simply unable to address the ongoing threat of terrorism. In saying that, I commend the bill in its current form.