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Thursday, 4 July 2019
Page: 297

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

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Bill 2019 is an important addition to the government's efforts to further strengthen Australia's national security laws and counterterrorism framework.

Keeping Australian communities safe from those who seek to do us harm is, and will continue to be, the Australian government's No. 1 priority. This bill supports the government's commitment to keeping Australians safe. The bill introduces a temporary exclusion order (TEO) scheme to delay Australians of counterterrorism interest from re-entering Australia, until appropriate protections are in place.

Since 2012, around 230 Australians have travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight with or support extremist groups involved in conflict. Around 80 are still active in conflict zones.

The advice of Australia's national security agencies is that many Australians of counterterrorism concern, who have travelled to Iraq and Syria to engage in that conflict, are likely to seek to return to Australia in the very near future. This bill will ensure that law enforcement agencies can effectively manage these returns in a way which will reduce the threat to the Australian community.

There will be two components to the TEO scheme.

First, an Australian of national security concern who is overseas may be subject to a TEO prohibiting them from returning to Australia for up to two years. The bill does not permanently prohibit entry into Australia, and a person will be entitled to a return permit if they apply.

A temporary exclusion order could be made where the minister suspects, on reasonable grounds, that the order would substantially assist in preventing terrorism-related activities. A temporary exclusion order could also be made by the minister where ASIO assesses the person to be a risk to security for reasons related to politically motivated violence.

The bill establishes a framework for a reviewing authority to provide independent oversight of the minister's decision to make a TEO before it comes into force.

An exception to this review process is provided for in the bill to address urgent circumstances. In such cases, the TEO would come into force immediately pending review, which must be undertaken as soon as reasonably practicable.

The reviewing authority will be appointed by the Attorney-General. Former judges or serving senior Administrative Appeals Tribunal members may be appointed to the role.

If the reviewing authority determines that the minister's decision was not lawful, the TEO is taken to have never been made. All TEOs will be subject to review, and the reviewing authority will have access to all the information that was before the minister, except to the extent that the disclosure of such information is not in the public interest. This will protect sensitive sources and capabilities. It will, however, be open to the reviewing authority to overturn the decision to make a TEO if insufficient information to support the making of the exclusion order is provided.

Review of the minister's decision is based on Australian administrative law principles relating to the legality of the decision. This is similar to the United Kingdom's TEO scheme. Judicial review will also be available through the Federal Court or High Court.

A TEO would not be able to be made against a person who is younger than 14 years of age, and for persons aged between 14 and 17, it will be a requirement for the minister to have regard to the best interests of the minor as a primary consideration.

The second component of the TEO scheme—a return permit—will mitigate risks to the community following the return to Australia of persons who were subject to a TEO.

The bill specifies the minister must issue a return permit within a reasonable period if a person applies or if a person is being deported or extradited to Australia.

The bill also provides that a return permit may specify conditions which the person must comply with once in Australia. The conditions would be tailored to the individual, with the intention of assisting law enforcement and security agencies to appropriately manage their risk to the Australian community.

Conditions that may be imposed include requirements that the person surrenders their Australian passport, or that they notify authorities if they change their residential address.

Conditions would only be imposed where considered necessary for the purpose of preventing terrorism related activities.

The bill was first introduced into parliament on 21 February 2019, and referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for inquiry.

The government has reviewed the committee's report from this inquiry, and has substantially incorporated the committee's recommendations into the bill I introduce today. I thank the committee for its work, and take this opportunity to table the government's response to this inquiry.

In conclusion, this bill addresses the significant risks which Australia faces from returning foreign fighters.

It is essential that Australian authorities have the capacity to manage the risk of persons returning to Australia from foreign conflict zones.

The temporary exclusion order scheme being introduced under this bill is based on a scheme which has been successfully operating in the United Kingdom. It is targeted and specific to individuals who are a national security risk to the community. Moreover, it is a proportional response to the threats we face, while ensuring appropriate safeguards and accountability.

The government has been clear that our policy is to deal with foreign terrorist fighters as far from our shores as possible.

The bill will ensure that if an Australian of counterterrorism concern does return to Australia, it is with adequate forewarning and into the waiting hands of authorities.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.