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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 29

Senator TROETH (12:19 PM) —I introduced the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Laws Bill 2008 [No. 2] on 23 June and I am delighted to be able to further the process. The one-off Security Legislation Review Committee, the Sheller committee, was established in 2002 and reported in 2006 with its first recommendation being to establish a mechanism for an independent reviewer. This was examined in detail and endorsed unanimously by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in September 2007. Now it is time for this bill, the outline of which was given in my earlier speech.

The bill was examined in detail by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and several recommendations were made in their report. I am pleased to re-introduce the bill with amendments, which I will detail in the committee stage. Broadly speaking, these amendments undoubtedly enhance the capacity of the independent reviewer as an instrument to ensure that our laws relating to terrorism are effective, are consistent with fundamental legal principles and human rights obligations, and do not have undesirable impacts. I appreciate the great contribution made by those who responded so promptly to the committee’s request for evidence about the bill, and the strong community support for the measure is striking. I appreciate the committee’s thorough examination of the measure. It is noteworthy that the committee’s support for the establishment of this position was strong and unanimous. So members of all parties believe that it is a necessary position. The committee members expressly endorsed the opinion of Associate Professor Andrew Lynch as providing the concise and compelling justification for this position to be introduced, and I believe that is worth quoting. He wrote:

First, continuing an integrated examination of how the complex body of anti-terrorism law works enables early identification of inherent problems. Second, it helps to depoliticise the very contentious debates about these laws and their importance overall to national security. Third, it reassures the community that a kind of watchdog exists to report publicly on laws that they fear might be used against them.

He goes on to say that the unanimous support of the committee for the bill in principle and the recommendations to strengthen it echoes the bipartisan support for an independent reviewer and he goes on to quote the two committees that I have mentioned. He said that perhaps at the time that the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security proposed the independent reviewer position be established there was a sense that it was premature and that it was too soon to assess the actual operation and impact of the laws. Given that some 30 packages of terrorism laws have been passed by the parliament in the last eight years, that is no longer the case and this is a timely and important measure. I hope all senators will support it and I commend the bill to the Senate.