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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 29

Senator LUDLAM (12:23 PM) —The Greens welcome the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Laws Bill 2008 [No. 2]. It is a necessary and long-overdue mechanism and should have been introduced when the antiterrorism legislation was enacted, starting in 2001. There are longstanding democratic and legal principles, including the right of judicial oversight, which are undermined by the antiterrorism laws as they stand. This bill proposes to provide a significant safeguard mechanism to laws that currently lack rigorous review and balance.

Some of the laws that we have create substantive offences out of conduct, which in other circumstances would not qualify as conspiracy. People can be found guilty of substantive offences because they are talked about. Careless talk and bad ideas have become crimes, which is worrying in an open democracy. As Senator Troeth has indicated, such a reviewer function has been recommended a number of times by the Sheller review and also by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. I do not think there is any controversy—or I hope there is not—that such a reviewer is urgently called for.

Whilst the office of such a reviewer is necessary and will represent an important safeguard, it should not result in the permanency or legitimising of the antiterrorism laws because some of them are extraordinary powers. Many should have an expiry date and be subject to repeal. With the absence of a charter of rights for Australia or a bill of rights these laws are vulnerable to misuse and abuse, as has been seen in the Mohammed Haneef case, which calls into question how the antiterrorism laws have made Australia a safer place. It was, I think, a pretty serious call for a review of the laws.

The Greens commend the efforts of particular Liberal Party members and senators on the issue, including through the introduction of the bill. It is unfortunate that when a suite of antiterrorism laws were introduced by the former government such a reviewer function was not included. I will foreshadow a number of amendments which the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs inquiry into the bill have provoked. The inquiry yielded very high quality advice from some of the most respected legal minds in the country. In particular I draw your attention to the role of the independent reviewer and its effectiveness, which would be more effective if it is required to consider whether the antiterrorism laws comply with Australia’s human rights obligations. This was the subject of initial amendments, which were moved by Senator Bob Brown, and I will draw your attention to those amendments proposed on sheet 5531. The Greens will not be proceeding with those amendments, but I will speak more about it in the committee stage.

The Greens certainly support the role of the reviewer examining whether the antiterrorism laws are consistent with Australia’s human rights and other international obligations. We also foreshadow a second reading debate amendment which I will move shortly. We highly support the recommendation made by the committee that, to ensure the independence of the review process, we believe it should be a panel of three rather than a single reviewer. That diversity of experience on the panel would probably allow for a more rigorous process in what would be presumably a rather arduous workload.

Finally, I would just like to reiterate that we hold that it is not enough to simply scrutinise the laws. We also measure the continuing need for the laws themselves. Quite a number of them have proved unwise, undemocratic and inconsistent with Australian values and it is time to begin this work. I move Australian Greens amendment (2) on sheet 5638:

At the end of the motion, add:

                  “but the Senate is of the opinion that it would be more appropriate for the role of independent review of terrorism laws to be carried out by a panel of 3 members rather than a single Independent Reviewer of Terrorism”.