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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9933

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (21:23): I envy you your optimistic, insouciant, Panglossian view of the world. I do not hold myself out to be a specialist in international politics and the behaviour of international terrorist organisations; however, every report or study that I have read in recent years—and I have read many—concludes that this is a problem that we will face for a very long and indeterminate time into the future. That, by the way, is also the advice of our own agencies. It is the view of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and other respected Australian think tanks. It is a view that has been expressed by academic specialists on terrorism, including people like Professor Greg Barton, who is a well-known commentator in this field. This is a problem that will be with us for a very long and indeterminate time to come.

I can see the argument in some circumstances for sunset clauses, where you have unusual and, to use your word without conceding that it applies to this bill, draconian legislation that deals with a time limited problem, so that it should not remain on the statute books indefinitely. There is a good case for sunset clauses in those circumstances. Where we differ and where, with respect, you seem to differ from the entire body of specialist and professional opinion on this is that you think this is a time limited problem. As I said, I wish I could think that too, but I do not.

If a measure is an appropriate measure to deal with a current problem that one expects to be a problem for a long and indefinite time to come then it is not appropriate to sunset it. It is appropriate to inscribe it into the law. It is appropriate to inscribe it into the law, and if, in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years or whenever, a future parliament concludes that this problem has gone away, then it can be repealed. There is nothing to stop a parliament repealing a law. But to suggest that automatically this law should go on the basis of a guess, in the face of all professional opinion, that this is a problem that will go away in a decade is not, in my respectful view, an appropriate use of the mechanism of sunset provisions.