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Wednesday, 14 October 2015
Page: 7626

National Security


Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (14:15): My question is to Senator Brandis, the Attorney-General and the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Attorney, I refer to your latest announcement that the government plans to make control orders applicable to children as young as 14 and to extend the duration that control orders can apply to 28 days. What evidence exists that this further erosion of the fundamental freedoms we enjoy as Australians will do anything at all to make our communities safer? What evidence exists to suggest that the last four tranches of draconian so-called antiterror legislation have made Australia safer in any way?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:16): I am very sorry to say that, as we witnessed the week before last, people below the age of 16 are capable of being inspired by the surrogates and agents of Islamist terrorism to commit terrorist crimes. It was a shocking, shocking event, but what it demonstrates is that people below the age of 16 are susceptible. From time to time, I have had to sign warrants under the ASIO Act in relation to people as young as 14. I have had to do that on more than one occasion. That is the reason. This is a process, I might say, that has been mediated through the COAG working group on Australia's counter-terrorism laws, comprising both coalition and Labor governments, who have arrived at a view in relation to the appropriate minimum age for control orders.

Rather than characterising this in a rather rhetorical fashion, Senator, as a gross invasion of liberty, do you know how many Commonwealth control orders have been issued in the 11 years since those provisions were included in the Commonwealth Criminal Code in 2004?

Senator McKim: We get to ask the question and not the other way around.

Senator BRANDIS: Well, I am going to tell you. There have been six. This is a measure that is very rarely resorted to. It is resorted to only in the most extreme cases. You may think that for six control orders to issue in 11 years is draconian but I suspect that most Australians, who are confident that this government will keep them safe, would not think so.




Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (14:18): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. My question again is to the Attorney. Yesterday and again in question time today you have attempted to link these so-called reforms to the fatal shooting of NSW Police Force accountant Curtis Cheng. I agree that this was a terrible scenario and I am sure all of our hearts go out to Mr Cheng's family, friends and community, but why did you make this link when Prime Minister Turnbull, when asked about this yesterday, talked about the COAG process? (Time expired)


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:19): I just told you about the COAG process. The point of your primary question was that people below the age of 16 do not belong to at-risk categories, and that is demonstrably not the case. You confused yourself as well in your primary question, if I may say so, by conflating preventative detention orders with control orders. There is no proposal to extend the period for control orders to 28 days—in fact, control orders are issued for up to 12 months, but in the case of minors, in the case of people below the age 18, they will be issued for three months. That is a renewable period. Conscious of the fact that people below the age of 18 are minors, there are additional safeguards that will be built into the legislation, including an independent advocate to ensure the interests of the child concerned are protected.


Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (14:20): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Attorney, can you confirm that the changes that you are proposing would make Australia's so-called counter-terrorism laws harsher than those in any other liberal democracy in the world? Why do you think the level of risk in this country is so much higher as to justify the changes that you are proposing?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:20): I can tell you I have discussed this with my counterpart ministers in other jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom and Canada, and the laws of those two jurisdictions are more far-reaching than the laws proposed that have been introduced and are proposed for further introduction by this government. At all times, we are very, very conscious to craft our national security laws in a way that is optimal and that gives as much protection to the community as the community demands while at the same time remains respectful of the rights of the individual and the rule of law. That is why these powers have always been hedged by safeguards—safeguards proposed by the government and further safeguards recommended in a constructive and bipartisan fashion by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.