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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7434

National Security


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:09): My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Brandis. Will the minister update the Senate on what the government is doing to further strengthen national security?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:09): Thank you, Senator Bushby, for that very important question. Since 12 September last year, when Australia's national security agencies raised the national terrorism public alert level to high, 24 people have been charged as a result of nine counter-terrorism operations around Australia. That is more than one-third of all terrorism related arrests since 2001. The government constantly review our counter-terrorism laws to ensure they meet the needs of law enforcement and security agencies to respond to the changing threat environment.

On 12 June this year, when I addressed the Regional Summit to Counter Violent Extremism, in Sydney, I foreshadowed that the government would be introducing further counter-terrorism legislation later in the year—that is, in addition to the four tranches of counter-terrorism legislation that have been considered by this parliament in the last 12 months. The government has been discussing a range of reforms with law enforcement and security agencies and with the states and territories to respond to lessons learned from the increased operational activity of the past 12 months.

The bill will include amendments to implement recommendations from the Council of Australian Governments Review of Counter-Terrorism Legislation, as well as the learnings from that operational activity. Among other things, the bill will lower the age for a control order from 16 to 14 years, subject to appropriate safeguards; facilitate the monitoring of individuals subject to control orders through enhanced search, telecommunications interception and surveillance device regimes; provide greater protection to sensitive information in control order proceedings; and introduce a new offence of incitement of genocide. The bill will contain a range of other measures as well. It is the government's intention that it be dealt with by the parliament before the end of this year.


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:11): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Will the minister inform the Senate how the government has been working with the states and territories in relation to the proposed legislation?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): Yes, I can, Senator Bushby. The Commonwealth government has been working very closely in partnership with the state and territory governments as jurisdictional partners to improve Australia's national security legislation. We have done so in furtherance of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Counter-Terrorism Laws. Draft provisions have been the subject of consultation with states and territories via the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee.

As I mentioned a moment ago, I foreshadowed this legislation on 12 June. The National Security Committee of cabinet then approved proposals for inclusion in the bill in late June, and my department began drafting immediately. On 2 September, draft provisions of the bill were circulated to state and territory governments in order to commence consultation, and the Commonwealth has been responsive to proposals put forward by the states and territories.


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:12): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Will the minister advise the Senate of any further consultations undertaken by the government?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:12): Yes, Senator Bushby. After the draft proposals were circulated on 2 September, on 5 September the Commonwealth responded to issues raised by some of the state and territory governments, noting that all issues would be pursued as a matter of priority through the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee. On 9 September and again on 9 October, the Commonwealth hosted consultations at officials level with the state and territory governments to further the consultation in relation to the bill. It is anticipated that the final draft provisions of the counter-terrorism bill will be sent to state and territory governments this week to enable briefing of first ministers to obtain final agreement on the text of the provisions.