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Wednesday, 4 December 2019
Page: 4995

Senator WATT (Queensland) (11:44): I rise to make a second reading speech contribution on behalf of the Labor Party. The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Bill would make a number of amendments to the Crimes Act 1914 and the Commonwealth Criminal Code. Schedule 1 would amend the Crimes Act to expand the existing presumption against bail for terrorism offenders to a larger class of persons and also introduce a similar presumption against parole for terrorism offenders. Schedule 2 would amend the Criminal Code to address a perceived gap in the continuing detention order regime and also enable the minister, in an application for a continuing detention order, to withhold exculpatory information from a terrorist offender in the interests of national security, the safety of human sources, and the security operations and public.

The bill is consistent with principles that were agreed by the Council of Australian Governments on 5 October 2017. In particular, it is consistent with the principle that the presumption against bail and parole should apply to categories of persons who have demonstrated support for, or links to, terrorist activity. This bill was referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for inquiry and report. Labor and Liberal members of the committee made one recommendation to improve the bill, and I'm pleased that the government has accepted that recommendation in full.

There was one area of disagreement between Labor and Liberal members of the intelligence committee. The nature of that disagreement is set out in an additional comment to the committee's report. The disagreement relates to section 19AG of the Crimes Act. Under that section, a court is required to fix a non-parole period of three-quarters of the head sentence when sentencing a terrorist offender. In his report on the prosecution and punishment of children for terrorism offences, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, James Renwick SC, concluded that, insofar as it currently applies to children, section 19AG does not comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For that reason he recommended that section 19AG of the Crimes Act be amended so that it no longer applies to offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time of offending.

Labor members of the committee were persuaded by Mr Renwick's report and agreed with his recommendation to amend section 19AG so that it no longer applies to children. Liberal members of the committee did not agree with that recommendation. It is, however, important to note that this bill would amend section 19AG of the Crimes Act so that it more closely conforms with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. So, while the bill does not implement Mr Renwick's recommendation in full, it does mark a welcome improvement on the existing position.

Labor understands that the government will be moving an amendment in the Senate to implement the bipartisan recommendation of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Subject to the Senate agreeing to that amendment, Labor supports the passage of this bill.

I might just mention in passing that Senator Whish-Wilson has also moved a second reading amendment to this bill. While Labor does urge the government to consider the various matters that are raised in that second reading amendment—and we think they are matters that are worth considering—we won't be supporting this amendment. My understanding is that it has been tabled very late, and we haven't had the opportunity to give it full consideration. So, on that basis, we will be opposing that second reading amendment.