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ANTI-TERRORISM BILL (NO. 3) 2004: Second Reading

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (12.43 p.m.) —The Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 3) 2004 has three main objectives. They are quite simple, and they add to a whole raft of initiatives taken by this government to amend our security laws and to make a legal framework which is adequate for Australia's needs in this day and age.

This series of amendments seems to be one of the salami slices the Attorney-General needs to take in order to get some of the anti-terrorism and protective measures through the parliament. We are dependent on the support of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate to make changes which are critical to Australia's security. It amazes me that the Australian Labor Party appear to be putting themselves in a position to be held culpable if our systems fail and if we cannot achieve the outcomes that are necessary to protect Australian lives. They seem to think that that sort of activity within the Senate is responsible and will produce good results for them politically and on the ground in Australia. I cannot agree with this approach, because I think that that sort of playing with national security is something that should not be done. National security should be approached with a sense of deep responsibility and concern for the well-being of Australian citizens. There does not seem to be any evidence of that at the moment.

The first objective of this bill is to amend the Passports Act so that, where people carry two passports and their Australian passport is confiscated or withdrawn, they cannot use a second passport to exit Australia. It brings into effect a provision that the international force of their overseas passport can, through Commonwealth law, be held to not be a sufficient reason for someone to travel, if it is a condition of their parole that they remain in Australia or if, because they are suspected of being likely to engage in harmful conduct, such as terrorist activity, they should be prevented from leaving Australia on a foreign passport. The second objective of this legislation is to ensure that those subject to a request by the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to the minister for consent to apply for a questioning warrant be prevented from leaving Australia. I am pleased that the Australian Labor Party are supporting this provision. It is one that they had doubts about over a long period of time. If the Director-General of ASIO says to the minister that a certain individual should be questioned and should be prevented from leaving Australia, this bill enables that process to be undertaken.

The third objective is to amend the forensic procedure provisions of the Crimes Act to facilitate effective disaster victim identification in the event of a disaster causing mass casualties—if a terrorist attack or an aircraft disaster were to occur within Australia, for instance. The DNA profiles of individuals who are casualties of a disaster of that type can be used for the purposes of identification. That is perfectly reasonable and it is all within the framework of the need to ensure Australia's security and safety.

I notice that the Australian Labor Party as supporters of the bill have adopted a broad approach to the legislation, and I intend to do the same. I need to say a few things about the Australian Labor Party's position as it compares with where the government is going on these measures. I want to set out pretty clearly for the House some of the initiatives adopted by the government and some of the responses from the Australian Labor Party to what are sensible measures. These started with the Australian Olympics and were then pursued more intensively following September 11 and the Bali bombings. In that situation, we have reacted as a government to the needs of the day, but the Australian Labor Party's reactions to the government's initiatives have on many occasions appeared to be confused. [start page 31994]

Some of the government's initiatives are wide-reaching and move into an area of legislation that we have not dealt with before in Australia. To list some of the changes to legislation, one has to go through a raft of provisions. Among the legislative initiatives adopted by the government there have been changes to: the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation legislation; the border security legislation of 2002; the Crimes Amendment Act, allowing forensics to be used to identify victims—the issue that we are dealing with today; the anti-hoax and other measures under the Crimes Act; espionage and related matters under the Criminal Code; offences against Australians under the Criminal Code; the suppression of terrorist bombings, making it an offence under the Criminal Code to place bombs or other lethal devices in proscribed places with the intention of causing death or serious harm; the terrorism and criminal act; the constitutional reference of powers; and the creation of a package of counter-terrorism legislation, which was passed by the Commonwealth on 27 June 2000, which received royal assent on 5 July 2000 and which states and territories have also mirrored in legislation they have enacted.

That removes the constitutional limitations so that Australian authorities can work together on counter-terrorism activities to protect Australian lives. Further, there is the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002, which removes the requirement for ASIO or for the Attorney-General to be satisfied by a decision in the United Nations Security Council relating to terrorism before making an organisation proscribable. Other government initiatives include: the 2003 Hezbollah amendment to the Criminal Code, the Hamas bill of 2003, the 2002 suppression of financing of terrorism and the Telecommunications Interception Legislation Amendment Act 2002. There we have a whole range of legislative initiatives—I have mentioned only some of them—that have been enacted by successive Attorney-Generals, particularly the current one, to draw together the legal framework for us to take security protection against those that would seek to harm Australians.

Terrorism as it is being expressed around the world is not a matter of making a military statement; it is a statement against the Australian way of life, against Western values. It is as simple as that. Terrorists want to disrupt and cause fear in order to drag down the current Western way of life. In the past three federal budgets the Howard government has allocated more than $3 billion over five years to enhance Australia's security. That applies to our capabilities and our arrangements with other governments and it is a unique and coordinated national approach.

I would like to list some of our achievements over this period. We have seen increased intelligence sharing and cooperation between government agencies—something that the Americans have struggled with; it is coming to light that there is now a coordinated approach being adopted in that country. We have seen a comprehensive new series of laws and technologies aimed at keeping ahead of organised crime syndicates in the new digital age to make sure that we have appropriate tracking and identification devices available to our law enforcement agencies. There has been a strengthening of our defence forces. It is essential that they are involved. We have seen the establishment of a new special operations command, a tactical assault group and a 300-strong instant response regiment with specialist skills.

Based overseas, we have new joint federal, state and territory police counter-terrorism investigation teams, which are at the cutting edge of taking charge of an incident should it occur or having in place preventative measures if such an incident were identified. We have extensive new resources to help the AFP fight terrorism, including additional investigators based overseas. That ensures essential intelligence and information-gathering processes in our near neighbourhood, where drug lords have moved without too much trouble. We need information on terrorist activities. It is essential that we work with our neighbours—our friends who are living in the region—and their governments to make sure that we all take charge of this situation.

There is tighter security in airports, along with armed plain-clothes air security officers on selected flights. We have state-of-the-art surveillance systems on Coastwatch planes, and more air and sea patrols to protect our borders. We have seen an upgrade in emergency services, with new equipment and specialist training. We have a more effective capacity to deal with chemical, biological and radiological threats. The implementation of the national counter-terrorism plan ensures that detailed strategic arrangements are in place for governments and security agents to prevent and respond to terrorism.

We have, step after step, logical, coordinated services in Australia, both state and federal. They are drawn together and matched with our security and intelligence-gathering processes and our defence systems and are related internationally to our friends and allies. We have seen the opening of the National Threat Assessment Centre—marking its transition to a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation—a full month ahead of when it was scheduled to commence operation. [start page 31995]

We are working with the Pacific islands. I saw dismissive remarks from the Leader of the Opposition about Australia's role with the Pacific forum and our relationship with its members. I think that is a critical part of our approach and it is foundational. We do not want to be imposing our systems on them, but we need to be able to understand where the risks lie and which systems are likely to expose us to threat should they be used. We have seen the establishment of unprecedented cooperative working arrangements between the AFP and its counterparts in our region, particularly in Indonesia. Despite what the previous speaker said, I think it is critical that we have that relationship and cooperation with Indonesia.

We have entered into nine memorandums of understanding in counter-terrorism cooperation with key partners in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Fiji, Cambodia, East Timor, India and Papua New Guinea. All are in place, all are bilateral and give us an understanding of how we work together. The framework of working together is underscored with hard words of cooperation, of binding trust and of working together. A trusted information sharing network of critical infrastructure protection was established in April 2003 to link Australian state and territory governments and business in the sharing of information on security threats and vulnerabilities. The business-to-government ministerial forum on national security was held in Canberra in June this year. All of these measures are drawn together in a cohesive way.

In light of that activity it is really strange to find that the package of counter-terrorism legislation that was passed by the Commonwealth on 27 June 2002 was played with by the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party wanted the United Nations, in the first place, to be the key instrumentality in deciding whether we listed terrorist bodies in Australia. How ridiculous was that and how ridiculous has it been proven to be? The Labor Party originally voted against giving the Attorney-General the power to list terrorist organisations. It just would not cop that. In early 2004 the opposition changed its position on that issue. It took two years to think the thing through, during which period we could not list the organisations that were a threat to the nation. The Australian Labor Party was prepared to stand between our security and a sensible listing process. In a press release, the opposition has claimed that, if elected, it would repeal the provisions it agreed to. Has that been retracted, or does the Australian Labor Party still have a policy that it would prefer to have the United Nations list the terrorist organisations which are a threat to Australia rather than place that in Australian hands?

While we have been putting together all the steps I have listed to make Australia safe and building up the resources to do so, the Australian Labor Party failed the Australian community when it rejected the ASIO bill at the end of the 2002 parliamentary sittings, showing complete disregard for protecting the community. It passed the ASIO bill early in 2003 while at the same time indicating it was going to wind back some of ASIO's powers. Thanks to Labor, ASIO's powers to detain and question people with information about possible terrorists attacks and to gather details we need to prevent these attacks have been seriously diminished. That shows a half-hearted appreciation of what lies before us.

A more subtle and equally concerning example of this approach was the Leader of the Opposition's suggestion that the Australian Labor Party would support retrospective criminal laws to facilitate the return of Hicks and Habib from Guantanamo Bay, with no apparent consideration of how such an amendment could possibly work. How would you do that? Nobody has ever thought of doing it before. Australian nationals took possible action of a terrorist type, and they need to be brought to trial under the processes under which they were first apprehended. To change the criminal law retrospectively is just crazy.

I thank a journalist with the Australian for bringing our attention once more to the material prepared by Katharine Betts, professor of sociology at Swinburne, in the journal People and Place. She draws attention to the fact that the standards and values of the Australian Labor Party are quite different to those of the community. I give a couple of examples that Janet Albrechtsen uses. She points to the fact that on a range of social and economic factors the Australian Labor Party elected person holds quite a different view to that held by Labor Party voters. For instance, she found that more than half of all voters, including Labor voters, think that the American alliance is very important to Australia, yet less than one-quarter of Labor candidates agreed. Only one-quarter of the Labor Party candidates agreed that the American alliance is important but half the voters think it is important.

Another issue which is important is that one-third of Labor Party voters have a great deal of trust that the US would come to Australia's defence but just 12½ per cent of Labor representatives or candidates do. So, on every issue of major relationship with the United States and on these security issues, it appears that the Australian Labor Party candidates and members are more suspicious of America, more anti-American and less prone to want Australia to be secure than those people who vote Labor. It is no wonder that there is a deep concern out there amongst the Australian people that the Australian Labor Party really does not understand the urgency of the situation and the need for actions such as the amendments we are dealing with today. I welcome the Attorney-General and thank him for his careful application to some of these needs of Australia, for his consistency and for his preparedness to keep fighting on small issue after small issue, building block after building block, to put together over two years a very comprehensive package. (Time expired) [start page 31996]

Author: Hon Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 4th August 04
Release Date: 4 Aug 2004


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