SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (TERRORISM) BILL 2002 [NO. 2]Cognate bills:SUPPRESSION OF THE FINANCING OF TERRORISM BILL 2002 CRIMINAL CODE AMENDMENT (SUPPRESSION OF TERRORIST BOMBINGS) BILL 2002 BORDER SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2002 TELECO
Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (12.47 p.m.) -One must wonder where the Australian Labor Party really is going in its so-called stand against terrorism. You are prepared to throw the whole responsibility of the House of Representatives over to the Senate, let them go away in a committee and spend days and days in committee and then move amendments ad nauseam in the Senate. There is no commitment in that.
The Leader of the Opposition comes to the house and says, `This is a matter of urgency'. His actions belie his commitment to urgency. His actions belie the suggestion that the Australian Labor Party is really serious about any attempt to deal with terrorism today. What they are prepared to do is just cast off all responsibility of this House, move it to the Senate, let the Senate spend days on it - weeks if they wish - and then eventually consider whether or not they will accept the legislation the Senate comes forward with. That is not a responsible attitude; they are not the principles the Leader of the Opposition outlined. They are not the principles that he espoused here in the House.
There are two speeches in that speech: one here for the public, which says, `We are against terrorism', another one for internal consumption, which means that they are going to delay and try to destroy this legislation. Don't worry, we have seen it in the funding of schools legislation. We have seen what you have done there: you have cried poor mouth on behalf of schools and then blocked the legislation in the Senate. We have seen you do it day after day. You make public statements that belie your actions. You are a double-minded, double-action lot of people. You make statements in the House that you publicise to the public and put them out around your electorates, but block the stuff in the Senate and say it is the government's fault. That lacks integrity, that lacks sense of direction, that lacks commitment, that lacks loyalty, that lacks understanding, that lacks patriotism and that lacks a commitment against terrorism. You guys are just all words, loud noise and no action.
Opposition members interjecting-
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr F.W. Mossfield - Order. If the member for Mitchell addressed his remarks through the chair I think he would get a better hearing from the members on the left.
Mr CADMAN - Thanks you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will not reflect on you, but in other circumstances you could perhaps be part of that noise.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER - That is a reflection.
Mr CADMAN - The Australian Labor Party shows no commitment or patriotism. They are anti-Australian in every action they have taken today here. They have dealt with this in exactly the same way as they have dealt with the schools legislation. What is their undertaking? To throw it away to the Senate. They make loud noises, `Sign the convention now'. And yet with the very legislation that proposes the signing of that convention they are prepared to send it off to the Senate. Come on, get real! We have statement after statement, `Urgent action is needed, sign the convention now.' The Leader of the Opposition said, `You could have had this legislation last year.' When they get a chance to pass it, what do they do? Give it to the Senate - no sense of responsibility or commitment at all. Not patriotic, not committed, not anti-terrorist - just prepared to let things roll along and just hope that there are no terrorist actions in Australia that we have to deal with.
It is exactly the same way that you dealt with the migration legislation: same system, same formula. You can see the pattern: `Schools and migration - it is going to be problems for the government if they cannot get action, so we will make noises here in the House of Representatives and we will send the whole issue over to the Senate.' There are poor schools in Australia awaiting funds. They have been awaiting funds for months and months. They have been awaiting funds from August of last year. Those funds have been not allowed by members of the Australian Labor Party refusing to pass legislation in the Senate.
The migration problems that Australia has seen and the problems of people coming illegally into Australia, the so-called asylum seekers, have been dealt with in the same way. Philip Ruddock, who by anybody's understanding is a compassionate, thoughtful person, has come into this House on four or five occasions saying, `Please let me deal with this situation.' I do not want to stop migration; Australia depends on migration. But Australia must have a manageable plan that people understand, where the people that are going to make a contribution can come here - not the latest bunch of blow-ins who happen to jump on a boat but those people out of the refugee camps who have waited for years for the chance to get here, people in the family reunion program or people who will start a business that Australia wants to have, who are in the proper queue and are going through the proper process. Philip Ruddock has tried to have legislation to deal with that. It has been blocked in the Senate time and time again. [start page 1048]
What happens when it is raised in the House of Representatives? `We let it go through,' they say. Yes, the Australian Labor Party had no choice but to let it go through, because the fact of the matter is that they did not have the numbers to vote it down. So they did let it go through - they voted against it, but they did let it go through. In the Senate, it was a different story. They blocked, delayed and obfuscated - they did everything to foil the government. Again, they are doing the same thing with this antiterrorist legislation.
These are serious matters. You are prepared to play with the lives of children needing education in schools. You do not seem to care about poor schools; you do not seem to care about kids' education. Mr Deputy Speaker Mossfield, I know that you do care - I am just amazed that in another forum you have not been more persuasive with your colleagues, to have them accept the same attitudes that you express and that I see from time to time. But what does the Australian Labor Party do as a whole? They oppose the legislation to fund schools. Some might say that this is not so bad. But then they decide to block the legislation that will clean up the problem of illegal migrants and asylum seekers. That becomes more serious, because one has to have a measured and proper program. One cannot have people arriving in Australia, saying: `Because I could afford to pay for a boat, because I could afford the fare, because I could pay a people-smuggler, I have a right above and before others to be in Australia.' Australians are for fairness. They do not like people who use money, position or threats to gain an advantage over others.
What we are seeing today in the parliament is security legislation -terrorism bills, they have been called - namely, a whole range of bills seeking to make Australia a safer place. There is nothing extraordinary about them. The Leader of the Opposition even says, `We are going to support them, but we will whinge about the fact that we haven't been consulted.' They could have spent the whole time here talking about it, but no - the Australian Labor Party said, `We will give it to the Senate, and let's wait weeks and weeks while the Senate pores over it.' Not a single member of the House of Representatives is going to have a say in that process. At the end of the day, it will come back here and we will decide whether the House of Representatives accepts it. It could be midyear before this whole thing is fixed up.
They claim urgency, but their actions belie their commitment. `Sign the convention today,' says the Leader of the Opposition. `They could have done it last year,' says the Leader of the Opposition. I am quoting the words he used in his speech. They are absolutely wrong, because he wants to delay and block this legislation from going through in a speedy manner. He complains about this legislation being broader than the UK legislation and that it must only apply to terrorism - that is what he is saying. He is not prepared to give the urgency factors a consideration although he proclaims them publicly. Instead, he says, `This is urgent. The government has been slack. It could have done it last year. Let's get on with the job,' but the other story is: delay it in the Senate; put it to one side.
What is in this legislation that the Leader of the Opposition finds so offensive? Is it the fact that we have a great range of bills concerning the security of Australia - the suppression of financing of terrorism; the changing of the Criminal Code so that treason is redefined to be about what people can do as a treasonous act, the changing of the customs legislation to give customs officers greater powers? Are these the factors that the Leader of the Opposition finds so objectionable that he has to send them off to the Senate? Is he not prepared to make decisions himself on this?
The bills introduced today implement the recommendations of a high level review of Australia's security. The government started that immediately after September 11. The counter-terrorism arrangements chaired by the secretary of the Attorney-General's Department have been brought to the House as a result of that examination. The terrorism bill creates a new general offence of terrorism and an offence related to preparing for or planning terrorist acts. These offences will be inserted in the Criminal Code and will be punishable by imprisonment for life. So there is the first action. Is that an objectionable one for the Australian Labor Party - that somebody preparing and planning a terrorist act should suffer the effects of the Criminal Code and be punished by life imprisonment? Are they finding that that is something which is unacceptable, or which has to be pored over for hours by the Senate?
These current proposals replace the existing treason offences in the Crimes Act with a modernised offence in the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code has been changed, and should be changed, as Australia starts to realise what the prospects are that we, too, might suffer an attack similar to that experienced in the United States. This network is worldwide - there is no doubt about it. Any terrorist activity that expects to have a big political impact will be worldwide. It is a new era in the way in which people seeking to gain a political advantage will operate. It applies day to day in Jerusalem, where suicide bombers are prepared to take out whole bunches of people in public places. They are not military or political targets - they are just ordinary young people, or mums and dads, going about their lives in a civil manner. The terrorist does not care who he or she targets. They will take out innocent people as they did in New York and planned to - and, to some degree, did do - in Washington.
There are changes to the Criminal Code concerning what the intention and actions of a person wanting to perform a terrorist act are. There is the insertion of a regime enabling the Attorney-General to proscribe an organisation that has a specified terrorist connection or that has endangered, or is likely to endanger, the security or integrity of the Commonwealth. This means that he may make the organisation illegal and make the membership or other specified links with it an offence. So there is scope for the Attorney-General, after proper consultation, to identify dangerous organisations or links with dangerous organisations and make it an offence to belong to them. [start page 1049]
It enables air security officers, when they are on all-Australian civil aircraft, to exercise their power of arrest without warrant in relation to the proposed terrorism and terrorist bombing offences. That is what Aussies want. They want something with a bit of teeth in it so that if there is a threat here something can be done about it. The Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Bill 2002 will change the Criminal Code to make it an offence to fund terrorism, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. So people collecting funds - whether it be in fetes, churches or anywhere - for terrorist causes face the prospect of being imprisoned for life. This would apply as much, I believe, to events in Ireland - if they were to be identified as terrorist activity - as it would to events in Yugoslavia or the Middle East. Any action where funds are being raised to support a terrorist organisation or function could face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
This penalty and these new offences are in line with the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. There we have it in this legislation. The opposition say, `Sign the convention,' yet they want to slow the whole thing down and spend days deciding in the Senate whether or not we should sign the convention. What is this about? This is to delay and obstruct the government - nothing more. We have seen it in schools, we have seen it in migration -
Mr McClelland - Fair go. You're kidding, Alan.
Mr CADMAN - The members at the table seem to be denying that that has occurred.
Mr McClelland - It's an outrageous suggestion.
Mr CADMAN - It is a fact. It is recorded here day after day that the opposition have done it with school funding and with the amendments to the Migration Act, and now they are going to do it with this legislation.
The Criminal Code amendment will implement in Australia other parts of the international convention. That means that a person who delivers, places, discharges or detonates an explosive or other lethal device in or against a place of public use, a government facility, a public transport system or an infrastructure facility, with the intent of causing death, serious bodily harm or extensive destruction, will be guilty of an offence punishable by life imprisonment. There we have another element that is really important for Australia to have in its legislation, but the opposition say, `No, we're going to delay that and let the Senate deal with it.' If it is so important, pass it now; pass it now if you are serious. The government has applied itself and has had advice from all its agencies on what it should be doing, but the Australian Labor Party want to nitpick over that advice, bring people before the Senate, scrutinise them and pursue these matters. But the things that I am describing are part of the changes to the Criminal Code that the government intends to implement; they are part of the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and they are part of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
The Customs legislation will increase our national security by introducing further measures to protect our borders. What does that do? The capacity of Customs to search and investigate will be increased. It means that around airports Customs officers will have greater powers. It means that there will have to be proper identification of people working in airports, and that is proper. It means that Customs will be able to investigate goods that are in transit. They cannot do that at the moment. By goods in transit, I mean goods that are passing through an airport or goods that are not consigned to a particular destination - for example, goods that are in transit from somewhere international through Sydney airport to Melbourne. Customs will have the opportunity of investigating goods in transit. That seems to me to be a pretty sensible decision.
A further element of the package - and this is in the bill that will come to the House later - is to expand ASIO's powers to detain and question people for the purposes of gathering security information. That legislation will be introduced next week. It will allow our security agencies to fully investigate where they think a problem may come from and to speak to and take evidence from people who may be suspects. Whether it be the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002, the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Bill 2002, the Criminal Code Amendment (Suppression of Terrorist Bombings) Bill 2002 or the changes to the Customs Act, the government has moved on the whole of this area with a precise and comprehensive package to protect the lives and wellbeing of Australians.
I would not suspect that anybody from either of the parties represented here would want to see this House, or the Senate for that matter, give opportunity for terrorists to take action, so I appeal to the members of the Australian Labor Party to use their goodwill to get this thing resolved. I have set out the worst situation as I see it. It seems to follow a pattern that has been developed in the handling of legislation for schools and migration. Are these bills going to go down that same track or is the Australian Labor Party prepared to expedite the process? Let us get this done and have a legislative backing for law enforcement, for the intervention of finance, for the prevention of the use of explosive materials and for the strengthening of the powers of Customs officers. This is what Australia needs. The government has been able to bring this on in the fastest time track of its capacity and in the most thoughtful of approaches, and I appeal to the members of the opposition, if they are seriously considering the safety of their fellow Australians and if they are seriously concerned about the protection of lives and property, to expedite the processing of these bills. [start page 1050]
Author: Hansard 13th March 2002
Release Date: 19 Mar 2002