House of Representatives

Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2005

Second Reading Speech

Mr Ruddock (Attorney-General)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Yesterday this House passed amendments to clarify the terrorist act offences in part 5.3 of the Criminal Code.

As I informed the House yesterday, the government would like all elements of the anti-terrorism legislation package to become law before Christmas.

This second bill contains the remaining provisions to ensure that we have the toughest laws possible to prosecute those responsible should a terrorist attack occur.

Second and of equal importance, the bill ensures we are in the strongest position possible to prevent new and emerging threats, to stop terrorists carrying out their intended acts.

This bill has been the subject of extensive consultation.

The Prime Minister first announced the proposals to strengthen Australia's counter-terrorism laws on 8 September in advance of a special COAG meeting.

The following day senior officials from the Commonwealth met with their state and territory counterparts to discuss the proposals.

The special COAG meeting of 27 September provided an opportunity for the Prime Minister to discuss the proposals with premiers and chief ministers who agreed that there was a clear case for laws to be strengthened.

The COAG agreement was followed by extensive consultation with the states and territories at officer level as well as directly between the Prime Minister and premiers-and the chief ministers.

This consultation process of almost two months has been very constructive and has yielded the positive result of an agreed position on the text of the bill introduced today.

Control Orders and Preventative Detention

Much of the discussion has focused on the control orders and preventative detention regimes and their extensive safeguards.

Firstly, in considering whether to apply for or issue a control order the personal circumstances of an individual will need to be balanced against the threat to the community.

This does not mean that personal circumstances will outweigh the assessment of the threat, but it is recognised that both issues need to be taken into account.

Under the control order regime:

an "interim" control order is made initially. The person the subject of the order may attend the court and make representations when the court decides to confirm, void or revoke the order;
the control order does not come into effect until the person is notified.
the person can apply for the order to be revoked, varied or declared void as soon as the person is notified that an order has been confirmed.
the person and their lawyer may have a copy of the grounds for making or varying the order;

Under the preventative detention regime:

the order, as well as the treatment of the person detained, would be subject to judicial review. There is also built in merits review including when the police seek a continued preventative detention order.
At that time the person detained or their legal representative can provide the police with additional information concerning the preventative detention order.
The issuing authority is required to consider afresh the merits of making the order and to be satisfied, after taking into account relevant information, including information provided to the police by the person subject to the order, that the conditions for the order are met. This includes any information that has become available since the initial preventative detention order was made.
the person detained may contact a lawyer, a family member... their employer... and another person at the discretion of the police officer;
each year, the Attorney-General would report to parliament on the operation of preventative detention orders
the regime will not apply to people under 16 and special rules will apply for people between the ages of 16 and 18 and people incapable of managing their own affairs.

A number of members of the government have suggested that questioning of a person in preventative detention should be permitted-subject to normal safeguards.

This was not the subject of COAG agreement reached in September but the government will examine this issue prior to the next COAG meeting and, if anything is to be considered arising from that, it will occur then.

Advocating terrorism and sedition

The bill also addresses those in our community who incite terrorist acts.

It does this by expanding upon the Australian government's ability to proscribe terrorist organisations that advocate terrorism and also updates the sedition offence.

The updated sedition offence will address problems with those who incite directly against other groups within our community.

The sedition amendments are modernising the language of the provisions and are not a wholesale revision of the sedition offence.

However, given the considerable interest in the provisions, I would like to assure this House that I will undertake to conduct with my department a review of the sedition offences.

I would also note that honourable members will be aware that I announced on 12 October 2005 the establishment of the Security Legislation Review Committee.

The committee will be chaired by the Honourable Simon Sheller AO QC, a recently retired NSW Supreme Court judge.

As required by the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002, the review will focus on the existing counter-terrorism laws. I would note here that it is possible for other matters to be referred to that committee, and I will be asking that committee to examine some issues relevant to individual advocacy which have been raised with me.

But to return to today's matters ... the bill bolsters the existing offences dealing with funding terrorist organisations and financing individual terrorists.

The new measures will facilitate the tracking of terrorist funds and also make it harder for terrorists to transfer funds across international borders.

Law Enforcement and ASIO Powers

Finally the bill extends the powers of police to stop, question and search, to all Commonwealth places and prescribed security zones to safeguard against terrorism.

The AFP will be provided with a new notice to produce regime to ensure compliance with lawful requests for certain types of information.

Finally the bill strengthens the regime relating to ASIO's powers, including enhancing various aspects of ASIO's special powers warrant regime ... access to aircraft and vessel information ... the offence for providing false or misleading information under an ASIO questioning warrant ... and amends the relevant Customs legislation to broaden Customs powers for security and intelligence purposes.

These measures complement others taken by the government to ensure that agencies are appropriately equipped and resourced to protect the Australian community.

I can confirm that the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Hill, will move today to support a reference of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2005 to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee for consideration of the bill upon introduction in the House and to report on 28 November 2005.

I commend the bill to the House and I table the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bevis) adjourned.