Thursday, 21 June 2012
Social Security Amendment (Supporting Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas) Bill 2011; Consideration in Detail
These amendments are technical in nature and they do not make any alterations to the purposes of the bill and they are not opposed by the opposition.
Question agreed to.
by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) and (2) together:
(1) Schedule 1, item 9, page 4 (after line 17), at the end of section 35B, add:
(3) The Prime Minister may, within 6 months after the commencement day, make a declaration under subsection (1) in relation to a terrorist act that occurred outside Australia between 10 September 2001 and the commencement day.
(4) In this section:
commencement day means the day on which Schedule 1 of the Social Security Amendment (Supporting Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas) Act 2011 commenced.
(2) Schedule 1, item 12, page 11 (lines 7 and 8), omit "the day the close family member to whom the claim relates died", substitute the following:
the later of:
(a) the day on which the declaration was made under section 35B of the Social Security Act 1991; and
(b) the day the close family member to whom the claim relates died.
These amendments provide for this bill to do what the opposition leader has always intended it to do since he first raised this issue several years ago. They make sure that this bill will be applied retrospectively to Australians who have been victims of terrorism in the past. At present the bill does allow for that to occur. It would require the Prime Minister of the day to be committed to making that occur and, unfortunately, in the correspondence that the Leader of the Opposition has had with the Prime Minister and of course the comments of the Attorney-General, they have made it clear that they do not believe it is appropriate for these measures to apply retrospectively.
Obviously, we would hope that once this bill passes this place that it would never need to be called upon, and I join with the Attorney-General in hoping that that never happens. But in saying that, unfortunately, if history is to be our guide, the likelihood is that Australians may well be caught up, again, in terrorist incidents overseas. I do not understand the logic of the government's position in thinking that it is appropriate for future victims of terrorism to be appropriately compensated, but not past victims of terrorism, which of course was the original intent of the bill when it was raised by the Leader of the Opposition and also the member for Paterson, who joins me here at the table and who has been deeply committed to this measure. The logic of that just seems to be completely inconsistent to me.
I appreciate what was said about the fact that in government the coalition parties had not instituted this measure. That is a reasonable point, although I think it is also fair to say that, over time, thinking on these matters can evolve. The thinking of the opposition has evolved on this. I note the Attorney-General smiling. We have gone out of our way not to politicise any of these issues at any stage during this process—