House debates

Tuesday, 23 July 2019


Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019; Consideration in Detail

6:18 pm

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | Hansard source

I will just go to what the 2017 Independent intelligence review recommended. They recommended that:

The role of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) be expanded—

Which was so that the committee could:

… request a briefing from the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor … to ask the Monitor to provide the PJCIS with a report on matters referred by the PJCIS, and for the Monitor to provide the PJCIS with the outcome of the Monitor's inquiries into existing legislation at the same time as the Monitor provides such reports to the responsible Minister …

This government doesn't like safeguards; this government doesn't like scrutiny; it doesn't like any independent bodies being involved in reviewing any of its actions. And that's presumably why the government is not acting on this recommendation either, as it didn't act on the other recommendations of the intelligence committee to which I've already referred.

But what is really surprising is that, when the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review was released to the public, the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, as he stood next to the minister who is now the Minister for Home Affairs, said that the government had accepted the recommendations of the review. Now, two years on, in rejecting another part of the recommendations, the government says it's still considering the recommendations of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review. So what's changed? Maybe what's changed is that Prime Minister Turnbull got the sack in a coup led by the present Minister for Home Affairs. Maybe that's the reason why the same government, having said that it accepted the recommendations of the national intelligence review, is now saying it doesn't, because it's still considering it. Maybe that's what changed. I would suggest to this parliament that, almost two years after the public release of the independent national intelligence review, in 2017, it's time for the Minister for Home Affairs to stop pretending to consider things and start doing his job. Yesterday we saw the extraordinary delay that the minister engaged in to release, some two years late, the statistics on the metadata scheme. Let's hope that we don't have to wait another two years for the already completed stats for the next year of the metadata scheme.

But what we have here is an amendment that would fully implement the very sensible, very modest and unanimously agreed 16th recommendation of the Intelligence and Security Committee, namely: an amendment which would, in accordance with the recommendation of the intelligence committee, allow the intelligence committee to do the job that the parliament set it up to do, to do the job that the Independent Intelligence Review said that it should do and said should be expanded, in the form of it being able to engage with new powers when new powers are conferred on the government or the government's agencies—that there be adequate scrutiny of new powers when they're created, that there be adequate scrutiny by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, and that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security should be able to interact with that other scrutiny process. It's a scrutiny process that has already proved its worth. It's a scrutiny process that we've seen since the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor was created in 2010. It's in the form of annual reports by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and in the form of briefings provided by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor—all three of them—to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. It's a process that has improved the visibility of the use of powers. It has improved public confidence in the use of those powers—many of them extreme powers that have been given to agencies. Public confidence is a very, very important aspect of any national security regime. This government doesn't appear to care at all about building public confidence. Building public confidence in the work done by our agencies to keep us safe and building public confidence in the way extreme powers are often used, and often in secret, is a very important part of any national security system in what should be an open and participatory democracy such as our own.

To have this government reject a perfectly simple recommendation, unanimously made by Liberal and Labor members of the committee, without explanation is absolutely symptomatic of the inadequate and incompetent approach this government has taken to the presentation of this bill to the parliament. Not content with waiting some 3½ years past the time at which the United Kingdom parliament had provided a model of this kind of power in the form of their temporary exclusion orders legislation, not content with announcing late last year, in late 2018—presumably the Minister for Home Affairs was too busy knocking off the sitting Prime Minister—not content with waiting until then to even announce that the government was going to do something, the government had us wait until February of this year for it to introduce the previous form of the bill. At that time the government said it was a matter that the intelligence committee should consider urgently. The intelligence committee did consider it urgently. It reported to the parliament shortly before the election was called and in its report made some 19 recommendations, which the government, regrettably, is now self-evidently—because of the position taken by this Minister for Home Affairs in coming into the parliament—thumbing its nose at. That's the only way in which it can be put.

The government has failed to explain why it is not giving effect to some 10 or 11 recommendations of the committee. The government is not even showing the respect this parliament deserves, let alone the respect the Australian community deserves. When we've had a process, when the process has been conducted urgently by the intelligence committee, when there are sensible, practical recommendations that you've only got to read to see how sensible and practical they are and when you've got recommendations that will improve the working of the legislation, that will make Australians safer, that will build public confidence in the operation of these new powers, it's incredibly disappointing to see the attitude that has been adopted by the Prime Minister and by this Minister for Home Affairs, who seem to think—on this occasion as, regrettably, on so many other occasions—that national security is their plaything, that national security is something they can use to score cheap political points, that national security is something they can bring to this parliament to, in their words, 'set up a test for Labor'.

Well, enough of that. Enough of this setting up a test for Labor. We call on the government to legislate and to use the processes of this parliament for the national interest of this country. We call on this government to actually consider the national interest and to stop its pathetic political rhetoric of 'this legislation sets a test for Labor'. Before you get to say that, you've actually got to explain what the bill's for. Before you get to say that, you've actually got to explain why you're choosing to ignore the unanimous recommendations of a bipartisan committee. Before you get to say that, you have to actually explain why the legislation is needed. This incompetent Minister for Home Affairs has done none of those things.

I urge the government to agree to this amendment to the consequential amendments bill that is now before the House. It's your last opportunity to do the right thing. Again, it's disappointing that the chair of the committee, the member for Canning, hasn't seen fit to back in the recommendations that he agreed to in April and that the member for Berowra or the member for La Trobe haven't seen fit to come into this place and back in the recommendations they agreed to. It's another opportunity the government should take to agree to this amendment.


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