House debates

Tuesday, 23 July 2019


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

6:34 pm

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to say thankyou to all those honourable members who have contributed to this debate. This is a very important debate. I acknowledge the contribution of the member for Isaacs. Nobody who reads the Hansard of this debate will truly appreciate how much the member for Isaacs enjoys the sound of his own voice.

Many of the claims he has made are completely spurious and factually incorrect. Sadly for the Labor Party, for a long period of time, they have used the PJCIS as a management tool for the member of Isaacs. It is an opportunity for Labor to try and move him from the caucus, where it must be painful for any attendee to listen to his regular bombastic contributions. The fact is that that will no longer be tolerated.

This government is operating in the national interest when it comes to national security matters. We are not going to have our bills that are important to keep Australians safe watered down by this individual. That's what might have happened in the past, and perhaps the member for Maribyrnong used that as an opportunity to try and keep this member for Isaacs in check, but this government will not tolerate it. We are going to work with the committee. We will look at the recommendations made by the committee in relation to the relevant legislation that they might explore, and we will ultimately decide, in our country's interests, in an attempt to keep Australians safe, which of those recommendations we accept.

Ultimately, the government has been elected on a mandate to provide legislation to this parliament to protect Australians from a very real threat. We know that, since 2012, around 230 Australians have travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight in the name of ISIL. Though many have died in their attempts, many of those who survived intend to return to our country. Indeed, the advice of our national security agencies is that, following the recent collapse of Islamic State's territorial control in Syria and Iraq, many of these people will be seeking to return to Australia in the very near future.

The threat that is beyond our shores, as we know, is also here in Australia. In fact, since September 2014, when the national terrorism threat level was raised, our police and security agencies have thwarted 16 attempted attacks on our own soil. Tragically, seven were not thwarted, and innocent people going about their daily lives were killed and injured. There are around 50 offenders now in Australian prisons serving sentences for terrorism related offences. It's against this backdrop that the government has introduced this bill and advocates for its passage in order to keep Australian communities safe from those who seek to do us harm. That will continue to be this government's No. 1 priority.

The government is committed to putting in place all measures necessary to ensure the safety of Australians. We must do all we can to protect our communities from persons whose intent is to cause death and/or destruction of the most heinous kind. I'm confident that I speak for members on both sides—or the vast majority of members on both sides of this chamber—when I say that we will never hesitate to stand up for Australians and we will never soften our stance against terrorism.

This bill recognises and responds to the significantly increased risk that Australia now faces from returning foreign fighters. The TEO scheme, which the bill establishes, will ensure that, if an Australian of counterterrorism interest does seek to return to Australia, it is with adequate forewarning and into the hands of authorities. The TEO scheme will ensure that agencies have sufficient time to assess the potential risk of an Australian citizen of counterterrorism interest before that person returns to Australia. The TEO scheme will also assist our national security and law enforcement agencies to monitor such individuals when they do ultimately return to Australia. Put simply, the TEO scheme is designed to ensure that authorities can manage those returns in a way that keeps the Australian community safe.

The minister may make a TEO that prohibits an Australian of counterterrorism interest from entering Australia for up to two years, except with a return permit. The minister must issue a return permit within a reasonable period if a person applies or if a person is being deported or extradited to Australia. The return permit may contain conditions such as specifying when and how the person must enter Australia. It may also specify conditions which the person must comply with once in Australia, such as requiring the person to give notice of where they live or where they work. A return permit remains in force for up to 12 months after the person's re-entry into Australia. It will be an offence punishable by up to two years imprisonment for a person to return to Australia in breach of a TEO or return permit or to fail to comply with conditions of a return permit. The bill contains a range of appropriate safeguards. The government has been mindful in developing the bill to ensure that it appropriately addresses the needs to protect the community from foreign fighters while ensuring oversight and accountability on the TEO decision-making process.

The legislation is the product of careful consideration. It is based on the advice of our security agencies and the Solicitor-General and is modelled on the UK's TEO scheme. The legislation has been reviewed by the committee and the committee's recommendations have been substantially incorporated into the bill. All TEOs will be subject to review by an independent reviewer and that person, or that authority, is either a former judge or a serving senior AAT member. Conditions imposed under a return permit will be tailored to the individual in accordance with the risk they pose to the community. Special safeguards apply to persons aged 14 to 17.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for its recommendations. As I say, the bill substantially reflects the recommendations of the PJCIS, including to provide four significant additional safeguards and independent oversight. I also thank the colleagues across both sides of the chamber for recognising the need for these important measures.

It's important to note that the member for Isaacs, the Labor Party representative in this debate, has moved 41 amendments to this bill, has claimed it to be unconstitutional and has opposed this bill at every step, right up until the 11th hour to the point where the member for Isaacs realised—or I suspect the Leader of the Opposition realised—that there was support from the crossbench in the Senate for this bill to secure passage. All of a sudden, the member for Isaacs decided to support this bill. Let's not be in any doubt about what has happened here. Begrudgingly, I suspect under stern instruction from the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Isaacs has moved his 40 amendments but ultimately is required to support this bill.


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