House debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Questions without Notice

National Security

2:24 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney-General update the House on the steps that the government is taking to strengthen national security and protect Australians? Is the Attorney-General aware of any alternative approaches?

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for his question. As the member is well aware, the Prime Minister made it an absolute priority this week to reach agreement on the encryption assistance legislation and have that legislation moved through the House. That will, by agreement, ultimately be a milestone achievement for this government and to the enormous benefit of the people who it will protect.

You asked about alternative versions of this legislation. Two issues came to be large sticking points towards the end of the negotiations. One was whether or not you should keep in or remove state and territory police forces and the other was how narrowly or how broadly you might characterise the offences that would allow these very important powers to be used. Fortunately, the bill that will ultimately pass the parliament this week will include state and territory police forces and have a sufficiently broad range of offences that allow these powers to be used. This is an opportunity to inform the House as to why these two ultimate determinations, which this government stood fast on, are utterly critical.

Unfortunately, it's the case that terrorism and other related offences do not occur in isolation. We've seen previous examples like Khaled Sharrouf, who was a terrorist but before that dealt in drugs and committed drug offences. We've seen examples such as Omar Succarieh, who was arrested on terrorism charges in Brisbane in 2014, was subsequently convicted of those charges and has also been convicted of extortion. These very serious offences often act in composite, and they converge on each other. Investigating the broader series of offences, at both a Commonwealth and a state level, helps us to put more serious criminals in jail and helps us detect, uncover and prosecute terrorism.

Had the offences been cast too broadly—as was advocated by members opposite—and left only to terrorism and child sex offences, the types of things that we would not have assistance in detecting, investigating and prosecuting would have been things like drug offences, money laundering, bribery and corruption, fraud, criminal organisations, murder and cybercrime. These, with the bill that will go through this parliament, will now be able to be investigated with the assistance of the encryption assistance legislation.

There have been a number of notable examples of the types of offences that have been very substantially hampered in their investigation. I will just briefly raise two. In August 2017, the AFP, with the assistance of authorities in Dubai and the Netherlands, arrested 17 people and seized over 1.9 tonnes of MDMA, cocaine and ice. That investigation, whilst ultimately successful, was severely hampered by the use of encryption technology. In 2017, the AFP uncovered 30 kilograms of heroin going into Fiji and 600 kilograms of cocaine going into Haiti. Again, encryption was at the heart of that. (Time expired)