House debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: National Security

2:56 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney please update the House on the Morrison government's continued commitment during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession to ensuring Australia's national security, including through preventing terrorist attacks?

2:57 pm

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 aware, our government's first and foremost priority is keeping Australian's safe. As the Minister for Home Affairs noted, even during this period where, naturally enough, the attention is focused on public health, terrible events such as online exploitation go on unabated. The threat of terrorism in Australia during this very difficult COVID-19 period, sadly, remains very real and very much with us. The terrorist threat was elevated to 'probable' in 2014, and it remains at that level to this day. That is why, as a government, since 2013, we've passed 19 tranches of national security legislation laws that are keeping Australians safe. Indeed, our excellent security agencies have been overwhelmingly successful, with 18 major counterterrorism disruptions and 110 people being charged.

What we now face is a somewhat new and additional and significant challenge, because we now see a large cohort of convicted terrorist offenders that were subject to the operations in full swing post 9/11 and post the Bali bombings due to be released following the expiry of their sentences. Already this year, we've seen nine terrorist offenders be released, and there are another 12 convicted terrorist offenders who are due for release over the next five years. Regretfully, notwithstanding best efforts, many of those individuals continue to hold on to extremist ideology and they pose a very significant risk to the Australian community. You need only look at the horrific 2019 London Bridge attacks to see that, when individuals of this type are released into the community, they can pose a very great threat.

As a government, we have been very methodically building a framework to manage the threat that's posed by these types of convicted terrorist offenders. In 2016, we introduced the high-risk terrorist offender regime, which ensures continuing detention. In 2019, we passed laws that will keep terrorists in prison for longer by ensuring that there's a presumption against parole or bail for all offenders who pose a threat.

Today, we introduced the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2020. That is the latest and very important step in building this framework of protection. The legislation introduced this morning means that high-risk convicted terrorists will face even tighter controls when eventually released from prison under what is now going to be a new intensive supervision regime. What will be known as extended supervision orders will be in this regime. They will ensure that terrorist offenders are subject to unfettered close supervision for years after their release. The regime provides for the broadest possible range of controls to be applied to these offenders, such as requiring schedules of movements, participation in rehabilitation or intervention programs, and compliance with directions given by police; and they will allow police officers to search premises. I'll finally note to the House that, very importantly, there are transitional measures that mean that six offenders already in the community would be eligible to move onto this scheme.