Wednesday, 24 February 2021
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for his question and for his good work on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security—and, in fact, I thank that committee for all of its work since we came to government in 2013.
Of all the challenges that have been faced by the government and the Australian people since 2013—in all their great variety, including COVID-19—one sad fact is that, in 2014, the terrorist threat level was elevated to 'probable', and it has not changed from that level since that time. It's constantly at the 'probable' level. Over that period of time, there have been 19 major counterterrorist disruptions and 129 people charged with relevant terrorism offences. That success is, of course, in its largest part, due to the men and women of our outstanding security, police and intelligence communities, but it is also the case that the government has endeavoured to create for those men and women a world-leading legislative framework in which to deal with this very persistent and very grave problem.
Since coming to government in 2013, we have introduced over 20 tranches of national security legislation, all with one purpose: to keep Australians safe. We were one of the first countries in the world to grapple with the sudden rise of ISIL by passing legislation creating new foreign fighter offences and providing more tools for our security agencies to investigate, arrest and prosecute those supporting foreign conflicts. Following the shocking events in Christchurch, we legislated to ensure abhorrent violent material was removed from the online environment. We passed laws to stop our intelligence and law enforcement agencies from going completely dark in the fight against terrorism, laws that were used within 10 days of their coming into effect.
But that work is ongoing, and, as I have advised the House previously, our counterterrorism efforts now face an equally significant challenge over the next few years because there is a large cohort of convicted terrorist offenders, including those who were prosecuted in the aftermath of 9/11 and the Bali bombings, who are now due for release. There are 15 such persons due for release over the next five years, and, regrettably, despite the best endeavours of all those involved, many of those individuals continue to hold on to the extremist ideology that motivated their offending and they still pose a very significant risk to the Australian community.
That is why the government has methodically been building a world-leading framework to effectively manage those persons. In fact, those laws were successfully used for the first time late last year when the Victorian Supreme Court made a continuing detention order against the convicted terrorist Abdul Benbrika. And, of course, very recently, I introduced the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill, which will give us yet another option to use with respect to postdetention regimes by virtue of a new intensive supervision regime, known as the extended supervision orders regime.