Thursday, 8 September 2022
Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (AFP Powers and Other Matters) Bill 2022; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
Terrorism remains a real and enduring challenge for Australia—for our social cohesion and for the safety of individuals. We must protect Australia against immediate and developing threats and continue to build a more resilient and cohesive nation. To this end, this bill provides for the continuation of key counterterrorism powers that ensure the safety and security of all Australians: the emergency stop, search and seizure powers in the Crimes Act, the control order regime, and the preventative detention order regime. The powers are currently due to sunset on 7 December 2022.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security conducted a statutory review of these powers during the term of the last parliament and presented its report in October 2021. The committee unanimously supported the extension of the powers subject to certain amendments, including the introduction of additional safeguards.
Due to the complexity of a number of the committee's proposed amendments, and the need to consult with states and territories in relation to any proposed amendments to part 5.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995, there is not enough time before the end of the year to:
This bill would extend the relevant sunset dates by 12 months so that there is sufficient time to consult on, and then implement, the government's response to the committee's bipartisan recommendations over the coming months.
Such an approach strikes an appropriate balance between ensuring that agencies continue to have access to powers that are a critical part of Australia's existing counterterrorism framework, on the one hand, and responding in a considered and appropriate fashion to unanimous and bipartisan recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for more robust safeguards, on the other.
The government is committed to protecting the safety and security of all Australians by ensuring that law enforcement and security agencies have the powers they need to carry out their essential work. At the same time, the government is also committed to ensuring that all coercive and intrusive powers are subject to appropriate safeguards and oversight—as befits a country committed to upholding and promoting the rule of law.
Stop, search and seizure powers
The emergency stop, search and seizure powers in the Crimes Act ensure that people are able to respond consistently and effectively to a terrorist incident or threat. The powers allow police to request a person's name, address and other details; they allow police to conduct a search for a terrorism related item and to seize such an item; and they allow police to enter premises without a warrant to prevent a serious and imminent threat to a person's life, health or safety.
Control orders under division 104 of the Criminal Code allow federal courts to impose an order that places certain obligations, prohibitions and restrictions on an individual reasonably suspected of involvement in terrorism activity. The conditions must be reasonably necessary and reasonably appropriate and adapted to protect the public from a terrorist act.
Preventative detention orders
Preventative detention orders under division 105 of the Criminal Code allow a person to be detained without charge. These extraordinary powers can only be used where the AFP reasonably suspects an attack could occur within 14 days, or in the aftermath of a terrorist attack to preserve vital evidence.
Collectively, these AFP powers have been used sparingly since they were enacted. As of 25 August 2022, 23 control orders have been made since September 2014, when the national terrorism threat level was raised, including only one control order against a person under 18 years of age. No preventive detention orders have been made, and no incidents have required the use of the emergency stop, search and seizure powers. Although these powers have not been used to date, this demonstrates that the AFP have been appropriately judicious in exercising these exceptional powers.
I acknowledge and appreciate the ongoing and valuable role of the PJCIS in reviewing intelligence and security powers. The government looks forward to providing a comprehensive response to all 19 recommendations of the AFP powers review in due course.
I also value the continuing partnership with states and territories in our shared efforts to protect the Australian community. The amendments to part 5.3 of the Criminal Code have been approved by a majority of states and territories, as required by the Intergovernmental Agreement on Counter-Terrorism Laws.
This bill provides for the continuation of important counterterrorism powers that ensure the safety and security of all Australians.
They ensure that Australia's law enforcement agencies continue to be able to manage the evolving national security and threat environment, while protecting individual rights through strong and effective oversight and safeguards.