Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Bills

National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014; Second Reading

9:52 am

Photo of Glenn LazarusGlenn Lazarus (Queensland, Palmer United Party) Share this | Hansard source

As the Leader of the Palmer United Party in the Senate I would like to announce on behalf of my fellow Palmer Unity colleagues Senator Lambie and Senator Wang, and Senator Muir of the Australian Motorist Enthusiasts Party our clear and unequivocal support for this bill.

We are in the midst of difficult and challenging times. The global unrest is at an all-time high. The unrest is both coordinated and uncoordinated and is being experienced throughout all levels of society across many countries. In Australia, as a nation we have upgraded our alert levels in response to this unrest.

Upgrading our alert levels is important, however it is also imperative that we have the power, capacity, resources and capability to respond to risks—importantly, risks which are far more covert, sinister and veiled than risks traditionally encountered in the global environment. We must provide our people and organisations responsible for maintaining the safety and security of our country with the necessary support to undertake their role with confidence, quickness, certainty, diligence and precision.

This bill will modernise and improve the ability of ASIO and ASIS to undertake their work in protecting the safety and security of our country, and it will also enhance our country's capability to penalise those who compromise the safety and security of our country. It is imperative that Australia has the capacity to protect our shores. Not only do we need this level of capacity for our people on a day-to-day basis; we also need this capacity given increased risks around high-profile events such as the upcoming G20 summit. It is imperative that Australia has the capacity to protect our shores. Not only do we need this level of capacity for our people on a day-to-day basis; we also need this capacity given increased risks around high-profile events such as the upcoming G20 summit.

Last week I awakened to the fact that we had some 800 police across Queensland and New South Wales conducting raids. The police had received intelligence regarding threats on the safety of everyday Australians. The intelligence suggested that members of a terrorist group living in Australia were plotting to harm innocent people at random in order to gain media coverage for their cause. I would like to thank the federal and state police for their work in foiling this terror plot on our home soil.

It should be noted that this work was also supported by the work of ASIO and ASIS in securing the necessary intelligence to inform relevant authorities of the risk and need to act. While we support this bill, I would also like to inform the chamber and the people of Australia of our intent to take additional steps to further strengthen Australia's safety and security capabilities by introducing an amendment to strengthen the penalties for anyone who exposes the identity of an ASIO or ASIS officer.

We are in the midst of difficult and challenging times. Not only has our country become the target of extremists who seek to hurt us and hinder our way of life; we are also contributing to an international campaign to reduce the threat and impact of terrorism globally which is raising the potential for attacks against our country.

The threat is real, it is concerning and we must act quickly, decisively and comprehensively to protect the safety and security of our wonderful country. The reality is that the threat of attack is coming from both outside our country and from within. Advancement in technology and communication masking means the world is a very different place and those seeking to attack have the benefit of complex and highly sophisticated technology. It is for this reason that our country should and must increase our capacity to deal with these threats and provide the people and the organisations charged with protecting our shores with the necessary tools, rights, capabilities and powers to keep our country safe.

The brave and hardworking men and women keeping our country safe are undertaking at times extremely dangerous and highly sensitive work. Many are putting their own lives at risk to protect our country and our way of life. We cannot expect these brave men and women to protect us to the fullest extent possible with their hands tied behind their back. These men and women need all the support and capability necessary to perform their roles with precision, professionalism and success. We cannot and must not compromise on this.

Many of these men and women work undercover, take part in special operations and participate in activities which require high levels of secrecy. Their anonymity is key to their success and safety and to the safety and security of this country. And yet, despite this, as the legislation stands, if a person discloses the identity of an ASIO or ASIS officer, the penalty for doing so is only a maximum of one year's jail. This is a trivial penalty for a significant breach of trust. By exposing the identity of an ASIO or ASIS officer, not only are you compromising the safety and security of the officer working to protect our country; you are also directly compromising the safety and security of this country. Further, once the identity of an ASIO or ASIS officer is exposed, the officer can no longer work in the industry. Their career is effectively over. That is why, the Palmer United Party along with the Motoring Enthusiast Party is putting forward an amendment to strengthen the penalties in this area.

We must take the safety and security of our country seriously. We must take the most care possible to ensure the safety of those working hard to protect us. We must afford them the highest level of security. Therefore, we are recommending that the penalty for disclosing the identity of an ASIO or ASIS officer or affiliates is increased from a light penalty of up to one year's jail to a serious crime of up to ten years jail.

Exposing the identity of an ASIO or ASIS officer should be a serious offence and the penalty should be sufficient to warn people off from engaging in such stupid and dangerous acts. Exposing the identity of an ASIO or ASIS officer is a serious breach of national security and should be treated accordingly.

In summary, I love Australia, I love our way of life and I love our freedom. I along with all Australians feel that our great country must be protected. Many people have fought and died for our great country. Everyone in this chamber has a responsibility to ensure that we act to protect the interests of all Australians and to ensure that we enable our country the capability to keep our country safe and secure.

I note that the safety and security of our country must be balanced with human rights and the need for our people to enjoy reasonable levels of privacy, but safety and security must come first. Let us ensure that we continue to protect our great country and give those protecting our great country the resources, capability, power and scope to do their jobs and do them well. The Palmer United Party supports this bill and we seek the chamber's support of our amendment to further strengthen the safety and security of those protecting our country.

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