Wednesday, 29 October 2014
Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014; In Committee
At this stage I hope to proceed simply with amendment (1) on sheet 7605. I move the amendment:
(1) Schedule 1, page 64 (after line 14), after item 61, insert:
61A After subsection 80.3(1)
(1A) Without limiting subsection (1), section 80.2C does not apply to a person who engages in good faith in public discussion of any genuine academic, artistic, scientific, political or religious matter.
Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matter in subsection (1A). See subsection 13.3(3).
61B Subsection 80.3(2)
After "subsection (1)", insert "or (1A)".
As I mentioned before, these deal with our further considered approach in relation to managing our concerns about advocating terrorism. As we have indicated, we are concerned about the breadth of the new 'advocating terrorism' offence. In our consultation with the Australian community—and especially with representatives of the Muslim community, that I think Senator Dastyari has covered today—we have heard concerns that this new offence might capture quite legitimate speech on controversial political matters or that it might capture legitimate religious discussion, debate or preaching.
Labor agrees with the need for an offence addressing conduct which might cause others to engage in terrorism. We know that there is a line to be carefully drawn. We would never want to criminalise legitimate religious conduct or to cause the Muslim community to fear that honest religious activity would be criminalised. That would be completely contrary to our purpose.
Labor's amendment would expand the existing good faith defence in section 80.3 of the Criminal Code as it applies to the new advocacy of terrorism offence to make it clear that those who engage in good faith in public discussion of any genuine academic, artistic, scientific, political or religious matter will be protected from liability. We think this strikes the right balance. We support the new offence, but we want to make sure that it does not capture innocent conduct. We think that this amendment will make sure that this new offence does not go too far.
I am in the hands of the Senate as to whether, given that these amendments have been recently circulated, we might want to defer consideration to a later stage in the committee stage of debate to allow some consideration of the detail of these. Maybe I will add some humour to the debate at this stage. I also am not a lawyer. It might entertain senators to understand that Senator Brandis, many years ago, had assumed I was a lawyer, to which I laughed and indicated that it might have been my major in logic!
Senator Brandis interjecting—
This was many years ago, Senator Brandis, I think in the context of the 'children overboard' investigation. That said, I obviously have been dealing with making laws for many years. I appreciate that some time to consider the new approach that Labor has taken on this issue might be important to other senators, so I am in their hands as to whether they might seek to defer dealing with these amendments until later in the debate, if some further consideration is warranted.