Wednesday, 27 June 2018
National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017, Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017; First Reading
I rise on behalf of the opposition to make a few points. The first is to recognise the reason for standing order 111, which is to ensure that the chamber has the opportunity to consider legislation. I make the point that the limb of that standing order which requires, in these circumstances, the minister to move the motion he has would not have been activated, as I understand it, if this message had in fact been received last night. It is standing order 111(5)(c). So let's understand: if the message had come over last night, then the Greens and the crossbench wouldn't be in the position of making the contributions they are making.
The second point I'd make is that we do agree that the principle of consideration of legislation by the parliament is important. These are national security bills. They were introduced in December of last year. They have been through an extensive—extensive—consideration process before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
An honourable senator: A closed shop.
I take the interjection of 'closed shop'. Yes, that is correct. It is an intelligence committee, peopled by parties of government, that receives national security briefings and considers national security legislation. We do not resile from that, and there are very sound national interest reasons for that.
The next point I'd make is it is incorrect to suggest that there has not been public consideration of these bills. As a member of that committee I'm indebted to Senator McAllister, who's made sure I have in front of me the list of hearings that we engaged in on the two pieces of legislation—the espionage legislation and the interference legislation. Those hearings on those two pieces of legislation happened in January, February and March, and in January, February and June respectively. We received 51 submissions on the espionage legislation and 92 submissions on the FITS Bill.
I do acknowledge this, and I will say this again in the second reading debate: I think there have been problems with the process relating to this legislation. With respect, I think that they were poorly handled by the former Attorney-General, as has been demonstrated by the lengthy process of consideration; the number of public submissions that have been critical of the drafting of the legislation; and the extensive amendments that have been required as a consequence of the intelligence committee's recommendation and which the government, I acknowledge, has accepted, which we think is a good thing. So those are the circumstances in which the opposition will be supporting the government in its request for urgency in relation to these bills.