Thursday, 28 June 2018
National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2018; In Committee
We've come to one of the most serious aspects of the legislation before us, where people can be jailed for the rest of their life. For people who are listening to this or reading it at some stage, it's probably worth them understanding what is happening. The minister hasn't been that particularly cooperative, but we have got onto a new section and he was being half reasonable and starting to answer some questions. But a senior minister to Minister Seselja, Minister Birmingham, came in and they had a talk, and I can only assume that he said: 'Start curtailing your answers. You don't have to get up and reply to this; just sit there'—because that's what's now happening. We have got on to a section that has been so incredibly criticised in this country—by religious people, by legal experts, by charities, by university academics, by legal academics and by constitutional experts. It's unbelievable! It's like being back in the Cold War! They just sit there because they've got the numbers—because Labor delivered them. This minister was answering a few questions but now he's decided to bunker down. Why has he bunkered down? I would have to conclude that he's been given advice. This is really serious. It is no way for the Senate to be used—or abused, because that's what you're now doing.
People can now be captured by these laws. My colleague Senator Nick McKim has said—as have many others; I acknowledge that—that it has a 'chilling effect'. That 'chilling effect' means that people will think, 'I've got to be really careful about what I do'; 'Maybe I shouldn't write that article'; or, 'Maybe I shouldn't go and give that speech to that group of people who are concerned about the direction of Australian foreign policy or the direction of what's happening to our lack of interest in overseas aid and how it's misconstrued.' Look at the rubbish on the front page of The Daily Telegraph today. That chilling effect means that people back off from having an active and open engagement with public life. That is what this legislation will do. Maybe not many people will go to jail, but the government will have achieved what they're trying to do here: advance corporate interests and stifle civil society. The criticism that the government sometimes cops will be reduced, but so will the very rich fabric of what it means to live in a truly democratic society.
It is really alarming sitting in this senate tonight, 28 June. I think we should get it in the Hansard. There are three Labor people here. There are three coalition people here. There are three Greens here. There is one Centre Alliance here. I know people are busy—I'm often not here myself—but, seriously, what the coalition is getting away with is scandalous. What Labor's engaged in, what they've signed off on, will be remembered. We are talking about people going to jail for the rest of their lives, and a minister won't even get up and speak about it—disgraceful.