Senate debates

Thursday, 16 August 2018


Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2018; Second Reading

11:29 am

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the honourable senators for their contribution to the debate on the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2018. Since September 2014, Australia's national terrorism threat level has been at 'probable'. This means that there is credible intelligence assessed by our security agencies indicating that individuals or groups continue to possess the intent, the capacity and the capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia.

In this prevailing threat environment, it is critical that our law enforcement and security agencies have the powers they need to protect the community from the threat of a terrorist act. Consistent with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, the PJCIS, and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, the INSLM, this bill extends the operation of the control order regime, the preventive detention order regime, the declared area provisions and the terrorism stop, search and seize powers beyond their sunset date of 7 September 2018. These powers will operate for a future three years, until 7 September 2021.

Each of these powers plays an important role in equipping our agencies with the capabilities they need to address the threat of terrorism. The control order and PDO regimes are vital preventive powers that enable law enforcement agencies to take proactive steps to mitigate the threat of a terrorist act where traditional law enforcement powers are not available. The declared areas offence forms an important element of managing the risk posed by the return of Australians who have participated in conflicts overseas with a listed terrorist organisation. It equips our law enforcement and prosecution agencies with the tools to arrest, charge and prosecute returning foreign fighters. Terrorism stop, search and seize powers under the Crimes Act enable law enforcement agencies to act immediately in the event of a terrorism threat to or a terrorism incident within Commonwealth places such as airports and defence establishments.

The bill will continue the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's questioning and questioning and detention powers in relation to terrorism offences for a further 12 months. This will enable the continuation of these important intelligence gathering powers while the government considers the PJCIS's other recommendation in relation to ASIO's powers.

In accordance with the recommendations of the PJCIS and the INSLM, the bill also makes other amendments to these counterterrorism provisions to ensure they continue to meet the operational needs of law enforcement agencies whilst also ensuring the proportionality of these regimes. The bill also increases independent oversight of these counterterrorism provisions to promote greater accountability and transparency around their use. Enhanced oversight provides confidence that these extraordinary powers are being exercised judiciously and in appropriate circumstances by Commonwealth agencies.

I'd like to thank the PJCIS and the INSLM for their detailed consideration of each of the sunsetting counterterrorism powers and offences. The work of the PJCIS and the INSLM was invaluable in informing the deliberations of government on the necessity and effectiveness of these critical counterterrorism provisions and ways to improve their operation. I also thank my colleagues across all sides of the chamber for recognising the need for these important measures. This bill reflects the government's ongoing commitment to ensuring that Australia's counterterrorism legislative framework remains robust and that our law enforcement and security agencies have the powers they need to respond to the evolving threat of terrorism.


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