Senate debates

Thursday, 12 August 2021


Selection of Bills Committee; Report

11:23 am

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I oppose the government's amendment to not send two bills off to committee—in particular, the proposal to not refer the Charter of the United Nations Amendment Bill 2021 to committee. It seems to be a case of the government really doing its best to avoid embarrassment and not have transparency. What this bill seems to do is fix up what's been quite a big boo-boo on the part of not just this government but also, in fact, previous Labor governments with regard to the legislation sanctioning people who have been terrorists.

It seems, from the current situation—and it is why this bill is being introduced—that the regime of sanctions on terrorists has been operating illegally for the last 20 years. It seems that we haven't had the appropriate legislative framework in place to make our ability to sanction terrorists legal. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights' scrutiny report No. 8 of 2021 said:

The legislative instruments were made between 2001 and 2020 but were only registered on the Federal Register of Legislation on 26 May 2021. They were previously gazetted, but not registered—the effect of which appears to be that before they were registered the instruments did not apply to a person to the extent that they disadvantaged or imposed liabilities on the person.

The committee has specifically asked the question of the minister: 'How many of the listings in these legislative instruments are currently valid?' This was covered in TheSaturday Paper last weekend. They summarised the situation by saying:

The sanctions regime under which Australia freezes the assets of suspected and convicted terrorists appears to have been operating illegally for two decades, because the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade failed to entrench it properly in law.

Obviously, we want to fix these failings in our sanctions regime to make sure we're complying with UN frameworks, but we reckon that, where the government and the department have stuffed up, there needs to be a bit of transparency. We think referring this off to committee in order to have some transparency, to work out what went wrong and to make sure that such things aren't going to happen in the future is a really important part of accountability and transparency. We don't think referring it off to a committee would hold it up. It could be a very short inquiry. It could be done on the papers. But, basically, we would have that body of evidence saying, 'This is what has gone on, these are the failings that have been discovered, this is how we're going to fix it up and this is how we're going to make sure that such failings don't occur again in the future.' The Greens very much think that the Charter of the United Nations Amendment Bill 2021 should be referred to committee.


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