Thursday, 17 July 2014
Selection of Bills Committee; Report
Ordered that the report be adopted.
I seek leave to have the report incorporated in Hansard.
The report read as follows—
SELECTION OF BILLS COMMITTEE
REPORT NO. 9 of 2014
1. The committee met in private session on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 7.25 pm.
2. The committee resolved to recommend:
(a) contingent upon its introduction in the House of Representatives, the provisions of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Psychoactive Substances and Other Measures) Bill 2014 be referred immediately to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 2 September 2014 (see appendix 1 for a statement of reasons for referral).
3. The committee resolved to recommend—That the following bills not be referred to committees:
True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014
True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014
Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014
Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014
Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014
Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014
Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014
The committee recommends accordingly.
4. The committee considered the following bill but was unable to reach agreement:
5. The committee deferred consideration of the following bills to its next meeting:
17 July 2014
SELECTION OF BILLS COMMITTEE
Proposal to refer a bill to a committee:
Name of bill:
Crimes Legislation Amendment (Psychoactive Substances and Other Measures) Bill 2014
Reasons for referral/principal issues for consideration:
Concerns about unintended consequences and to look at alternative models.
Possible submissions or evidence from:
Key stakeholders in drug and alcohol sector.
Committee to which bill is to be referred:
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Possible hearing date(s):
Late August / September
Possible reporting date:
Whip/Selection of Bills Committee Member
That the report be adopted
That at the end of the motion, add, "but, in respect of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, the bill be referred immediately to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 8 November 2014.
I seek leave to make a short statement. I understand it will be possible to debate this motion. I want to put very clearly on the record why I am proposing an amendment as it is a rather unusual thing to do to a Selection of Bills report.
I thank the chamber. It is unusual for a senator to come forward and bring a disagreement to the chamber with a Selection of Bills Committee report.
Senator Brandis has brought forward a bill, the annual expansion of ASIO's powers—sometimes it is more than annual but I think it has been about a year since we were last here—and effectively cherry picking a set of recommendations from a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security report from last year.
Without any disrespect at all to the PJCIS, I think it is utterly inappropriate to take a batch of recommendations that came from that joint committee, embed them into a bill and then send that bill back to the same committee that proposed the measures for review. What do we think they might say? Do we think they might give it impartial scrutiny and critique, call witnesses and go through it carefully; or will they say, 'This looks very familiar to what we said should happen 12 months ago'? It is entirely inappropriate that the committee that proposed the measures should now be the one to scrutinise them.
I hope that I will have Labor and crossbench support to allow the Senate to do its job. We have Senate standing committees to assess and analyse bills, to take evidence for, against, neutral, and to improve bills like this, particularly a bill as sensitive as this one. The proposal to expand ASIO's sweeping powers is so controversial—and I don't quite understand where the Labor Party's heads are at, because we hear different things from different spokespeople—but, the very least that should happen is that the Senate should be permitted to do its job, and that is why I have brought this motion forward.
In order not to take up too much of the chamber's time, I will also foreshadow a motion that I am bringing forward before too much longer to require the National Security Legislation Monitor to also investigate these bills. The reason for that is very simple: the parliamentary joint committee that provided this report last year that Senator Brandis is now cherry picking from said—and this is a recommendation that Senator Brandis will have signed off on and that the Labor Party will have signed off on; there are no crossbench voices any more than that committee because those positions were wiped out after the election. Presumably, the government doesn't care to hear from independent voices, but Senator Brandis signed off and the Labor Party shadow Attorney-General signed off on a recommendation that said that the National Security Legislation Monitor and the Inspector-general of Intelligence and Security—two small but very important offices, in fact, who hold, on one hand, the policy recommendations and the operational recommendations of our covert and clandestine intelligence gathering and police agencies—should be required to review the bills.
So the first thing that happened in response to that recommendation was that Senator Brandis proposed as a part of red tape removal that the National Security Legislation Monitor be abolished. So way to go with the transparency. I understand he may have changed his mind, although I would appreciate confirmation that that is the case.
I will shortly be moving a motion that ensures that the legislation monitor provides a report and that the IGIS provides a report. The only thing that distinguishes Australia from a police state is this so-called red tape: accountability and offices like the IGIS and analysts like the National Security Legislation Monitor. That is the thin line that stands between us and unregulated secret police and surveillance powers, and that is not overdoing it.
In Australia we have royal commissions into police corruption every couple of years around the states and territories. These are people—they are not immune to the pressures of the offices. They do dangerous and demanding work. They are not immune to corruption, and I don't think any of us should be surprised that a secret police or a secret intelligence-gathering agency should come to the parliament every few months asking for more intelligence-gathering powers. We should not write them a blank cheque. At the very least, I implore you, colleagues, to let the Senate do its job.