Tuesday, 2 December 2014
Questions without Notice
Thank you, Senator Fawcett. That is an important question and it comes from a senator who takes a very close interest in national security matters. Earlier today the parliament passed the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014. That bill addressed urgent operational needs identified by our intelligence, defence and law enforcement agencies.
The number of Australians with hands-on terrorist experience who have been trained in the Middle East theatre with terrorist trade-craft is now several times greater than it was during the conflict in Afghanistan some years ago. Recent operations Bolton and Appleby, and the attack on two Victorian police officers on 23 September, serve as a sober reminder of the security threats we face. One of the key amendments which the bill makes is to strengthen the control order regime in the Criminal Code, to help disrupt those who provide support to terrorists and terrorist groups—something that was vehemently opposed in the committee stage by the Greens, I might say. The AFP is advised of cases where control orders were unable to be applied for under the existing regime in respect of individuals of serious security concern—namely, people who were supporting or facilitating terrorists or foreign fighters. That gap has been closed.
The bill also closed pressing legislative gaps and limitations in the Intelligence Services Act that have emerged in the context of the Defence Force's operations in Iraq against ISIL—again, reforms vigorously opposed by the Greens. Importantly, these changes will improve the capacity of ASIS to provide timely intelligence support to ADF operations, including in emergency circumstances.
I can. The bill to which I have referred is the latest in a suite of legislation the government has passed or is in the process of dealing with in its comprehensive review of Australia's national security legislation.
It follows the foreign fighters bill, which came into effect yesterday, 1 December, and addressed the most pressing gaps in our counterterrorism legislative framework; those that have the greatest impact on prevention and disruption of domestic terrorist threats. It also follows the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, which dealt with the powers of our national security agencies.
The foreign fighters bill created a new offence of entering a declared area overseas where terrorist organisations are active and where that area is certified by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It also created a new offence of advocating terrorism, which will prohibit intentionally counselling, promoting or encouraging terrorism. (Time expired)
The government, as you are probably aware, has committed $630 million of new money over the next four years to combat home-grown terrorism. As well, on 30 October the government introduced the data retention bill, which will require telecommunications providers to keep a limited set of metadata for two years. That type of data plays a central role in virtually all serious criminal and national security investigations, including child exploitation, murder, serious and transnational organised crime as well as counter terrorism. On 27 November the Prime Minister also announced that the government will review Australia's cybersecurity strategy to improve our national security and make online commerce more secure.
Keeping Australia and Australian interests and citizens safe will continue to be this government's No.1 priority. (Time expired)