Senate debates

Thursday, 12 November 2015


Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2015; Second Reading

12:04 pm

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


This Bill will further strengthen Australia's robust national security laws and counter-terrorism framework.

Australia faces the most significant threat to our national security from terrorism in our nation's history. Sadly, by any measure, the threat we face has only increased and continued to evolve in recent times.

The Australian Government is committed to combatting this threat and to keeping Australians safe.

Around 110 Australians are currently fighting in Syria and Iraq. At least 41 Australians are believed to have been killed and approximately 30 Australians have returned from the conflict.

There are about 190 people in Australia actively supporting extremist groups through financing and recruitment or seeking to travel to the conflict in Syria and Iraq.

ASIO is currently investigating several thousand leads and persons of concern. More than 400 of these are high-priority cases. That's more than double the number since early 2014.

Since 12 September 2014, when the National Terrorism Public Alert level was raised to High, 26 people have been charged as a result of 10 counter-terrorism operations around Australia. That's more than one third of all terrorism related arrests since 2001.

And who can forget the recent terror related attacks; at the Lindt Café, in Melbourne and in Parramatta?

These numbers and events highlight the how serious is the threat we face.

The measures introduced in this Bill reflect lessons learned from recent counter-terrorism investigations and operational activity. The Bill also gives effect to a number of recommendations from the Council of Australian Governments Review of Counter-Terrorism Legislation.

The Bill seeks to maintain a careful balance between enhancing our law enforcement capabilities and protecting individual rights. The provisions set out in this Bill include a range of safeguards that also complement the suite of counter-terrorism measures introduced by this government in 2014.

Schedule 2 — Control orders for young persons

One of a number of key measures included in the Bill is amending the existing control order scheme to provide that a control order may be issued against a young person from the age of 14 years.

A control order would only be issued against a person aged under 18 in the rare circumstances that it was required to:

        The Bill retains the existing safeguards in relation to young persons and introduces important new protections for 14 to 17 year olds. These include:

              Recent counter terrorism operations have unfortunately shown that people as young as 14 years of age can pose a significant risk to national security through their involvement in planning and supporting terrorist acts.

              In this context, it is important that our law enforcement and national security agencies are well equipped to respond to, and prevent, terrorist acts. This is the case even where the threats are posed by people under the age of 18 years.

              Schedules 8, 9 and 10 — New monitoring powers

              The Bill will ensure that law enforcement agencies can effectively monitor compliance with the obligations, restrictions and prohibitions imposed by control orders.

              Warrants will be available for the purposes of:

                    Schedule 15 — National security information

                    The Bill also provides for a broader range of options for protecting national security information that is used in control order proceedings.

                    With the increased tempo of counter-terrorism operations, it is often necessary for our law enforcement and security agencies to take action early, before a full brief of evidence can be developed, to protect community safety.

                    Consequently, greater reliance on information from intelligence partners and sensitive sources may be required.

                    This Bill will provide greater protection to national security information considered in control order proceedings. This is vital to maintain critical intelligence partnerships and to protect sensitive capabilities.

                    These provisions amend existing arrangements for the protection of sensitive information whilst balancing the rights of individuals involved.

                    Schedule 11—Offence of advocating genocide

                    The Australian Government is doing everything it can to tackle the threat posed by those who preach violence justify terrorism, and who radicalise and recruit people to take part in terrorism.

                    This includes pursuing hate preachers under existing laws, including the existing offence prohibiting 'advocating terrorism', introduced in 2014.

                    To further respond to the negative impact on our community of people who preach hate, the Bill introduces a new offence of advocating genocide.

                    The Australian Government has a long and deep commitment to free speech. Moreover, the government recognises that one of Australia's greatest strengths is the diversity of voices within our harmonious, multicultural, multi-faith community. This must be preserved and protected. However, to incite violence is not to exercise free speech; it is to threaten physical harm and suffering.

                    In the current threat environment, the use of social media by hate preachers means the speed at which vulnerable young people can become radicalised and potentially carry out terrorist acts, has accelerated.

                    Concluding remarks

                    This government is working closely with the states and territories to ensure that Australia's national security laws and counter-terrorism framework are as effective and robust as possible.

                    Countering terrorism and violent extremism is a priority for all Australian governments. We greatly appreciate the ongoing cooperation of the states and territories in this endeavour.

                    Consistent with the legislative reforms of 2014 and early 2015, the government will continue to monitor the adequacy of our national security legislation. Taking the advice of law enforcement and security agencies, we ensure that Australia's counter-terrorism framework adapts to the evolving threat environment.

                    The Australian Government is committed to fulfilling its most important responsibility— to protect Australia, its people and its interests.

                    This Bill demonstrates the Australian Government's determination to proactively and effectively address the constantly evolving threats to our national security.

                    Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned until 2 February 2016, in accordance with standing order 111.