Tuesday, 15 October 2019
Crimes Legislation Amendment (Police Powers at Airports) Bill 2019; In Committee
I'll just make a few quick comments. The only reason that we are here dealing with this now is that last night the government lost control of the Senate and lost a vote in this place—a vote on some pretty important amendments that saw important protections inserted into the police powers at airports legislation and that inserted a sunset clause after four years. The amendment also ensured that the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security reviewed these laws. We all accept it wasn't a good day for the Morrison government, which is why we're back here dealing with this now. Labor remains in support of the amendments that were proposed by Centre Alliance, and we will be consistent with our voting position. We do think it's unfortunate that the government cannot support these sensible amendments and that, while Senator Patrick supports the government more often than not, the government cannot provide him with the same support in return.
I rise to again encourage the chamber to consider their vote on this particular matter. We are introducing a power to police that will possibly affect a number of people. It's a power that is granted to the police to allow them to demand identification, to remove people from an airport, to stop people getting onto flights. That is something that will affect a majority of Australians. Most Australians travel. We heard yesterday from the government that something like 44 million people visit our airports every year. Whilst Centre Alliance doesn't object to these powers—in terms of advice from the AFP and our security services saying that it's necessary—it potentially creates an infringement on citizens' rights; therefore, we should treat it very carefully and respectfully.
Yesterday, Centre Alliance sought to move an amendment whereby, after three years of the operation of these laws, the PJCIS would look at their operation and perhaps at other areas of airport security that may be important. At that point in time they might find that this law is, in fact, not very useful at all or that it is one of the more useful laws that has been passed in respect of aviation security. At that point in time, the parliament could then reconsider it. If, indeed, at that point in time, the parliament was of the view that these were really important, they could simply take a proposition to the House of Representatives and back into the Senate and seek to continue the operation of the laws.
If, indeed, the laws are found to be not very useful, they could simply lapse. In situations where we're given a choice about whether or not we allow a law to continue that is in some sense infringing on people's rights, we should take the default position of allowing those laws to lapse unless there is good reason for them to continue. It's for that reason that I ask the chamber to vote in support of the sunset. That's the proper thing that should be done with the new law that potentially infringes upon citizens' fundamental rights.
Here we go again. The government is going to now vote against an important safeguard that the Senate yesterday agreed should be inserted into this legislation. This bill, taken as a whole, continues to erode fundamental rights and freedoms in our country. This is a very dangerous path, and most Australians, quite frankly, have very little idea about the rate at which their fundamental rights and freedoms are being eroded by this government. We used to send Australians, including members of my family, overseas to fight and, in some tragic cases, to die to protect and enhance these rights and freedoms, and now the government is removing these rights hand over fist.
Let's be really clear: the police already have perfectly adequate powers to maximise security at our airports. If an AFP officer has a reasonable suspicion that someone is engaging in behaviour that is a security risk or potentially a terrorist activity, they already have abundant powers to intervene and arrest. That is the fact of the matter.
This legislation gives the AFP extraordinary new powers to demand, under very lightly mandated circumstances, that Australians show them identification at an airport and to remove people if they either cannot or will not do that. This is 'papers, please' legislation—or, in the words of another language used at a very frightening time in human history, 'Papiere, bitte!' That's what we're dealing with here. It's 'papiere, bitte' legislation. We won't be supporting it. We will be voting in a moment to keep the safeguard in, which the Senate agreed yesterday ought to be put in.
This government often goes to the people and talks about the need to remove freedoms. They inevitably couch their arguments in the context of counterterrorism. I want to raise one example. A few years ago, when the metadata retention legislation came in—opposed, I might add, by the Australian Greens and supported by both major parties in this place—that pup was sold to this parliament and to the Australian people as being necessary to engage in counterterrorism activities. But let's have a look at who has actually used the metadata that has been retained by internet service providers, as they are required to under the legislation. It's now being used by local councils to bust people for having unregistered dogs. That's what metadata is now being used for.
Every single person in this chamber is having their metadata retained for two years now under a mandatory data retention framework that is being used not exclusively for counter-terrorism purposes, as we were promised by the government and the Attorney-General, former Senator Brandis, at the time; it is now being used by local governments to bust people for having unregistered pets. That's the bracket creep you inevitably see on most pieces of legislation that remove fundamental rights and freedoms. We are the only liberal democracy in the world that doesn't have some form of charter or bill of rights. It is time we had a charter of rights in this country—something to slow this government down in the relentless power grab it is engaged in here, taking away rights that my family members died to protect and enhance in world wars in the past. We won't be supporting this government's attempt to remove this really important framework and safeguard from this legislation.
Firstly, a statement of the bleeding obvious: we are here revisiting this because I missed a division yesterday. I know the temptation to play politics and characterise that as mismanagement by the government is the apple you must grasp on that side of the chamber, but it was not the government's fault. I undertook to support the government entirely with its legislative agenda on this particular bill. I was called away at short notice and neglected to inform the whip that I was unavailable. The mea culpa goes entirely to me. I am pleased that it has given Senator McKim and others an opportunity to redebate and talk about things, but I apologise to the Senate for the delaying of this legislation on the government's behalf.
The CHAIR: The question is that the motion as moved by the minister be agreed to.