Thursday, 12 August 2021
Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Sunsetting Review and Other Measures) Bill 2021; In Committee
by leave—I move amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 1376 in the name of Senator Thorpe together:
(1) Schedule 1, item 1, page 3 (line 5), omit "7 September 2024", substitute "7 December 2022".
(2) Schedule 1, item 4, page 3 (lines 13 to 17), omit paragraph 29(1) (bbaa), substitute:
(bbaa) to review, by 7 June 2022, the operation, effectiveness and proportionality of sections 119.2 and 119.3 of the Criminal Code (which provide for declared areas in relation to foreign incursion and recruitment)
Labor opposes these amendments. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security recommended that the sunset date for the declared area provisions be extended to 7 September 2024 and that the intelligence and security committee be empowered to conduct a review of those powers at any time prior to that date. This bill implements both of those recommendations. By contrast, the amendments circulated by Senator Thorpe and moved by Senator Siewert would provide for a more limited extension of the sunset date in relation to the declared area provisions, to 7 December 2022, and require the intelligence and security committee to undertake a further review of those provisions by 7 June 2022.
Labor supports the position of the intelligence and security committee. The intelligence and security committee completed a review of the declared area provisions in February of this year. It is unnecessary and, given the extraordinary workload of the committee, inappropriate to require the committee to complete a further review by the middle of next year. In any event, I note that the bill, if passed, would enable the committee to commence a review of the declared area provisions at any time prior to 7 September 2024. In other words, the bill as drafted would empower the committee to complete a review within the time frame suggested by Senator Thorpe, but it would not require it.
Separately, the amendments circulated by Senator Thorpe would see the preventative detention order and the stop, search and seizure powers expire on 7 September 2021. We strongly oppose those amendments. The intelligence and security committee is currently undertaking a review of those powers. The whole purpose of that review is to evaluate the operation, effectiveness and implications of those powers. It would therefore be wholly inappropriate and defeat the purpose of that review for the parliament to allow the powers to expire while the review is ongoing. Instead, Labor supports the proposed extension of the sunset dates to 7 December 2022. This extension will ensure that the intelligence and security committee has sufficient time to complete its review prior to the powers sunsetting and that the government has sufficient time to work through and respond to any recommendations made by the committee.
The government does not support these amendments. They are reckless. They would undermine the intent of the bill greatly, impeding the ability of Australia's law enforcement agencies to keep Australians safe.
I won't hold the Senate up unduly but I will make the point that once again the major parties in this place are in lock step on an erosion of rights and freedoms in our country. This legislation, like so many other pieces of legislation that have passed through this parliament and state and territory parliaments in the last couple of decades, erodes fundamental rights and freedoms.
It is worth pointing out, yet again, that Australia remains the only liberal democracy in the world that does not have some kind of charter of rights or bill of rights, whether constitutionally enshrined or legislatively enshrined, and it is the absence of such a charter of rights or bill of rights that makes it so much easier for the major parties to collude in walking us ever further down the dangerous path to a police state and a surveillance state.
In the last two decades, Commonwealth, state or territory parliaments have passed well over 200 pieces of legislation that erode fundamental rights and freedoms in the name of counterterrorism. It is worth pointing out that many of those pieces of legislation have been introduced in the name of counterterrorism, and then the powers, often very intrusive powers, contained in those pieces of legislation are used for intelligence gathering or data harvesting that has nothing to do with counterterrorism. I will give colleagues just one example, which is that the metadata retention laws are being used not to keep us safe from terrorists but for local governments to gather evidence to prosecute their ratepayers for having unregistered pets. That is where we find ourselves today, colleagues.
These powers, which we consistently grant through our parliaments because the major parties are in lock step on these issues, are dangerous. They have not been argued for comprehensively. Our terrorism threat level has remained unchanged over many years in this country, yet we continue to see pieces of legislation coming to this place and passed with the support of both the major parties. That, unfortunately, is what we're seeing today.
[by video link] My contribution will be short and sweet. Basically, you two—Labor and Libs—are the only ones on the committee you're talking about. If that's not a closed shop, if that's not failing the democracy that we're meant to have in this country, what is this about? How can we have a committee that's filled with Labor and the Liberals and shuts out the Greens, the only grassroots, democratic party that represents the people—no dirty donations, no favours for privileged mates, no mining jobs when we leave?
I thought what this was about—you're raising you're eyebrows; I can see you—was working together for the betterment of the people in this country. We're meant to be, aren't we? Madam Temporary Chair, are you okay?
I believe that you might be attempting to reflect on the chair, Senator Thorpe. I just remind you to use language that is parliamentary. Avoid using the word 'you'. Show some respect for the Senate. If you want to continue your contribution, I will give you the call, but I do expect you to adhere to the standards that are fit for this place. Senator Thorpe.
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Thorpe, I warn you again not to reflect on the chair. Whether it's a positive or negative comment, it is not required. Please make your contribution, if you wish to do so. Senator Thorpe, you have the call.
My apologies. I do take that very seriously, so thank you—because I do believe that the Senate is there for the people and I do believe in accountability and transparency to the Australian population. In this case, I do not believe that the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the National Party are acting in good faith and being respectful to democracy in this country, because they won't allow anybody else to sit on their private little committee. So please tell me what 'democracy' means, because I am not seeing that in my new job as a senator for Victoria. I've been put here to call for accountability and to call for transparency. The Labor Party and the Liberal Party get together and have their little committee meeting, make their decisions, bring them to the Senate and expect the Australian people to accept their dodgy little committee findings—two of which, may I remind you all, have never been used since they were legislated. So why are you continuing two parts of this legislation that have never been used before? Wouldn't you ask yourself, as an elected representative on behalf of the people who put you there, wouldn't you say—
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Thorpe, I remind you once again that your use of the word 'you' is highly problematic in regard to established standing orders for the Senate. With that reminder, I will give you the call again. Senator Thorpe.
I've got another word; my apologies. Wouldn't a normal person in their right mind, particularly those who are part of the Liberal Party, the National Party or the Labor Party, think that the committee would have asked themselves, in the name of transparency and accountability: why haven't these two parts of the legislation ever been used? Why should the Labor Party and the Liberal Party be allowed to extend two parts of this legislation that have never been used before? That is not accountability, that is not transparency and that is not democracy; it's a breach of human rights. We've seen Human Rights Watch, as well as other experts, come out and say that it is problematic that these two parts be maintained as part of that piece of legislation and be extended even though they've never been used before. I really struggle with how the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the National Party come up with their closed decision-making—because the Greens aren't there to hold them accountable, and that's a problem in the Senate. You can call us what you like: 'Greenies this, Greenies that, latte-sipping Greenies.' I've never had a latte in my life, mind you. I've seen more Liberal Party members have lattes in that place than I've seen happening in Northcote. Come on! We are there to hold you all to account. I know you don't like it because we speak truth—
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Thorpe—
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: You were on a pretty good roll for a while there. I acknowledge that you're making an effort to avoid using the word 'you', but I remind you once again that it is unparliamentary to use that word in this context in the way that you're using it. Senator Thorpe, please continue.
Thank you. I will practise. Anyway, a dodgy deal is being done between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party to exclude the Australian people and not take it to a committee to further investigate why two parts of the legislation have never been used and they're going to just roll it on anyway. I find that lazy and I find that disrespectful, in fact, to the experts we have spoken to who have given us the advice to provide to the Senate to make an informed decision that ensures accountability and transparency. Shame on the Labor Party and shame on the Liberal Party for closing shop and not allowing the Greens to make them accountable. We need the Greens with the balance of power. It's the only way we're going to hold these two parties accountable. They are running roughshod across this country, making bad decisions together. Labor's trying to keep up, scraping to the bottom, catching up with the Liberals on their bad policies and their bad leadership in running this country. So we need the balance of power. The only way we're going to get there is to get rid of this government. Labor can come in. But, Labor: you're not coming in without us, because you'll be just as bad.
I have a brief question for the minister. It relates to the timing of the bill. I think the PJCIS reported in February and this bill was introduced on, I think, 4 August. This is in the context that perhaps it could have been introduced earlier. What was the delay? I say that as a crossbencher who has to deal with a lot of legislation. There was potentially the ability to consider the bill more closely. I'm curious as to the sequence or the timing, in terms of when the committee reported, when the government received a draft bill, when the bill was finalised, and perhaps some details around that.
Thank you, Senator Patrick. In relation to the report of the PJCIS and its recommendations, one of the requirements is for the government to actually consult with states and territories, and, as you know, that can take some time. As such, we introduced the bill in August, when you said, and we're obviously seeking to pass it today.
Just to confirm: the delay between the two was simply one of engagement with the states? Minister, maybe you could take on notice the dates on which that was concluded and the date when the drafting was finalised. I would appreciate that.
Absolutely, Senator Patrick, I can take on notice the relevant dates for you. In relation to part of the bill, it was the states and territories. In relation to the part of the bill on the AFP powers, that is something we're still waiting for the PJCIS to report upon. On notice, I will get you the answers to your questions on the actual dates.