Terrorism remains a significant threat in some parts of the world and an emerging menace in others, and developments overseas could resonate here in Australia. This was a very timely warning, in light of the devastating attacks on Israel on 7 October by Hamas, a terrorist organisation which was listed in its entirety under the former coalition government in 2022.
Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (18:59): I rise to make a contribution on the Counter-Terrorism and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. The threat of terrorism is enduring and complex. While ASIO lowered the national terrorism threat level to ‘possible’ about 12 months ago, the threat is by no means extinguished, and events in the Middle East have been a sad reminder of that. Earlier this year, the Director-General of Security, Mr Mike Burgess, noted:
Terrorism remains a significant threat in some parts of the world and an emerging menace in others, and developments overseas could resonate here in Australia.
This was a very timely warning, in light of the devastating attacks on Israel on 7 October by Hamas, a terrorist organisation which was listed in its entirety under the former coalition government in 2022.
Here in Australia, in times when our social cohesion is being tested in our communities and neighbourhoods, the critical task of our law enforcement and security agencies is to protect Australians from the risk of violence, and that has never been more important. In our democracy we don’t silence the views of others, even when we find them to be egregiously offensive, but we cannot accept the actions of groups that use or advocate violence to achieve their political, religious or ideological objectives and put the lives of Australians at risk. That is why we as parliamentarians must ensure that our law enforcement and security agencies are equipped with the powers and capabilities that they need to combat the threat of terrorism and that we continually review the use and effectiveness of those powers to ensure that they are fit for purpose against an enduring and evolving threat.
The Counter-Terrorism and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 implements several of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s review of police powers in relation to terrorism, the control order regime, the preventative detention order regime and the continuing detention order regime, which I handed down, as chair of the PJCIS, in October 2021. That PJCIS report unanimously supported the extension of powers reviewed and found that they will continue to provide law enforcement with the tools that they need to counter the threat of terrorism. As chair of the PJCIS, I noted that 18 potential or imminent terrorist attacks had been disrupted by law enforcement and security agencies since 2014, thanks to powers just like these. That PJCIS report made 19 recommendations, all of which were accepted by this government in its response in September 2023.
The current bill introduces several reforms to ensure law enforcement agencies are equipped to protect the community from terrorism, while improving safeguard mechanisms. It does this by extending the operation of stop, search and seizure powers for three years and enhancing safeguards on the use of those powers; enhancing oversight over the minister’s power to declare a prescribed security zone; extending the operation of the control order regime for three years and enhancing the safeguards and effectiveness of control orders; extending the operation of the preventative detention order regime for three years and bolstering the safeguards that apply to the issuing of PDOs; enhancing transparency requirements on continuing detention orders; and extending the operation of criminal liability offences for breaches of non-disclosure duties until 29 December 2024 while the government considers the report of the Commonwealth’s review of secrecy provisions. I note that this last provision was unrelated to the PJCIS’s review.
When the bill was introduced in the other chamber, the Attorney-General noted that the government would not be implementing recommendation 6 of the PJCIS review at that time but had agreed to it in principle. This recommendation relates to amending section 3UEA of the Crimes Act to require any agency that enters premises in accordance with that section to obtain an ex post facto warrant as soon as possible, following the use of warrantless entry powers. The PJCIS report on this bill, which was handed down in October this year, recommended that the government should introduce amendments to establish a post-entry warrant framework, thereby acquitting recommendation 6 of the original PJCIS review.
I welcome the government’s decision to accept this recommendation, noting that the bill was amended in the House of Representatives on 19 October 2023 to establish the new post-entry warrant scheme. This bill will provide for the continuation and enhancement of important counterterrorism powers that law enforcement agencies require to protect Australians. It will ensure our law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to manage the threat of terrorism, while protecting the rights of the individuals through stronger oversights and safeguards. The coalition will always support sensible changes which ensure our legislation is fit for purpose to enable our law enforcement agencies to protect Australians from terrorism. That is why we’ll be supporting the passage of this bill.