Mr PERRETT (Moreton—Opposition Whip) (17:37): I rise to speak on the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016. As stated by the member for Isaacs, this legislation brings in some elements that we hope will never be necessary, will never be called upon.
It certainly contains some challenging ideas for lawyers and for people concerned about children generally in Australia. Obviously there is nothing more important to all Australians than our national security. I do note up-front that there has been bipartisan support for this legislation.
National security is an issue for all Australians whether they are Indigenous Australians, whether their ancestors were transported as convicts in the early 1800s, whether their ancestors migrated to Australia from China in the gold rush of the 1850s and beyond, whether their great grandparents migrated from Europe after the Second World War, whether their parents came from Vietnam in the 1970s or from Lebanon in the 1970s, whether you came from Bosnia in the 1990s or from Sudan, or whether you came by boat and have been granted asylum as a refugee. Irrespective of all of these people that I have listed, leaving aside the Indigenous Australians, we do not call these people 'Australians that are second or third or fourth or 26th generation migrants'; we call these people 'Australians'. We should never be talking about people as second or third generation migrants as if that defines them. Irrespective of our background, we all have in common a desire to live and to bring up our families in a safe and secure country.
Labor has always taken a bipartisan stance on national security legislation even though it can be challenging particularly for many of the lawyers considering some of the concepts, rights and protections that might be curtailed because of putting national security first. Keeping Australians safe by ensuring that our national security legislation is as good as it can be is always a priority for the Labor Party. Our security agencies require that parliament give them the powers they need to do their job and to respond appropriately to threats as and when they occur.
This bill, like most of the previous national security bills, includes some measures which will have serious consequences for those who come within its powers. In particular, this bill extends the application of control orders to include minors as young as 14, and obviously that is a very serious step for the parliament to take, even in the pursuit of national security. Thankfully this bill was carefully examined by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. The Labor members of that committee scrutinised the bill and heard evidence from security agencies and a range of experts and community groups. The PJCIS recommended 20 substantive changes to the bill. These recommendations included: mandating that a young person subject to a control order proceeding be provided with a lawyer—an important right; making clear in the legislation that the best interests of a young person are a primary consideration in any control order proceeding; mandatory reporting to parliament on the use of national security information in control order proceedings; a requirement that, for the offence of genocide, a person must be reckless as to whether another person might engage in genocide on the basis of their advocacy; and removing the requirement that, for the offence of genocide, the advocacy must take place publicly. Labor has worked hard on this committee to ensure that the recommendations have been included in the final bill.
Control orders, although a serious measure, are a necessary and valuable tool for our national security agencies. It is important to note that these orders have been used very sparingly since they were first introduced by the Howard government, in 2005. Obviously they are only reserved for the most serious cases. As of February this year, only six have been issued. They are only used in situations where measures such as interventions or deradicalisation programs would be unlikely to work. It is very sad that it has become necessary to extend the use of these serious control orders to include 14-year-olds. Sadly, that is the world we live in. Very young Australians are being targeted for radicalisation by organisations such as Daesh. The boy who murdered the New South Wales Police Force accountant Curtis Cheng in 2015 was just 15 years old, and another 15-year-old was charged in 2015 with conspiracy to conduct an act in preparation for a terrorist act. Fourteen is the age set in Australian federal law as being the age of criminal responsibility.
There were concerns raised with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights about that aspect of this bill. Concerns were raised by the Human Rights Commission, the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, UNICEF Australia and other bodies. To address these concerns, the PJCIS recommended that, when imposing an interim control order on a person aged between 14 years and 17 years, the best interests of the child must be taken into account as a primary consideration—that is, other than the objects of the control order regime itself, they are the most important consideration. The object of the control order regime must be considered as a paramount consideration, the most important consideration, so that the purpose of the test is not skewed. The impact on the person's circumstances will obviously be an additional consideration.
The bill also includes a requirement that a person aged between 14 and 17 years in control order proceedings be provided with a lawyer if they do not already have one. Also, it is intended that control orders only be used in the most serious of situations. So far they have been used sparingly, with just six issued since 2005, as I said. It is important that, when such severe powers are given to authorities, there are some checks and balances put in place to ensure the powers are being used appropriately—and, as I said, hopefully never but, at the very least, sparingly. The Attorney-General is currently required to table an annual report detailing statistical information relating to the control orders made in each financial year. Importantly, this bill will mandate that the report must contain details specific to control orders made in relation to persons aged between 14 and 17 years.
This bill also contains a new offence of advocating genocide. This measure has been introduced to cover behaviour that did not meet the threshold of current offences. After the implementation of the PJCIS recommendations, this offence will apply where a person advocates genocide and that person does so recklessly as to whether another person will engage in genocide. The Australian Federal Police gave evidence to the committee that this additional offence is necessary to enable police to intervene earlier in the radicalisation process, to prevent and disrupt further engagement in genocide offences. This new offence will be subject to the existing defence for acts done in good faith, protecting the implied freedom of political communication.
The Australian Labor Party has approached this important legislation in a constructive and bipartisan manner. Labor is content that the measures, although very serious, are necessary to counter the potential national security threats. It is sad that it has become necessary to introduce this legislation, but that is the world we live in. Sadly, the necessity for the legislation reflects the worst of our society. But we must remember the best of our society too. We must not let those who seek to divide imprint on many the sins of a few. I am extremely lucky to have a constant reminder of the best of our community in my electorate of Moreton. The south side of Brisbane has a harmonious and inclusive multicultural community representing some of the best of Australia, and I am fortunate to witness this in action almost every weekend and at every school I visit.
I would particularly like to highlight some of the wonderful community organisations in Moreton and the wonderful work that they do. I particularly acknowledge the Islamic Council of Queensland, who this year hosted Eid Down Under, which aims to provide opportunities for intercultural collaboration and engagement across all of the community. It provides opportunities for community members and groups to come together and be part of the largest Muslim community event in Queensland. I have to mention Ghaliyah and her crew—the Islamic Women's Association of Queensland. I could spend a long time talking about their many events, including their annual iftar dinner during the month of Ramadan, and I think they recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. There is also the great work being done by the Muslim Charitable Foundation. This group is currently collecting handbags to give to homeless women at Christmas for the Share the Dignity charity. The bags are filled with personal items such as soap and hand cream to make these women feel special at Christmas. I will also mention Crescents of Brisbane and their many events, and particularly acknowledge their annual CresWalk, which I think takes place in the member for Griffith's electorate down on the river. It aims to create awareness of domestic violence and lots of other great causes.
I mention my Islamic community in particular because, whilst this legislation applies to all Australians, unfortunately, there are some who seek to target the Islamic community. I was searching on the internet for a quote that I think David Irvine, the former head of ASIO, made about the Islamic community, indicating that there would be no greater ally than the Islamic community. Whilst I thought I was looking at his speech, I was actually looking at a speech that the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis, gave to the National Press Club. He has been quoted a bit lately for what he has said publicly, but this is a very good speech that he gave on 1 October 2014. I wanted to quote some particular lines from the Attorney-General. He said:
… The threat to Australia's domestic security … comes principally from a small number of people among us who try to justify criminal acts by perverting the meaning of Islam. Crime masquerading as religious dogmatism is still crime, and a fanatic who slaughters the innocent is a murderer, however much he might try to explain his crime in religious terms. People like that have nothing to do with the Islamic faith which they falsely invoke to justify their wicked deeds. As the Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, said on 15 September, their conduct is a betrayal of the Islamic faith:
'These criminals are committing crimes against humanity and sins against God.'
There could be no greater error than for Australians to demonise our Islamic fellow citizens—a community of some 500,000—because of the criminal elements who live among them and prey upon them … the leaders of that community are our partners and key allies in eradicating the problem of those who would lure their young men and women along a path to violence and, ultimately, self-destruction.
Fine words from the Attorney-General, and I commend him for that speech and for the efforts that he has made. We need to do this constantly, because there are those—unfortunately, including politicians and wannabe politicians—who are trying to cultivate fear and division in our Australian community. I do not want to name them, but I will call out their racism and I will call out their targeting of religious groups on every occasion. We have a Constitution that ensures we are not able to put religious requirements on Australians. I would hope that we always maintain that sound principle and that we are a harmonious community. Obviously, as I said at the start, I do not lightly consider the idea of control orders for children, but, with the appropriate checks and balances and upon the advice of our security agencies, I am prepared to support this legislation and commend it to the House.