I rise to speak to the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Sunsetting Review and Other Measures) Bill 2021 and to set out Labor's position on this legislation. This bill deals with a range of counterterrorism and other police powers in the Crimes Act 1914 and the Criminal Code Act 1995, which are due to expire on 7 September 2021. These powers are: the declared area provisions, the control order regime, the preventative detention regime, and a range of stop, search and seizure powers. This bill would extend the sunset dates on each of these powers.
Labor supports this bill. Indeed, this is a bill that should have been passed months ago, yet it was not even introduced until 4 August and was not brought on for debate in the Senate until 12 August. Now, the government has known for months and months that the extension of sunset dates provided for in this bill was necessary. Frankly, it's ridiculous—and it reflects very poorly on the Prime Minister and his government—that we are debating this bill in the House of Representatives on 23 August 2021 while the national capital is in lockdown. Just a few days ago, it was reported that eight individuals are currently subject to control orders. The purpose of a control order, which can stop a person from engaging in certain activities or being in certain areas, is of course to prevent a terrorist attack. So it would be a matter of some significance if existing control orders were simply allowed to lapse, and yet, because the government left this legislation until the last minute, there was a significant risk of this happening.
Now, what if the COVID situation here had got so out of hand that the parliament couldn't sit today, or, indeed, for the next three weeks? What would have happened if these powers, including control orders, had simply been allowed to expire? Fortunately, the parliament has been able to sit today, and so we will not have to find out. But what this illustrates, once again, is that this is an incompetent government which does not have its eye on the ball.
As well as extending a number of sunset dates, the bill would also allow the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to conduct a review of the operation, effectiveness and proportionality of the declared areas provisions prior to the new sunset date. Finally, the bill would amend the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act to give the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor more time to finalise his review of the continuing detention order regime.
I'll turn first to some remarks on the control order, preventative detention and stop, search and seizure powers. These powers, which were all due to expire on 7 September 2021, are currently under review by the intelligence and security committee. Labor supports the proposed extension of the sunset date to 7 December 2022. Such an extension will ensure that the intelligence and security committee has sufficient time to complete its review prior to the powers sunsetting and also that the government will have sufficient time to work through and respond to any recommendations made by the committee.
The declared areas provisions, however, are in a different category. These provisions of the Criminal Code allow the Minister for Foreign Affairs to declare an area in a foreign country if he or she is satisfied that a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in hostile activity in that area of the foreign country and make it an offence for a person to enter or remain in a declared area, subject to a number of limited exceptions as set out in section 119.2 of the Criminal Code, such as providing aid of a humanitarian nature, performing an official duty for the Commonwealth or visiting a family member. Now, the committee recommended that the sunset date for those powers 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. The bill before us implements both of those recommendations.
The committee also recommended that the declared areas provisions be amended to allow Australian citizens to request an exemption from the Minister for Foreign Affairs to travel to a declared area for a reason not listed in section 119.2 of the Criminal Code. We note that, following extensive consultation with government agencies, including ASIO and the AFP, the former Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Dr James Renwick, made a similar recommendation in 2017. The government has argued that this recommendation could not be effectively implemented and monitored and that the time and resources required to obtain information to assess an application would be significant and would divert security and intelligence resources from other national security priorities.
We're not persuaded. We think the government should simply implement the committee's bipartisan and unanimous recommendation. However, we do recognise that the implementation of this is not without its challenges, and, because of that complexity, we think it is an amendment that should be drafted following close consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australia's national security agencies.
Subject to that qualification, I do commend this bill to the House, and I move the second reading amendment which has been circulated in my name:
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:
(a) in February 2021, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security tabled a report in the Senate following its review of the 'declared areas' provisions in the Criminal Code Act 1995;
(b) the Committee made four unanimous and bipartisan recommendations, including three recommendations to amend the Intelligence Services Act 2001 and the Criminal Code Act 1995; and
(c) this bill would implement Recommendations 1 and 2 of the Committee's report, but the Government has refused to implement Recommendation 4, which is to amend the Criminal Code Act 1995 'to allow Australian citizens to request an exemption from the Minister for Foreign Affairs to travel to a declared area for reasons not listed in section 119.2, but which are not otherwise illegitimate under Australian Law'; and
(2) calls on the Government to implement Recommendation 4 of the Committee's unanimous and bipartisan report".