November 13, 2015  |  

Terrorism (Community Protection) Amendment Bill 2015

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise and make a contribution on the Terrorism (Community Protection) Amendment Bill 2015. In my contribution I want to highlight why this legislation is so important. Only recently, as the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, I went and visited Parramatta and had a good look at the Parramatta community justice precinct and the head office of Sydney, New South Wales, police. I could not believe — that was late September — that only a week after I had left a Sydney civilian police accountant had been shot out the front. I had only been there a week before visiting this wonderful precinct where the New South Wales government has put in cutting‑edge law enforcement facilities and intelligence. I also got to see Parramatta, the community that it is — a wonderful multicultural community, the heartbeat of and a massive community in western Sydney. To think that a politically motivated terrorism act would occur right on the steps and on the streets that I visited only a week prior really shook me up. It was gut‑wrenching to see what had happened.

I think all sides of politics have responded to this issue that happens right across our great country. I know that both the Prime Minister and the federal Leader of the Opposition and all Premiers have been very united in terms of tackling terrorism. What I thought was good from our political leaders was the National Day of Unity, the interfaith assembly that occurred very shortly after that attack in Parramatta.

The Andrews government is to be commended. We have this legislation, which is very important. Let us not forget too that it is about working with the community. Looking at some of the measures that the Premier, the Deputy Premier and the cabinet are putting in place to address social cohesion and resilience right across our community, they are commendable. We have seen the ministerial task force established, led by the Deputy Premier, including, from right across cabinet, the portfolios of education, youth, multicultural affairs and police, to look at how we can combat racism and bigotry. There has also been the announcement in relation to the Social Cohesion and Community Resilience Advisory Group, comprising representatives from across Victoria’s multicultural community, with a focus on youth, to provide advice to the ministerial task force on current issues and potential risks.

The Victorian state budget also invested $74 million into our multicultural affairs and social cohesion package, including $21 million over four years to promote social cohesion and community harmony and more than $13 million to enhance community capacity and participation for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. We have also established a Social Cohesion and Multicultural Research Institute, with the provision of $4 million to develop a research program to address issues facing Victoria, including those relating to multiculturalism, intercultural relations, youth affairs and extremism.

The legislation before us is very specific, fairly dry and very technical. It has come about from a range of measures, including the Victorian review of counterterrorism legislation initiated by the former government, and I want to take up some of the member for Hawthorn’s comments in relation to the recommendations shortly. This legislation supports the Labor government’s ongoing commitment to the safety of the Victorian community by ensuring that the powers against terrorism remain relevant and necessary. It is technical legislation, but it is legislation that has a lot of safeguards as well. It provides for the implementation of some of the recommendations that came out of the Victorian review of counterterrorism legislation.

These recommendations were necessary, and the legislation we are debating today is necessary. It is a necessary response by government to the evolving threat of terrorism. When you are dealing with police — as I am, working with Victoria Police more and more these days — it is amazing what they will talk to you about and what is really occupying their minds at the senior leaders level. Obviously family violence involves an incredible amount of Victoria Police’s work. The government has the royal commission, but Victoria Police today, in the 21st century, are dedicating an enormous amount of resources to terrorism. Who would have thought that Melbourne, the most livable city in the world, would face this threat? But it is a threat, and it is real, and this legislation will ensure that Victoria Police have the most up‑to‑date powers possible.

It is about getting the balance right as well. When the Terrorism (Community Protection) Act 2003 was first established it included a number of sunset provisions, including a statutory review to ensure that proper consideration was given to whether such legislation was required on an ongoing basis. There were several sunset provisions relating to preventative detention orders and prohibited contact orders. These sunset provisions are a safeguard that ensure that the practical operation of the act remains appropriate and balanced. We have had the Victorian review and we have had the report and its recommendations.

I have an article headed ‘Daniel Andrews eases rules on terror detention orders’ from the Australian of 21 October which was written by Rick Wallace. In that article the member for Hawthorn, who is described as the legal affairs spokesman for the opposition, is quoted as saying that the opposition will wait to see the bill. However, he said he was:

… very concerned about reports Daniel Andrews will adopt only 6 of the 13 recommendations of the review.

He went on to say:

In government, we committed to 12 of the 13 recommendations because we were satisfied that the changes would improve community safety in the face of terrorism‑related threats in an increasingly complex security environment.

The government has inserted some of the recommendations of the report into this legislation. It is now doing further work with the commonwealth with regard to the other recommendations to be implemented. But I urge the member for Hawthorn to look at the Department of Justice and Regulation website, as I have. I downloaded the former government’s response to the report, and it is clear from that that the coalition did not support all the recommendations. It hand‑picked a couple of recommendations that it supported, and there were some that it was going to seek further information and detail on.

The same is true of the current government. We need to work on counterterrorism with the other states and our counterparts across Australia, and also with the federal government. When you are passing laws dealing with our communications networks and carriage devices a lot of it comes under federal government law, and particularly the commonwealth Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Such legislation requires a lot of work across agencies and across not only the Attorney‑General’s and police portfolios but also the communications portfolio.

On 16 September 2014 the coalition tabled its response to the report. I commend the coalition because, just as we are doing, it took on board information on what needed to occur. However, if you go through the previous government’s response, the facts speak for themselves. It was keen to support several of the recommendations, but there were some that it did not support at all.

This legislation is not something that can be rushed — we must take our time and ensure that we get it right. But strengthening powers to prevent, detect and enforce terrorism‑related offences in Victoria is critical in the 21st century. The review conducted last year and its recommendations, many of which are consistent with what we are passing in this legislation today, are to be commended. I commend the vehicle that has seen this legislation come before the house, the Council of Australian Governments, and in particular the Victorian Attorney‑General and other justice ministers, and also the Victorian Minister for Police who is also the Minister for Corrections. Counterterrorism legislation is part of a nationally agreed framework, and Victoria is continuing to work with all other jurisdictions to ensure changes to counterterrorism legislation complement all states’ and territories’ legislation as well as that of the commonwealth.

This legislation is powerful in terms of some of the intrusions that people may believe will occur, but it is important that our police have the best resources and the most up‑to‑date intelligence available to ensure that Victoria remains not only the best place to live and raise a family but also one of the most secure places. We are the envy of the world for our liveability. Terrorism is an ongoing threat, and we must be vigilant towards it. I commend this legislation, and I commend the Attorney‑General for the work he has done with the commonwealth and the other states and territories. I wish the bill a speedy passage.