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Intelligence and Security Committee: Presenting Reports to Parliament
On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the following reports: (1) Review of the re-listing of six terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code: Abu Sayyaf Group, Al-Qaida, Al-Qarida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jamiat ul-Ansar, Jemaah lslamiyah; (2) Review of the declaration of Islamic State as a terrorist organisation under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007; and (3) Advisory report and addendum on the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016. I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the reports.
I am pleased to present the committee’s advisory report on the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016.
The bill provides for the continued detention of high-risk terrorist offenders who, following an application by the Attorney-General, are found by a state or territory Supreme Court to present an unacceptable risk to the community at the end of their prison sentence.
In the course of the inquiry, the committee received 18 submissions, five supplementary submissions and conducted a private and a public hearing with a range of witnesses.
The committee carefully considered the evidence it received and in a strong endorsement of the proposed bill, concluded that the continuing detention order regime will form an important part of Australia’s multifaceted response to the terrorist threat.
In this bipartisan report, the committee has recommended that the bill be passed by the parliament and made 23 additional recommendations aimed at amending the scope of the bill’s application, clarifying operation of the regime and strengthening the reporting and oversight mechanisms.
Specifically, the committee considered that the scope of offences should be limited to terrorism-related offences, and has recommended most notably that offences for treason be excluded from the regime. The committee understands that no person has been convicted of a treason offence under Australian law since the Second World War.
The committee has also recommended extending the time available to the Attorney-General to make an application for a continuing detention order from six months to 12 months prior to the end of an offender’s sentence. This will provide all parties more time to prepare for the respective court proceedings.
The committee has made a series of recommendations intended to provide greater clarity as to the intended operation of the bill. These include amendments to either the bill or the explanatory memorandum to:
- provide greater clarity to the definition of ‘relevant expert’ in the bill , and the process for the court to determine the admissibility of each expert’s evidence,
- make explicit that the offender is to be provided in a timely manner with information to be relied on in an application for a continuing detention order,
- clarify the interaction with parole and bail provisions,
- clarify what is proposed by a ‘rehearing’ as set out in the bill, and
- clarify the process for initiating the periodic review of a continuing detention order.
The committee has also recommended a 10-year sunset clause be placed on the legislation, with reviews by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and this committee to occur five and six years following the passage of the bill , respectively .
The committee was asked by the Attorney-General to look at the interaction between this proposed continuing detention order regime and the existing control order regime.
The committee in this respect has recommended that the Criminal Code be amended to make it explicit that a control order can be applied for and obtained while an individual is in prison, but that the controls imposed by that order would not apply until that person is released. Further consideration of the interaction between these two regimes, and any proposed improvements, will occur during the mandatory reviews of the control order regime by the independent monitor and the PJCIS to be completed in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
The committee ‘s report recognises that considerable work will be required following the passage of the bill to implement the regime, with many operational aspects yet to be fully developed. This includes the risk assessment tools that will be used to assess offenders, conditions of detention and rehabilitation programs.
The government has therefore established an implementation working group to progress these matters. The committee has recommended that the Attorney-General report back to the committee with a clear development and implementation plan prior to the bill’s debate, and that a timetable for implementation of any outstanding matters being considered by the implementation working group be provided to the committee by 30 June 2017.
Subject to these recommendations, the committee strongly supports the bill’s passage through the parliament.
I would like to thank all members of the committee for their hard work and commitment in achieving this bipartisan outcome in very tight time frames. I would also like to recognise the dedication of the committee secretariat in their efforts in progressing this review in such a timely way .
The second and third reports that I am tabling today fulfil the committee’s statutory obligations to review the listing and re-listing of terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code, and the declaration of terrorist organisations under the Citizenship Act.
For each of the six Criminal Code re-listings—which include some of the world’s most notorious organisations, including al-Qaeda , Jabhat al-Nusra and Jemaah Islamiyah—the committee was satisfied that appropriate processes have been followed and that the relevant organisations continue to meet the criteria to be defined as terrorist organisations.
The declaration of Islamic State as a terrorist organisation under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 was the first of its kind to be reviewed by this committee . The effect of the declaration is that a person aged 14 years or older who is a national or citizen of another country loses their Australian citizenship if they engage in certain conduct on behalf of Islamic State.
The committee was satisfied that appropriate processes had been followed and agreed that Islamic State is a terrorist organisation that is opposed to Australia, Australia’s interests, values, democratic beliefs, rights and liberties, so that if a person were to fight for or be in the service of Islamic State that person would be acting inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia.
I am presenting these reports at a time of sustained threat to the security of our community from people who seek to do us harm and achieve their insidious goals through violent means. The legislation reviewed in these reports demonstrates the need for continued vigilance and the importance of updating Australia’s counter terrorism framework to protect the Australian community.
I commend these reports to the House.