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Goff Speech: Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill

Phil Goff: 2nd reading, Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill

Mr Speaker, I move that the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill (No 2) be now read a second time. The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee have recommended that it be passed with no amendments.

The Bill is necessary to ensure that terrorist entities designated as such under the Act do not expire. This would have placed New Zealand in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Not to pass this Bill would be to leave no legal sanction against those who support organisations related to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 was passed in the wake of the horrific events of 11 September 2001. At the time, the nature and extent of the terrorism phenomenon was still unclear – as was how the international obligations emerging from the UN Security Council in response to those events might be interpreted and implemented.

The Act was an appropriate response at the time. But equally it was recognised that provisions in it would need to be kept under review and amended where necessary in light of experience and the rapidly evolving international environment.

As a result, this is the second amendment Bill to be put before the House since the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 was enacted. There is also provision for the Act to be reviewed by a select committee and reported back by 1 December 2005. The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee has already begun that review, and I look forward to their report by the end of this year.

Notwithstanding that review, the current Bill introduces measures that are needed before the completion of the review. In particular, two measures in the Bill need to be implemented in order for New Zealand to fully comply with its international obligations. These are the creation of a specific terrorist financing offence relating to the funding of terrorist entities and the extension of the current terrorist designations made pursuant to the Act.

Clause 4 creates a new offence of directly or indirectly financing terrorist entities, as opposed to terrorist acts. The creation of this offence will make New Zealand fully compliant with UN Security Council Resolution 1373, as well as Financial Action Task Force Special Recommendation II. Compliance with these internationally agreed measures is critical to ensuring that New Zealand does not and cannot be seen to become a country through which funding support for terrorist groups can be channelled.

The committee expressed some concern regarding the scope of this offence. Some concerns were expressed that the scope could capture, or be used maliciously to allege an offence of funding a terrorist entity, when the donor in fact believed or intended they were funding legitimate human rights, humanitarian or democratic rights groups.

Having given serious consideration to these concerns, the committee was satisfied, as I am, that neither the intent nor wording of the offence will catch persons who provide or collect funds for groups with no connection to terrorist activity. Nor will it risk criminalising the unwitting donation of funds to terrorist entities, for example via a terrorist group's apparently legitimate front organisation.

To be captured by the new offence, a person must intend that the money provided or raised will directly or indirectly benefit an entity that they know carries out terrorist acts: this is a significant burden for the prosecution to satisfy in any particular case. In addition, any prosecution for the offence, as with all offences under the Act, requires the consent of the Attorney General.

Together, these factors ensure that only those who it can be proved have knowingly and wilfully supported terrorists will be captured by the offence. And such people, of course, should have their actions criminalised, and that is what this Bill does.

The Committee also discussed the application of the “avoidance of doubt” provision contained in section 8 of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. It is arguable that the effect of this provision needs further consideration, but the issues involved in that consideration are somewhat wider than the limited matters being addressed immediately through this Bill. The committee's broader review of the Act provides a more suitable forum for that consideration and any recommendations arising from it.

The second substantive amendment in the Bill extends the October 2005 expiry date applying to 318 terrorist entities so designated under the Act. When the Act was originally passed, it was not known for how long the initial designations of terrorist groups made by the United Nations Security Council would remain current. For that reason the initial designations were given an expiry date, and a process for review and extension of individual designations was established.

Nearly three years on, all of the entities are still UN Security Council designations – none have been removed from their list. However, the Act does not presently allow us to bring one application to the High Court for all of the UN designations to be extended. This means that 318 individual applications for review and extension would be needed. The time and resource implications for the High Court in such an exercise would be enormous. It is clear that there is simply insufficient time to extend so many designations in this way.

Allowing the designations of groups related to Al Qaeda and the Taliban as terrorist entities to expire, and New Zealand to become non-compliant with the Security Council resolution, is not an option.

Instead, the Bill extends the expiration date for the current terrorist designations for a period of two years following the report of the select committee on its broader review of the Act.

This time frame will provide the committee with the time needed to fully examine the issue of terrorist designations and the review and extension process, and allow the government sufficient time to examine and respond to any committee recommendations arising from their review.

I commend this Bill to the House.

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