Australia: Counter-Terrorism Laws Strengthened
Counter-Terrorism Laws Strengthened
In anticipation of the special Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on counter-terrorism to be held on 27 September, I announce a number of proposals to further strengthen Australia’s counter-terrorism laws. These proposals are designed to enable us to better deter, prevent, detect and prosecute acts of terrorism.
Following the terrorist attacks on the London transport system in July, law enforcement and security agencies were asked to examine whether further legislative reforms could be made that would enable Australia to better respond to the threat of terrorism.
Consistent with the Government’s comprehensive response to the post-11 September security environment, the proposed legislation is a combination of best practice from overseas and innovative solutions that respond to Australia’s security needs.
Some of those amendments – such as enhanced use of closed circuit television – draw directly from the experience and observations of the Australian Federal Police, state police and the officials from the Department of Transport and Regional Services who travelled to London after the bombing.
Other amendments such as modernising the existing sedition offences target those inciting violence against the community.
The Government will grant increased powers to law enforcement and security agencies to enhance their capacity to prevent attacks. Importantly, control orders will be available to our law enforcement agencies in circumstances where a person might pose a risk to the community but cannot be contained or detained under existing legislation.
Law enforcement agencies have advised the Government that the introduction of a regime allowing preventative detention during terrorist situations might be critical in preventing an escalation of the incident or subsequent attacks. Similar powers have been available to police in the United Kingdom for some time.
Accordingly, I will seek the agreement of State and Territory leaders at our special COAG meeting to introduce a new national regime, similar to that applying in the United Kingdom, allowing for preventative detention in a terrorism situation. Such a scheme would require the States and Territories to enact legislation complementing the work of the Commonwealth and I will be seeking their agreement to do this as a matter of priority.
In addition, I will call on the States to extend police powers at transport hubs and places of mass gatherings outside Commonwealth jurisdiction, and to consider under what circumstances they would support the use of random baggage searches.
While we have been fortunate not to suffer a terrorist attack on our soil, Australians have been the victims of attack overseas and Australia itself has been a target for terrorists in the past.
Governments cannot afford to be complacent. Our terrorism laws have so far proven to be effective, resulting in the arrest and conviction of a number of people here in Australia. However terrorists have demonstrated that they are innovative and determined and we have to make sure our laws stay one step ahead of them.
The reforms I have announced today will ensure Australia’s counter-terrorism legislative regime remains at the forefront of international efforts to counter the global threat of terrorism.
I am releasing the details of our proposal at this time to allow detailed work with State and Territory officials to commence as soon as possible and to give State and Territory leaders ample opportunity to consider the proposals in advance of the COAG meeting on 27 September.
The special COAG meeting will be an opportunity for State and Territory leaders to demonstrate their commitment to working cooperatively with the Commonwealth on national security. I look forward to a continuation of our productive relationship with the States and Territories in co-operatively fighting counter-terrorism.
* Details about the proposals are attached
8 September 2005
Counter-Terrorism Laws Strengthened
The terrorist attacks on the London transport system in July have raised new issues for Australia and highlighted the need for further amendments to our laws. The Government has comprehensively reviewed our existing laws and will move quickly to implement the following new regimes:
1. Control orders
A new regime to allow the AFP to seek, from a court, 12-month control orders on people who pose a terrorist risk to the community. These would be similar to apprehended violence orders but would allow stricter conditions to be imposed on a person such as tracking devices, travel and association restrictions. The Government will be conferring with the States and Territories about the details and administration of the orders.
2. Preventative Detention
A new preventative detention regime that allows detention for up to 48 hours in a terrorism situation. Preventative detention is to be contrasted with ASIO and police detention for the purposes of questioning which is limited by the intelligence available to allow proper questioning. As is the case in the UK, the focus of preventative detention is primarily about stopping further attacks and the destruction of evidence. At the 27 September COAG meeting, States and Territories will be asked to provide for longer detention periods, similar to those available in the UK which allow for up to 14 days detention, because there are constitutional restrictions on the capacity of the Australian Government to provide for this type of detention.
3. Notice to produce
A new notice to produce regime to facilitate lawful AFP requests for information that will assist with the investigation of terrorism and other serious offences.
4. Access to passenger information
Provide access to airline passenger information for ASIO and the AFP.
5. Stop, question and search powers
Extend stop, question and search powers for the AFP where there are reasonable grounds that a person might have just committed, might be committing, or might be about to commit a terrorism offence.
6. Exploring with the States and Territories about extending these powers to police at transport hubs and other places of mass gatherings as well as the use of random baggage searches and a National Code of Practice for Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Systems for the Mass Passenger Transport Sector.
7. ASIO warrant regime
ASIO’s special powers warrant regime is being refined to:
• clarify the definition of 'electronic equipment', and allow for entry onto premises, in the computer access warrant provisions
• extend the validity of search warrants from 28 days to 3 months
• extend the validity of mail and delivery service warrants from 90 days to 6 months
• amend the search warrant provisions to provide that material may be removed and retained for such time as is reasonable "for the purposes of security".
8. Strengthening existing offences and creating new offences
Create new offences for:
• leaving baggage unattended
within the airport precinct, and
• inciting violence against the community to replace the existing sedition offence, to address problems with those who communicate inciting messages directed against other groups within our community, including against Australia’s forces overseas and in support of Australia’s enemies. This is consistent with the Gibbs Committee in its Review of Commonwealth Criminal Law in 1991 which recommended that the sedition offence should be updated and simplified and the maximum penalty increased from 3 to 7 years imprisonment.
9. Strengthen existing offences for financing of terrorism, providing false or misleading information under an ASIO questioning warrant and for threatening aviation security.
10. Terrorism offences in the Criminal Code will be clarified and the criteria for listing terrorist organisations extended to cover organisations that advocate terrorism. This will be another issue that will be discussed with the States and Territories.
We will continue to work on visa and citizenship security and character checking processes but will move immediately to strengthen our citizenship provisions including:
• extending the waiting period in order to obtain citizenship by 12 months to three years,
• security checking of citizenship applications, so that citizenship applications can be refused on security grounds; and
• strengthening the deprivation of citizenship provisions relating to serious criminal offences to include offences committed in the period between approval of an application and acquisition of citizenship.
12. Terrorist financing
Improve our terrorism financing regime to better implement criminalising financing of terrorism, alternative remittance dealers, wire transfers and cash couriers. The Government will investigate with the States and Territories better ways to ensure charities are not misused to channel funds to terrorists.