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Goff's Terrorism Bill 2nd Reading

Terrorism (Bombings and Financing) Bill – 2nd reading

I move that the Terrorism (Bombings and Financing) Bill be read a Second Time.

This Bill strengthens New Zealand’s ability to combat terrorism.

In its original form the Bill which will become the Terrorism Suppression Bill, made amendments to New Zealand’s law required to implement two International Conventions for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism.

This legislation criminalizes terrorist attacks using explosive devices and the financing of terrorists acts. It raised no controversial issues.

Further amendments to the Bill have been made since the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 on New York and Washington.

Following those attacks the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1373, which is binding on all member nations.

Because the requirements of this resolution were within the scope of the original Bill, the Select Committee at the request of the Government agreed to incorporate them in the legislation.

It was then decided to reopen the legislation for public submission to enable the new provisions to be fully debated.

The new clauses target those who raise funds for terrorism and require terrorists’ property to be frozen.

The challenge for the Select Committee and the Government in seeking to implement Resolution 1373 into our law was to put in place effective anti-terrorism measures without infringing on the rights of New Zealanders to support international causes and liberation movements.

One of the hardest tasks was to define what constituted a “terrorist act” given that debate within the international arena had failed to reach a consensus on this issue.

The definition is needed in order to identify the individuals and entities that may be designated and whose assets are to be frozen as a result for the purposes of the Bill.

The conduct designed to be caught by the definition is acts that are intended to induce terror in a population.

This clearly differentiates it from protest or industrial action. Serious interference with or serious disruption to an infrastructure as an outcome of an act to be designated as terrorism also has to be likely to endanger human life, again creating a higher threshold than protest.

The definition also includes the introduction or release of disease-bearing organisms such as foot and mouth or BSE, which have the effect of devastating our economy, and can easily be justified on that basis.

Any act of protest, advocacy, dissent, strike or lockout is excluded from the definition of terrorist act unless it meets the high threshold just outlined.

Financing of terrorist acts is criminalized where the donor or collector of funds intends or knows the funds are to be used for a terrorist act.

This would exclude culpability of a person donating to a liberation movement intending that this should be for humanitarian aid.

However if a person knows or intends that funds will be used for terrorism, that person will not be exempted because the receiving body is a liberation movement.

Under the Geneva Convention, the deliberate killing of an innocent civilian cannot be justified simply because the end sought is thought to justify the means.

The Bill creates offences that effectively prohibit dealings with the property of designated terrorists or providing services to them.

It includes offences of recruitment to and participation in terrorist groups.

To give effect to Resolution 1373 there needs to be a mechanism in New Zealand law to identify the individuals and groups to which the anti-terrorism provisions in the Bill are to apply.

Designation is a civil process not a criminal trial. The person or entity designated has the opportunity to challenge the designation, which lapses after a set period.

To be convicted of an offence associated with terrorism the person has to be tried in the usual way with evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Power to designate entities as terrorist on an interim basis rest with the Prime Minister, but the Attorney-General and Minister of Foreign Affairs must be consulted before the decision is made.

The Leader of the Opposition must also be advised as soon as possible.

This mechanism enables assets to be frozen quickly before they can be shifted and allows classified security information to be protected.

The threshold level is “good cause to suspect” that the entity has been involved in a terrorist group. Within 30 days a final designation must be made on a higher threshold of “believed on reasonable grounds”.

The designation expires after three years.

A designated entity can at any time seek to overturn the designation.

The entity can also apply in the normal way for judicial review of the decision.

However in order to protect classified information the Bill includes special procedures that allow such information to be placed before the Court but provided to the entity in the form of a summary or if necessary not provided at all.

This strikes a balance between the rights of people to judicial review and the need to protect classified information.

There are other provisions relating to terrorist property.

Suspicious property must be reported to the Police. This is similar to the obligation in the Financial Transactions Reporting Act and, as in that context, failure to report is an offence.

The Official Assignee may take control of frozen property so that it can be preserved during the designation period.

Other provisions protect innocent third parties caught up in the process, allowing application to the High Court for relief.

The Court can order that terrorist property be forfeited to the Crown in accordance with provisions that are based on those in the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The Bill provides for a select committee review of provisions in the legislation in 2004-2005.

Terrorism today has become the greatest threat to the world’s peace, prosperity and security.

A concerted international effort is needed on various fronts, including addressing the root causes of terrorism.

The effective targeting of terrorist financing is a measure that can have significant impact on the ability of terrorists to operate.

By passing this Bill, New Zealand will demonstrate its ongoing commitment to tackling terrorism.

I commend this Bill to the House.

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