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Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Amendment Bill 2007 seeks to strengthen counterterrorism laws

Posted by gasweek on 12 October, 2007

Speaking on 5 September 2007 in the Western Australia Legislative Council on the Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Amendment Bill 2007, Jon Ford, Minister for Regional Development and Fisheries, said that at a special Council of Australian Governments meeting held on 27 September 2005 to consider national counterterrorism issues, state and territory leaders agreed that a strengthening of Australia’s counterterrorism laws was warranted.

Counterterrorism amendments enacted: Ford said an agreement was reached to amend the commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 to include provision for measures such as control orders and preventative detention to improve Australia’s capability to prevent terrorist acts and to prosecute perpetrators of such acts when they occurred. Due to constitutional constraints on the commonwealth, it was also agreed that the states and territories would enact legislation to allow for certain counterterrorism measures, including preventative detention for up to 14 days. In 2006, the Western Australian Parliament passed the Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Bill 2005, which became an act in 2006, thereby enacting WA’s response to the COAG agreement.

Separate ASIO powers: Separate to the preventative detention powers contained in the commonwealth Criminal Code Act, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had significant questioning powers with respect to the investigation of suspected terrorist activities under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979. ASIO’s powers of questioning and detention in relation to suspected terrorism might either require a person to appear before a prescribed authority for questioning, or authorise a person to be taken into custody immediately by a police officer, brought before a prescribed authority for questioning and detained by a police officer. The federal Parliament enacted ASIO’s questioning and detention powers in 2002, subject to review by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. The committee conducted its review in late 2005, and as a result of that review, ASIO’s questioning powers were recast through the ASIO Legislation Amendment Act 2006, which came into effect in late 2006.

Updating of cross-references necessary: Ford said the Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Act 2006 contained a number of cross-references to the provisions of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, as they were prior to the enactment of the ASIO Legislation Amendment Act 2006. They referred to the ability to release a person who was in preventative detention into the custody of ASIO for the purpose of exercising its questioning powers. In their current form, he said, these cross-references were to outdated provisions of the ASIO act, and therefore could give rise to uncertainty about the capacity of ASIO to exercise its questioning powers. To avoid any doubt about the ability of ASIO to take into its custody a person who was in preventative detention under the Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Act 2006, it was necessary to amend the act to refer to the updated provisions of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979. The bill before the house would achieve that by making housekeeping amendments to the Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Act 2006.

Reference: Jon Robert Ford, Minister for Regional Development and Fisheries, Australian Labor Party, Legislative Council, Western Australia, 5 September 2007: on Terrorism (preventative detention) Amendment Bill 2007

Erisk Net, 5/9/2007

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