Second Reading – Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Bill 2019
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (13:03): I rise to speak on the Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Bill 2019. Before we get to the substance of the bill, I would like to provide some responses to the contribution from the Member from Isaacs. Everyone in this place knows that the Member for Isaacs is great at verbal gymnastics. He is incredibly good with the verbal uppercut and good with the velvet glove and sucker punch. I think the comments that he made in regard to the Member for Berowra and the Member for Canning were inappropriate. In my view, those two individuals are people for whom integrity runs from their pores. They should in no way be disparaged in this place for their role on a committee.
I would say the Member for Isaacs that we all know where your skill set is. In particular, if we look at the Member for Canning—a former SAS officer, who literally put his life on the line for this country—I think it’s wrong for anyone in this place to suggest that someone who has lived their adult life by words like honour and integrity and who has actually worked for this nation, and yet still we still hear the same comments from those opposite.
Can I say that I’ve been called lots of things, but a constitutional conservative is not one of them. However, it was suggested by the Member for Isaacs that we may well be constitutional conservatives, and, as a broken-down electrician, I’ve got to tell you that I’m really not that sure. However, Labor is hanging its hat on the fact that not all of the recommendations of a particular committee have been applied. Every single member in this parliament—apart from the new ones, of course—has been on a committee where the recommendations of their committee work have not all been accepted by the minister or by the government of the day. It is a regular and ongoing occurrence. It happens all of the time.
This is an incredibly important bill, and, once again, I would certainly go and put on the record my congratulations and thanks to the people of our security forces—those who are out working with the AFP and those who are in law and order—who are ensuring that our nation maintains its safe record. They work very hard every single day. Those results do not happen by accident. I think we all have a debt of gratitude to those individuals.
The Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Bill does introduce a single explicit source of legislative power for the government to control the return of Australian citizens of counter-terrorism interest from overseas conflict zones, and I know this is a concern for the people in my electorate. The temporary exclusion orders scheme will enable greater control over the return of these Australians by providing a streamlined mechanism to impose conditions, specifically notification requirements, and facilitate the monitoring of individuals who may pose a threat to the Australian community. Why is it necessary? Unfortunately, we no longer live in the same world that we knew. We simply do not. Since 2012, around 230 Australians have travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight with, or support groups, involved in the conflict. I don’t understand that. The people I represent don’t understand it. I don’t know why they’ve done it. Certainly, we do not support it. It is just incredible to me that people would take that position, but these Australians are part of a group of over 40,000 foreign fighters, including around 7½ thousand from Western countries, who have travelled to that region since the conflict began, and around 100 Australians or former Australians who travelled to Syria or Iraq have been assessed as being deceased. So around 80 Australian men and women are currently in Syria and Iraq and have fought for, or otherwise supported, Islamic extremist groups. And, based on the data from third-party sources, there are known to be at least 20 adult women and at least 43 children in Syrian IDP camps.
This scheme comprises two components. The first prohibits the return of Australians of counter-terrorism interest without forewarning. The minister will have the power to make a TEO in relation to a person which will prohibit the person’s return to Australia until issued a return permit. Importantly, the bill does not permanently prohibit entry into Australia, and a person is entitled to be issued a return permit if they apply. This will prevent Australians of counter-terrorism interest returning without warning or without adequate protections being in place. The second component will enable the minister to impose conditions in a return permit to control when and how the individual can return to Australia. These conditions ensure that the person will arrive into the hands of authorities with no surprises.
I know that there are many on this side of the House wishing to make a contribution, so I will keep my contribution brief, but we must continue to ensure that the parliament moves with the remainder of the world, and the world has shifted. It is no longer the world and the nation that we knew as children. We must take action. This is what has been recommended particularly by our own security forces, by those individuals who work every single day in this theatre. We should take their advice; and we need to act. I absolutely support this bill and what it will do for our nation to ensure into the future that we do everything we can as a parliament, as a community and as an organisation to keep Australians and our nation safe. I commend the bill to the House.