Justice Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2018

7 June 2018, Mr McCurdy (Ovens Valley): I rise to make a contribution on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2018, otherwise known as the terrorism bill. We know the main purpose of this bill is to implement a range of changes to laws relating to terrorism, which have arisen primarily from recommendations out of the Expert Panel on Terrorism and Violent Extremism Prevention and Response Powers, also known as the Harper-Lay review.

The bill will authorise police to take an adult or a child aged 14 years or above into custody and detain them without charge under a police decision for up to four days — for a child it is 36 hours — which is in addition to what already exists for the Supreme Court in terms of preventative detention. In relation to review of police detention decisions, it provides for the involvement of the Public Interest Monitor; for notification of decisions to the Ombudsman, IBAC, certainly in the case of a child the Commission for Children and Young People and obviously the Department of Justice and Regulation; for the entitlement to contact a legal representative; and for oversight by the Victorian Inspectorate. It also provides requirements for when a person should be released.

The bill also removes the prohibition on questioning of detainees so as to allow questioning during both police and court-ordered detention on a similar basis as currently exists under the Crimes Act 1958 in relation to caution, legal representation, recording and other areas. Again I think that is a commonsense approach in this terrorism bill.

Most importantly it enables the Chief Commissioner of Police — or deputy — to make an interim authorisation of the exercise of special powers under the Terrorism (Community Protection) Act 2003 without the Premier's approval if the Premier or the Premier's delegate is unable to be contacted. We have seen in recent days in national newspapers regarding the Bourke Street tragedy — obviously it is before the court, so I will not be saying very much about it — that it is critical that our communities can be confident that decisions around community safety become the highest priority and that decisions can be made in the absence of senior figures. I think that is very important, and these subtle changes will certainly help in that respect.

The bill also extends the application of special police powers to protective services officers and, where special police powers apply, creates an express power for police to take control of an affected area and make directions as to the use of that area. Furthermore, the legislation replaces the threshold for preventative detention with the commonwealth threshold — that it is capable of being carried out and could occur within the next 14 days. It also provides for authorities to seek from the Supreme Court a counterterrorism intelligence protection order, which if granted will allow the applicant to rely on protected intelligence information when orders are sought without the information being required to be disclosed to the respondent or their legal representative. It will provide for closed court hearings in relation to applications for a counterterrorism intelligence protection order and for the appointment of special counsel to represent the respondent's interests at such hearings.

The bill provides for Victorian Inspectorate oversight of the use of police powers under the act, including search warrant powers, special police powers and police preventative detention powers. It also amends the Bail Act 1977 to create presumptions against bail for people considered to pose a terrorism risk and to require bail decisions for such persons to be made by a court — again another commonsense approach to detaining people where there is obviously a risk, not just a perceived risk but a chance that that risk could take place.

It also provides that only a court can assess terrorism risk information and determine whether a person poses a risk of committing a terrorism or foreign incursion offence or can grant bail for a commonwealth terrorism offence. It introduces presumptions against parole and in favour of the cancellation of parole, which is I think critical in this area for prisoners who pose a terrorism risk. It will provide for such decisions on parole to be made by the serious violent offender or sexual offender parole division of the Adult Parole Board of Victoria under the two-tier decision-making process, with similar presumptions against parole under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 for young people who also pose a terrorism threat.

We on this side of the house are not opposing the bill, but we need to be very careful that we do not invest excessive time in counterterrorism — which is extremely high in the priorities; do not get me wrong — at the expense of crime and violence in our communities. We have been seeing an increase in crime and violent crime over the last three years in our communities because the crooks can beat the system very easily. Committing a violent crime or home invasion should be treated far more seriously than we are currently treating it.

Certainly in Wangaratta and the Ovens Valley the crime rate continues to grow, and police tell me that they are under-resourced and hamstrung by the processes. So there certainly are some failings in this area and, as I say, we need to focus on terrorism but also violence in other parts of our communities as well. We know that enough is enough — we need to toughen up on violent crime. Jail should mean jail.

I am aware that consultation has taken place with the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Bar Council, the Criminal Bar Association, Victoria Police and the Police Association Victoria. I do have concerns that the bill was promised a while ago and many of the recommendations of Harper and Lay in the report still remain unaddressed. The bill leaves unresolved the issue of whether more measures can and should be taken to facilitate the deradicalisation of young adults accused of terrorism offences, who currently cannot be engaged in deradicalisation moves until they have been convicted. So there are some problems there. There is uncertainty about the scope of special police powers to direct people in an affected area and uncertainty about how courts will apply the provisions intended to protect terrorism risk information.

In Cobram, my home town — I was talking about violence and crime — there has certainly been a spike in burglaries, and I continue to meet with local traders who certainly want more action from an under-resourced police force.

Police powers and terrorism laws are very important, but what is more important is that they can be used in a timely matter and not after the fact. Feeling safe is as important as being safe because you need to live your life feeling safe and secure, not petrified, whether that is in your own home or whether you are about to jump on an aeroplane to go somewhere else — or a train or a bus. For those who do get on a plane, train or bus, terrorism is a real risk all over the world, but as Victorians we are also mindful that just going to bed in your own home at night should not leave you with the same fear you have of international terrorism. With those words, I certainly hope this bill will better equip the government and the community to tackle terrorism and that that will flow through to other violent attitudes and behaviours in the community.

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