Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill

23 September 2014

Today I am releasing the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill which I will introduce into the Senate tomorrow (24 September 2014). The Bill will then be referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for review.

The suite of reforms in this Bill address the most pressing gaps in our counter-terrorism legislative framework. Measures are focused on the prevention and disruption of domestic terrorist threats.

The escalating security crisis in Iraq and Syria poses an increasing threat to Australia. The Government is particularly concerned about Australians who travel to conflict zones and return to Australia with skills and intentions acquired from fighting or training with proscribed terrorist groups.

Australia's intelligence agencies estimate there are around 60 Australians involved directly in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, with around 100 providing support roles in Australia.

The Government's comprehensive review of Australia's national security and counter-terrorism legislation showed that it does not sufficiently address the emerging and unique domestic security threats posed by the return of Australians who have participated in foreign conflicts, trained with extremist groups, or people in Australia who provide support to those who may seek to do us harm.

In order to tighten existing laws to combat these threats, the Bill will:

  • create new offences for 'advocating terrorism' and for entering or remaining in a 'declared zone';
  • broaden the criteria and streamline the process for the listing of terrorist organisations;
  • extend instances in which a control order may be sought; extend the sunsetting provisions of the preventative detention order and control order regimes; and include a sunset clause for the 'declared zone' offence;
  • provide certain law enforcement agencies with additional tools needed to investigate, arrest and prosecute those supporting foreign conflicts;
  • limit the means of travel for foreign fighting or support for foreign fighters; and
  • strengthen protections at Australia's borders.

The Government has engaged in extensive consultation with Australia's national security agencies, State and Territory governments, the Opposition, Senate crossbenchers, and community leaders and representatives in the development of these important measures.

The Government thanks all the stakeholders and acknowledges the Opposition's constructive and supportive approach towards the implementation of necessary reforms to Australia's national security legislation.

Given the importance of this legislation, and the fact that it bears directly on the safety of the public, I call upon the Labor Party to expedite its passage through the Parliament without any unnecessary delay.

 

 

23 July 2014

BACKGROUND

  • New Offences
    • New offence of entering, or remaining in a 'declared area'

A new offence will provide that if a person travels, or remains in, a declared area where terrorist organisations engage in hostile activity, the person is assumed to be engaging in hostile activities with that terrorist organisation. An area will be declared where the Foreign Affairs Minister is satisfied that a terrorist organisation listed under the Criminal Code is engaging in a hostile activity in a particular area of the foreign country. The new offence will enable the prosecution of people who intentionally enter an area in a foreign State where they know, or should know, that the Australian Government has determined that terrorist organisations are engaging in hostile activities and the person is not able to demonstrate a sole legitimate reason for entering, or remaining in, the foreign State.

This new offence will be subject to a 10 year sunset clause.

    • New offence of 'advocating terrorism'

The Bill introduces the offence 'advocating terrorism'. A person commits an offence if they intentionally counsel, promote, encourage or urge the doing of a terrorist Act or the commission of a terrorism offence. The offence carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

Terrorist organisations—listings and offences

  • authorise the Attorney-General to add, remove or alter aliases of a listed terrorist organisation, where satisfied the alias or aliases are those of the listed terrorist organisation
  • broaden the terrorist organisation listing criteria in relation to advocacy
  • expand the relevant training offence to include participating in training with a terrorist organisation

Control orders

  • include additional criteria for control orders where:
    • the person has engaged in armed hostilities in a foreign state
    • the person has been convicted of a terrorism offence
  • amend the criteria for control orders on training grounds to include participating in training with a terrorist organisation, in alignment with the proposed amendment to the training offence
  • make the threshold for an AFP applicant to request a control order consistent across all criteria as 'suspects on reasonable grounds'
  • require the AFP member serving an order on a person to advise the person of appeal/review rights
  • insert a maximum curfew period of 12 hours within a 24 hour period for curfew conditions
  • allow AFP to use telecommunications interception, under warrant, to investigate the breach of a control order

Preventative detention orders

  • enable applications for initial preventative detention orders and prohibited contact orders to be made orally or electronically in urgent circumstances
  • require that the AFP applicant must 'suspect on reasonable grounds', the matters set out in the issuing criteria
  • provide that a person must be satisfied that it is 'reasonably necessary' to detain the subject for one of the purposes listed
  • provide for orders to be made where the person's full name is not known provided the person can be identified

Sunset provisions

  • provide for the continuation of the control order and preventative detention order regimes in the Criminal Code Act 1995 and certain powers relevant to the investigation of terrorism related offences in the Crimes Act 1914 for a further 10 years beyond 2015, and the questioning and detention warrant regimes in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 beyond July 2016

ASIO's questioning warrant powers

  • create a new offence for destroying or tampering with a record or thing to prevent its production under a questioning warrant and make other appropriate enhancements to the regime

Search warrants

  • introduce a delayed notification search warrant scheme—with appropriate safeguards and limits—to allow a search warrant to be executed without the knowledge of the occupier of the premises to ensure suspects are not immediately alerted to the investigation

Arrest threshold

  • reduce the arrest threshold for terrorism offences (including foreign incursions offences) to 'suspects' on reasonable grounds

Admission of foreign evidence

  • allow courts greater flexibility to admit material obtained from overseas in terrorism related proceedings, providing that the material was not obtained as a result of torture or duress

Persons of security concern

  • ensure welfare payments can be terminated for people who have been assessed as a serious threat to Australia's national security where the person's visa or passport has been cancelled
  • improve the ability of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to request the cancellation of a visa based on security concerns and introduce a power to suspend Australian passports and seize foreign passports for 14 days
  • remove the requirement to immediately notify an individual of the cancellation of a passport to avoid alerting the individual to the existence of an investigation

Border security

  • enhance border security by ensuring certain biometric information can be appropriately obtained, retained and used
  • address shortcomings in the current powers of Customs officers under the Customs Act 1901 to detain persons of interest, and to introduce a new set of circumstances in which a person may be detained by a Customs officer in a designated place (such as an airport)
  • better support the use of automated border processing technology (known as e-Gate) to collect and retain personal identifiers of citizens and non-citizens in immigration clearance or upon departure, and to permit the disclosure of that information, and
  • require air and sea carriers to provide information in advance on departing travellers through an approved reporting system.
  • Other amendments
  • create consistency in the definition of 'terrorist act' across a number of Acts
  • amend the definition of a 'terrorist offence' in a range of Acts to include foreign incursions and treason offences and offences against Part 4 of the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 and Part 5 of that Act insofar as it relates to terrorism—providing that certain powers in those Acts can be used in relation to these offences
  • list the Attorney-General's Department as a designated agency under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 to allow the department to more efficiently and effectively develop and implement policy around terrorism financing risks, and ensure a more holistic approach to the Government's foreign fighters national security response.