Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 November 2010) . . Page.. 5448 ..
terrorism, which the commonwealth could not enact due to constitutional constraints. These new laws were deemed necessary as they provide specific powers to police to respond should a terrorist attack be organised and executed within Australia.
The ACT’s terrorism act commenced on 19 November 2006. It allows for the preventative detention of a person for up to 14 days to prevent an imminent terrorist attack or to preserve evidence relating to the commission of terrorist acts. The act also provides police with special stop, search and seizure powers to be used in response to, and in the investigation of, terrorist acts.
The review makes eight recommendations, which I will now describe for members. Firstly, the review recommends that the terrorism act continue past the expiry date of 11 November 2011. This conclusion is based on an analysis of terrorism assessments conducted by the commonwealth government, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the reviews of similar legislative schemes conducted by governments across Australia.
It is important to note that, due to the cross-jurisdictional challenges presented by terrorism, Australia’s response relies on the complementary roles between the commonwealth, states and territories. Significantly, our counterparts across Australian jurisdictions who have reviewed their counter-terrorism legislative schemes have all recommended that their legislation continue.
The recommendations from our interstate counterparts to continue their respective acts was despite the fact that, like the ACT, many of the jurisdictions have not exercised the powers in their counter-terrorism legislative schemes. This is apart from Victoria, who have exercised their powers on various occasions to support counter-terrorism investigations.
The continuation of the ACT’s terrorism act is therefore necessary because it supports the national legislative approach and, furthermore, because of the specific threat to the ACT. As the ACT houses the seat of government and approximately 90 diplomatic missions, it is a potential target for a terrorist act. This is evidenced by the fact that the Israeli embassy was the target of the publicised planned but aborted terrorist act in 2000.
Australians continue to face the threats of terrorism. The current security assessment, conducted by ASIO, is medium. A medium assessment indicates that a terrorist act is feasible and could occur. ASIO have also recently reported that, in 2008-09, Australia was identified as a terrorist target by Islamic extremists. The most serious activity identified by ASIO was the alleged planning by a Melbourne-based group of extremists of an armed suicide assault on an Australian military facility.
The commonwealth government have also reported in their recent counter-terrorism white paper that 38 people have been prosecuted or are being prosecuted as a result of counter-terrorism operations. Thirty-five of these prosecutions have been for offences against the terrorism offences located in the commonwealth Criminal Code. Whilst a number of these prosecutions are ongoing, 20 people have been convicted of terrorism offences.