Page 4933 - Week 15 - Thursday, 15 December 2005

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Mr Speaker, the exposure draft also sets out the special police powers agreed to by COAG. During a conventional criminal investigation, police already have available to them considerable and effective powers of investigation. However, the police may only exercise these powers—for example, powers of search or inquiry—when they have information that is substantial and credible enough to give rise to a “reasonable cause to suspect”.

The legal requirement that the exercise of police powers is ordinarily based on a suspicion or belief on reasonable grounds usually limits the scope and application of the powers to an individual person, vehicle or premises to which the suspicion is attached. Although this is appropriate for conventional criminal investigation, it is not adequate for responding to terrorist activity with its covert, complicated and sophisticated nature. For example, intelligence may indicate a significant threat to a landmark—say a particular public place—without identifying specific individuals who pose the threat. Police need to be able to respond and take effective protective measures affecting all persons in a particular area regardless of whether any particular individual has given “reasonable cause to suspect”.

The enhanced police powers have been modelled on the parts of the states’ bills that are considered the best in terms of human rights compatibility and adherence to established principles of justice. Additional safeguards have also been incorporated, including the judicial review and oversight of all authorisations under the legislation.

The exposure draft provides for the declaration of special powers authorisations and special investigative powers authorisations by the Supreme Court. Under the provisions, a special powers authorisation may be issued if the court is satisfied on reasonable grounds that a terrorist act is imminent and that the exercise of the powers under the provisions will substantially assist in the prevention of a terrorist act. An investigative special powers authorisation may be issued if the court is satisfied on reasonable grounds that a terrorist act is being, or has been, committed and that the exercise of powers under the legislation will substantially assist in the investigation of the terrorist act.

The exposure draft incorporates important safeguards to prevent the inappropriate use of the extraordinary powers proposed in the bill. Other proposed safeguards to protect human rights include requirements that all police who exercise stop, search and seizure powers must undergo human rights training and all police must keep records in relation to their use of the stop, search and seizure powers.

Mr Speaker, I have a responsibility to do all I can to protect the ACT community against terrorist acts without unnecessarily infringing upon their rights and freedoms. I believe that the exposure draft achieves this. It takes a principled approach to counter-terrorism law that is anchored in the relationship between security and rights. I believe we can protect both and I look forward to the process of consultation with the ACT community.

In recognition of the significance of the proposed legislation, and in order to ensure additional scrutiny and an opportunity for the public to participate and work with the government, the government proposes that the exposure draft be referred to the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs for inquiry and report. In this regard, I seek leave to move the motion that I think has been circulated in my name.

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