Page 1333 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 9 May 2006

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That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent order of the day No 8, Private Members’ business, relating to the Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Bill 2006, being called on and debated cognately with order of the day No 2, Executive business, relating to the Terrorism (Extraordinary Temporary Powers) Bill 2006.

Terrorism (Extraordinary Temporary Powers) Bill 2006

[Cognate bill:
Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Bill 2006]

Debate resumed from 30 March 2006, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SPEAKER: I understand it is the wish of the Assembly to debate this bill cognately with private members’ order of the day No 8, Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Bill 2006. That being the case, I remind members that, in debating order of the day No 2, executive business, they may also address their remarks to order of the day No 8, private members’ business.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (10.38): The debate we are going to have today is possibly one of the most important debates we will have in the Assembly, not just this year but perhaps at any time in the near future, for a number of reasons. That is because this debate, which is essentially about how best we can prevent terrorist activity in our community, turns on a number of very important principles such as principles of freedom and democracy, which are what distinguish us from the oppressive and dictatorial regimes of the world.

On one level, we need to ask whether we can justify the withdrawal of freedom from an individual or individuals suspected of planning horrendous acts—in this case terrorist acts—in a free and democratic society. There are a number of other important principles too—first and foremost the responsibility of governments to protect law-abiding citizens from criminal activities and, in this case, from unlawful attacks, which can be quite horrendous, as recent history has shown. Article 2 (1) of the European convention on human rights states that, “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law.” The scrutiny report of 8 May states at page 13 that where current laws are inadequate to provide protection against a threat which exists, the state is required by human rights law to make laws to counter that threat.

Section 9 of the ACT Human Rights Act deals with the right to life. It has been said in debate that the most fundamental right here is the right of innocent law-abiding Canberra citizens to live. The opposition accepts absolutely and without any reservation the need for strong anti-terrorism legislation, and we accept absolutely the need for consistent legislation across the country. There are some significant problems in the government’s bill in that regard. The Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, is a leading Australian expert on terrorism. On 31 January, before the legal affairs committee inquiry, he stated:

In responding to terrorism, we are focusing on minimising the risk to the community that comes from the gap between the behaviour criminalised by existing offences

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