Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 30 June 2011) . . Page.. 2946 ..
conducted by the commonwealth government, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the reviews of similar legislative schemes conducted by governments across Australia.
In reaching the decision to propose the act’s continuation, the government has considered the necessity for continuation in the context of the current threat of terrorist activity posed to Australians and residents of the ACT. The government has given particular consideration to whether the continuation is a necessary and proportionate response to this threat, given our obligations under the Human Rights Act.
To address the human rights considerations, an important question for the government has been whether the purposes of the Terrorism Act remain current. The objects and purposes of the Terrorism Act are described in the act’s preamble, which notes that the legislation was enacted in response to the clear need for laws to combat terrorism given the changing nature of terrorism activity following the attack on London in 2005.
The preamble to the act states, at point five, that the community needs to be protected from acts of terrorism. If law enforcement agencies have evidence that a terrorist attack is imminent, or an attack has happened, they need to be able to respond appropriately to prevent it or to investigate it and reduce its impact.
The recent announcement by the President of the United States of America on 2 May of the death of Osama bin Laden, leader of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, reinforces the prominence of the international threat of terrorist activity, and the relevance of legislation to facilitate counter-terrorism activities.
While Australia’s National Security Committee has not increased the national terrorism public alert system threat level from “medium”, the possibility of revenge attacks is real. A “medium” assessment indicates that a terrorist attack is feasible and could occur. This possibility has been acknowledged by the Prime Minister in media interviews following the announcement of the death of the leader of al-Qaeda.
Recent Australian reports have acknowledged the on-going terrorism environment. The 2008-2009 ASIO report to parliament identified a range of terrorism related activity and identified new extremist groups. The commonwealth government’s Counter-terrorism white paper 2010 also acknowledges that terrorism is a persistent and permanent feature of Australia’s security environment.
In addition to international terrorist activity, the ACT’s unique position within Australia as the seat of Australian government and the host of international diplomatic missions heightens the potential threat faced by our community. This fact has not changed since the introduction of the Terrorism Act and was an important consideration in determining the necessity of counter-terrorism laws in the ACT.
It is important to note that due to the cross-jurisdiction challenges presented by terrorism, Australia’s response relies on the complementary roles between the commonwealth, states and territories. Significantly, Australian jurisdictions who have