Page 4213 - Week 13 - Thursday, 19 November 2015

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Islamic State poses a growing global threat in its demand that Muslims across the world swear allegiance to its radical and extremist views. We have recently seen a number of Australians leave our shores to fight with Islamic State overseas, predominantly in Syria. The Australian government has increased safeguards to prevent these people from travelling overseas and preventing them from returning to Australia to further influence and radicalise impressionable and vulnerable members of our community.

“Lone actor” attacks are also of significant concern in Australia. In 2014 two police officers were stabbed in Melbourne by 18-year-old Numan Haider before he was shot and killed by police. Shortly before last Christmas, Man Monis took hostages in a siege at Sydney’s Martin Place which lasted 17 hours and led to his death and the deaths of two hostages. In April this year British police arrested a teenage boy from northern England in connection with an alleged plot to target an Anzac memorial event in Australia. The same alleged plot led to the arrest of five teenagers in Melbourne for conspiring to commit a terrorist act.

While we need to address these threats, our responses must remain rational and proportionate. Referring to the events in France, Prime Minister Turnbull confirmed that security agencies do not believe there is any evidence at the moment to increase the alert level in Australia. Mr Turnbull said:

…we have the finest security agencies in the world. We have a government that is utterly committed to protecting the safety of Australians at home and so far as we can abroad.

The objective of this act, therefore, is to provide law enforcement agencies with extraordinary legal powers to respond where there is evidence that a terrorist act is imminent, or where an act has already occurred. This power is given to law enforcement agencies in two ways. The first is by the issue of a preventative detention order, which allows a person to be taken into custody if the court is satisfied that a terrorist act is happening or will happen in the following 14 days and the authorisation will assist in preventing or reducing the impact of the terrorist act. Under a preventative detention order, a person may be detained for up to 14 days.

The second way is under an investigative authorisation, which lasts for up to 28 days and permits police to exercise special powers that would substantially assist in apprehending a terrorist suspect, investigating a terrorist act or reducing its impact. Special powers include searching a person, place or vehicle that is named or related to someone or something named in the authorisation.

Preventative detention orders and investigative authorisations must be made by either the Magistrates Court or the Supreme Court providing an additional layer of oversight and accountability. This legislation forms part of Australia’s national counter-terrorism scheme, which is underpinned by Australia’s national counter-terrorism strategy. The strategy’s focus includes challenging violent extremist ideologies and stopping people from becoming terrorists, with equal attention to disrupting and preventing terrorist activity within Australia and responding and recovering effectively.

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