Local, Independant and Effective

National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 - further time needed to fully consider changes

Posted October 01, 2014


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (10:10):  I rise to speak about the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 and why I will not be supporting this bill in this House. The security of our nation and our people is paramount, and this bill is the leading edge of the government's expansion of anti-terrorism laws.

I fully support the government taking steps to introduce relevant legislation to counter the insidious march of terrorism in all its forms. Our current suite of laws is not providing the necessary powers to our law enforcement and intelligence agents, and technology has advanced in leaps and bounds. Once again, our laws need to be amended to ensure that Australia can effectively monitor and police in this ever-changing technological world.

The government, with bipartisan support from the opposition, says: this legislation is what is needed. I say: it may be the legislation that is needed, but my biggest concern is that the people of Australia have been neither effectively consulted nor included in the development of this bill. I support the concerns stated by the Law Council of Australia that:

The tight timeframes for the present inquiry limits the capacity of the Law Council and other organisations to provide detailed analysis in relation to these proposals.

When legislation of such significance to all Australians is under development, it is imperative that everybody—individuals, organisations, communities and business—has adequate time to scrutinise and comment. The lack of independent scrutiny of this bill and the lack of time members and senators have been given to consider the complexities are my greatest concerns. I share Professor George Williams' view, when he says:

… the extent to which its changes would extend the powers of government at the expense of citizens is unexpected …

This bill allows greater surveillance of computers, grants immunity from protection to intelligence officers engaged in special operations and exposes journalists to jail for publishing even more general information about terrorism activities. My colleagues on the crossbench have adequately described some of the problems and gaps. But, as an independent member of parliament and as a community representative, today my focus is the impact of these changes on the community.

There is much fear in my community—and, I know, in other communities around Australia—about the terrible work of terrorism around the world and how it impacts, particularly in our major cities. I have been approached by many people in Indi sharing their fears. They are scared for their family and friends. They do not want to lose the free life that we have in Australia.

The consequence of this fear has been such that families have come up to me and said they are not travelling overseas to attend weddings. More extremely, members of my small communities are not going to Melbourne or Sydney for footy matches, terrified of what might happen to them in the cities. And they do not understand it.

Young people and young leaders have come and spoken in this parliament about the huge implication of this fear on them and their life—the undercurrent of racism; the undercurrent of religious bigotry; the undercurrent of people being different; the undercurrent of the impact when we use fear as a weapon. This fear in my community is devastating. It makes me scared; it makes the people I live with scared. And the consequences will be with us for a long time.

It causes lack of trust—lack of trust in the government and lack of trust in our institutions. It causes community to fight community and this impact will be with individuals and communities for a very long time.

So this is not a time to rush through legislation. This is a time for considered approaches. This is a time when we should be our best selves, as the Prime Minister reminds us; not only in parliament to be our best selves as politicians but to call on our communities to be their best selves—to be our most inclusive selves and to be our wisest selves. It is a time to bring our community with us. It is a time to build community confidence. It is a time to help people understand what is happening and to explain that this really is legislation that is going to make our community better.

In closing, I think that we as a country have done a wonderful job in building a coalition of the willing overseas. It is my hope that we can invest in time to build a coalition of the willing in Australia. This is a time, I believe, for 'Team Australia' to play to the whole team, not just a small select group.

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