Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Opposition Whip) (17:47): The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (AFP Powers and Other Matters) Bill 2022 is about the extension of temporary arrangements to enable the parliament to act on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for tightening the permanent legislation. It is a priority, but it should not be rushed. I note the comments from the member for North Sydney, when she warned that we should not indefinitely have temporary arrangements and that we should be wary of encroachment on our civil liberties. I agree with her. Those are sound points. We do live in a precarious world, and who would have thought 20, 25 or 40 years ago that we would find ourselves with the kind of restrictions in our lives that we accept now for the public good—and, to be fair, Australia has been spared many of the terrorist acts that have happened around the world. I’m not critical of where we’ve arrived at—I’m certainly critical of those who have forced us into these positions—but in this case I think it’s right that we should extend this temporary legislation for another 12 months while proper and correction consideration is given to that report.
It comes to three main points. I’m indebted to the former member for detailing them, and I will try not to take up too much time. The control orders allow for restrictions on people deemed to be a risk to our community, and they have been used. The prevention detention orders are for detaining people without charge, firstly for 24 hours and then with special approval for another 24 hours, where an attack is imminent. I don’t think that many of us would argue about the need for that. I’m pleased that we haven’t had to use it. The emergency stop and seizure powers, once again, have not been used but are fairly self-descriptive, being the ability to act without a warrant when imminent danger presents itself to the Australian public.
In a perfect world, we would have none of this—absolutely none of it. We’re a high-functioning liberal democracy, but we are forced into the positions by those who bear us bad will. The world has changed over that last 20 or 40 years I spoke about—international travel, instant telecommunications, the worldwide objectives of terrorist groups. There was a time when people that had local conflicts and local arguments would keep their arguments and conflicts local, but with the diasporas that are spread around the world and with the constant movement of people, they are able to take up their arguments in other places. So it’s changed and we have had little choice.
Now, make no mistake, individuals or groups, the religious and the political zealots, hate countries like Australia, and they mean us harm. They hate us because we’re free. We’re free to choose who we associate with, free to practise our religion of choice, free to educate our children in an institution of our choice. We have the ability to participate in our democracies and to say and do as we wish—unless, of course, it negatively impacts on others, and we have appropriate laws for those circumstances. Those who wish to attack us seek to reshape the world to suit their view, to make us succumb to their will, and we are their enemy. We should not think we are safe from this in Australia.
The Economist publishes an annual democracy table. There are 195 countries in the world; 167 of them are assessed by the Economist. I don’t know what the other 20 or so countries are. I haven’t been able to find them yet. Of those 167 countries, just 34 are deemed to be full democracies—just 34—and they only cover about six per cent of the world’s population. We are indeed so fortunate in Australia. In these democracies, like Australia, we have civil liberties and political freedoms, valid systems of government checks, independent judiciaries and a free press. Australia is 13th on this list of 34. I thought we might do a bit better, but it’s pretty good to be 13th in the world.
There are 47 countries with deficient democracies. They do have free and fair elections, but they have fundamental deficiencies like pressure on their press, suppression of critics and opponents, under-developed political cultures and low levels of participation in politics. Then there are 29 more immoderate autocracies. They have regular electoral frauds, preventing elections from being free or fair. They commonly have government applying pressure to oppositions, non-independent judiciaries, widespread corruption, pressure on media and anaemic rules of law. That includes countries like Iran. Given the tragic death of Mahsa Amini—and we’ve all been watching on the news the riots that are happening in Iran—one would wonder how much longer Iran will stay on that list before they drop to the hard autocracies. I might also point out that Russia sits on that list. The next list is 21 hard autocracies. These are the absolute monarchies or dictatorships that have sham elections and controlled courts and press. They include China and North Korea.
You might ask why I list these in a debate about terrorism. It’s simply because, apart from some fairly notable exceptions, like Afghanistan, most of the terrorist attacks in the world are aimed at these fully functioning democracies—at the six per cent of people who are fortunate enough to live in a fully functioning democracy. They include Australia. I went through before why these forces of evil, if you like, who wish to push their will upon the world so detest countries like Australia. Let’s look at a few of them. In the last few years France has had multiple attacks. You will remember well the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper—12 dead for publishing a cartoon. A teacher was beheaded for giving a lesson in tolerance and police were stabbed to death. France has an extensive list of terrorist attacks. And in little old Belgium—bombings—in 2016, 32 civilians were killed and 300 injured, and there were stabbing attacks on police. Then there’s Canada. We remember well the attack on the Canadian parliament, where a police officer was killed in action on the steps of the Canadian parliament. In 2018, Germany recorded 1,088 violent crimes committed by extremists, including bomb attacks on mosques—extreme antisemitic activities. It’s a great concern.
In the UK, remember the slaying of Jo Cox MP in 2016 by a white supremacist. The UK has a huge list of attacks throughout the last decade, including car bombs, train bombings, and mosques—they have it all. Then there’s the US. Who can forget the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? The US is perhaps the world’s No. 1 target. A report in 2017 reported 95 deaths and 932 injuries associated with terrorism singularly in that year. It was a bit of a surprise to me that the US just missed out on being a fully functioning democracy on a point system; they were one outside that bridge of 34. I think it’s well worth throwing in as examples of what Australia could potentially face. All of these examples, apart from that one, are listed as full democracies. I remind the House that Australia is No. 13 out of 34. So we are well within the sights of those who wish democracies and liberalism around the world harm. So, while we are not immune, we will remember the Bali bombings in 2002—20 years ago—which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians; the Bali bombings in 2005—once again targeting Australians, amongst others—which killed 23 people, including four Australians; and the Lindt cafe siege, which killed three people. We are not immune.
To their great credit, our Federal Police and security forces have thwarted a number of other attempts in Australia. We have been the lower ebb. We are extremely fortunate in Australia to have good agencies. We also have the separation of distance and a whole lot of other things going for us, including a multicultural community that lives together in peace. But we are well advised to be on our guard. Unless we are prepared, we cannot take for granted our safety from religious and political zealots worldwide who are determined.
In finishing, one of the things that does concern me is that, while we have done well in thwarting terrorism and hopefully driving it back—we cede ground. Every time they succeed, we lose a little too. Our community is now beset with huge costs that are associated with, for instance, airport screenings—things that we would never have imagined 30 years ago. There are costs associated with all kinds of security around public events and, indeed, security around this place in which we speak today. All of those are an added cost to that that would have been envisaged when this building was built. It does come at a cost, and it does come as a small sacrifice of our personal freedoms, as I touched on at the beginning of this speech. That’s why, wherever possible, there should be temporary measures. If they can’t be temporary, then they should be properly thought through and investigated, and that’s what the extension of this existing legislation will allow us to do.