You are here

Terrorism (Restrictions on Bail and Parole) Bill 2018

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Tags: Justice, Parole

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I will speak to the Terrorism (Restrictions on Bail and Parole) Bill which seeks to amend the 1997 Bail Act and also the Corrections Act 1994.

Today we are presented with a bill that seeks to keep people in prisons after their sentences have been served because they might commit a crime. This is an essential principle of our justice system which is offended by what this bill seeks to do. This bill seeks to bring inconsistency within Tasmania, which has occurred in other states of Australia, to bring us in line with the decisions that were made by the Australian Government, the very controversial decisions that were made by the Australian Government on this legislation which was the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016.

The Australian Greens spoke very passionately against the parts of the bill which seek to restrict a person's right to post-sentencing release, or the options for that, simply on the basis that a crime might be committed. Imprisoning somebody because we believe they might do something, which is what this legislation seeks to do, is an unacceptable continuation of the erosion of civil liberties and of human rights in Tasmania in the name of counter terrorism, as we have seen in other states. The architect of this legislation and the prime mover of that was the former federal minister, Peter Dutton. He is already cooling his heels on the backbench.

The fact that we have progressed as far as we have down this path is a sign of the disturbing trend in Australia towards police statetype powers. These give undue ability to the state to be able to withhold a person's liberty on flimsy evidence, or in this case, on no evidence at all, that a crime may be committed. Whilst it is incredibly important -

Mr Shelton - So you would let them out, let them blow someone up and then put them back in jail?

Ms O'Connor - Can you tell us how much the threat level has increased over the past five years in Australia, Mr Shelton? That is right, not at all.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Ms O'Connor, for reminding me that this tranche of increasingly draconian and authoritarian acts which we are living under, that have been imposed on us at the federal level, have come in the last five years, a period of time in Australia where there has been absolutely no change in the terror threat level at all. There has been no change, but as a nation within that time we have suffered an increasing erosion of civil liberties and rights.

It is one of the points that the Greens want to make in this debate. We need to ensure that bills like this do not take us a significant step further down the road to the draconian legislation which we already have in place. The Greens are the only party who are standing up against that legislation. The Labor and the Liberal parties voted together on this federal legislation. Today, this bill seeks to bring Tasmania into consistency with this legislation.

This bill raises a number of human rights concerns. Mr Shelton, you make the point that we ought to be concerned about the threat of terrorism. You are absolutely correct. Of course we should and it is primary responsibility of parliament to act to keep Tasmania safe and for the federal parliament to do the same at the federal level. I do not think there is anyone in this parliament who would disagree with that statement. The question is always about where we find the balance. There is a balance that needs to be struck between the threat of terrorism and the absolute protection and enshrining of our civil liberties which is such an important part of the western society we are fortunate enough to be born within. We have a democratic system. We have freedoms in this country that many people on the planet could only dream about, and they are things that have been fought for hundreds of years and ought not to be lightly let go of.

One of those freedoms means that the thought of committing a crime is not the same thing as actually committing a crime. We have deep concerns with the possibility of being able -

Mr Shelton - The planning of a crime -

Dr WOODRUFF - No, that is not actually what this says. In clause 7, proposed new section 83AA(6) says a reference to a terrorist act includes a reference to 'a terrorist act that has not occurred, that may not occur or that will not occur'.[TBC] We are talking about hypotheticals here and it is important to understand that talking or thinking of a threat is not the same thing as a crime occurring.

The erosion of civil liberties and human rights that has occurred in Australia has occurred without governments making a robust case for the evidence, or putting solid and constructive arguments before parliaments about the requirement for doing that. We have introduced catch-all legislation in Australia which provides less and less ability for people to protest against governments for political, ideological or religious reasons. In a submission to a parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security in 2016 Professor George Williams said on this matter, amongst other things: 

This legislation captures within the definition of a serious part 5.3 offence [of the federal legislation] not only the commission of a terrorist act but also a broad range of preparatory conduct. These include in the first place the five preparatory terrorism offences in division 101 of the Criminal Code. These go beyond the traditional inchoate offences by criminalising activities which are merely preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act. For example, it is an offence to attempt to possess a thing connected with a terrorist act or to conspire to do an act in preparation for a terrorist act, and these offences render individuals liable to very serious penalties even before there is a clear criminal intent to engage in a terrorist act.

By contrast, the scope of the serious sex offence and serious violence offence post-sentence detention regimes have been carefully confined to circumstances where a particularly serious offence has actually been committed or where a person has attempted or conspired to do so.

The point is that we have state schemes in Tasmania that are directed at high-risk sex offenders and high-risk violent offenders that will continue to keep them in detention. They are directed at people who have committed serious sexual or violent offences and have a much higher bar than this bill would seek to bring in for people who are alleged to have thought about but not committed a terrorist act.

We will discuss the details of this bill in Committee. We would like to hear the minister's responses to some questions about the clauses we have raised, particularly in terms of revoking parole and the definitions of 'terrorist offence' and 'terrorist act'. In summary, we do not support the broad-ranging restrictions to liberty and human rights which bills like this and the federal legislation, which they bring us into consistency with, have made. We do not accept that we should lower the bar in the way we are doing, which is bringing us down a path further away from the freedoms of expression and the ability to mount differences of opinion and protest against governments or people who have different ideologies and be able to mount a defence of our position when people hold strong political views and strong principles.