I rise to speak on the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014. There is a very good reason that this bill is before the House. Most Australians are acutely aware of the threat posed on the national landscape and Australia's involvement in that threat. I take the House's mind back to the al-Qaeda Afghanistan-Pakistan period in the 1990s and 2000s, when Australians were involved in terrorism related activities. I commend the Australian Defence Force and the Australian intelligence services, including ASIO, along with all of our law enforcement authorities and border protection authorities, who worked collaboratively to bring this information to light in conjunction with international intelligence-gathering organisations. ASIO discovered that, in that period of 1990 to 2010, no fewer than 30 Australians travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and trained in extremist camps and/or fought with extremist organisations. Twenty five of those personnel returned to Australia.
These people were not soldiers when they left; these were just average, everyday Australians who went overseas in that period and fought. Of the 25 who returned, 19 were engaged in activities of security concern after their return to Australia. Eight of those were later convicted of terrorism related offences, with five still serving prison sentences. With these individuals, their behaviour after their return to Australia emerged over an extended period—in some cases, their crimes were not committed until more than five years after their return.
The scale of the Australians' involvement in the current conflict in Syria and Iraq outstrips any of the previous data that I just raised in the House. We are currently concerned that there are up to 70 Australians fighting with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. There are over 100 more in Australia who are providing support to those 70, by financing, providing flights or providing travel. That is a large contingent, far larger than we saw before, when you consider the multiplier effect of the potential damage in what we have seen historically. Of those 100 people, more than 20 have returned to Australia from fighting in that conflict. Further, very few Australians who have travelled to previous conflicts were involved in violence on the scale that we have seen in Syria and Iraq.
The amendments before us in the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill seek to strengthen Australia's resolve when it comes to security measures. The bill offers a greater layer of protection for our families. The bill reflects 16 recommendations, which predominantly relate to control measures. I will not laboriously go through each of those with the House, but I would like to make the point that it is imperative that we understand what two or three of the control measures in the bill seek to do, assure the Australian public that there is not overreach and acknowledge the calibre of the personnel who put forward these recommendations for consideration by this parliament and the energy they put into the process.
These recommendations were crafted with the direct intent of keeping all Australians, including those in my electorate of Wright, safe from the evil acts of terrorism that we have witnessed far too often overseas. The previous speaker in the debate spoke of beheadings. It is unheard of—very rarely has this been seen before—but those beheadings have included some involvement by an Australian child, holding severed heads as some type of war trophy. A child well before they have come of age should not be seen in a war zone. We saw the incident where guards outside the Canadian parliament were gunned down and run down. UK servicemen have been massacred in the street, not to mention the endless suicide bombers.
I thank the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for these proposed amendments. They are part of the government's comprehensive response to the heightened security threat environment, both internationally and here at home. In particular, the recommendations will work to address the threats posed by the Australians participating and supporting foreign conflicts or undertaking training with extremist groups. They will improve the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to respond adequately to these threats. These recommendations will aid the deployment of the ADF to undertake military operations against ISIL terrorist organisations in Iraq and the recent Operation Appleby, which disrupted an illegal terrorist attack in Sydney.
It saddens me that those 400 dawn raids were criticised by the ABC'S Q&A. It somehow brings into question the integrity of our law-enforcement authorities—that those raids were only being conducted for some kind of political gain and that it was political theatre. Those commentators today—with the information I have—should hang their heads in shame for suggesting that our personnel were engaged in political theatre. It is utterly reprehensible.
Amongst the key recommendations proffered by the parliamentary committee is the requirement of Australian Federal Police personnel to provide a statement of facts when seeking the Attorney-General's consent to request an interim control order. This will ensure there are clear and accountable provisions to ensure against wrongful use of these powers. The government is clear that it wants to neutralise threats as they rise against innocent Australians. It also wants to ensure that these matters are dealt with fairly and in accordance with the law. This recommendation will go a long way to doing that.
Also recommended is the Attorney-General's consent for urgent control orders to be obtained within eight hours. This reflects the view of the committee that eight hours is sufficient even if the Attorney-General is travelling and temporarily unavailable for the purpose of the control order, because we must have transparency and oversight of these procedures.
Another important recommendation is that the relevant court must examine and be satisfied that each obligation, prohibition or restriction is reasonably necessary, reasonably appropriate and adapted to achieving one of the purposes of the control-order regime. For the safety of all, these recommendations will enhance the control-order regime to allow AFP personnel to seek control orders in relation to the broader range of individuals of security concerns and to streamline this application process. If we know someone could be a threat to our community, if we know someone could be a threat to our neighbours, our children or our colleagues, the nation's best security professionals should be able to act as swiftly as possible to neutralise that threat.
The recommendation will also facilitate cooperation and support between the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Australian Defence Force. Communication is more important than ever to ensure that security threats are apprehended and neutralised as quickly as possible. We would all agree that these amendments are vital to the safety of all Australians. The measures in the bill have been included as a result of instances of operational needs identified by law-enforcement agencies, subsequent to the introduction of the previous two tranches of legislation, following the recent Operation Appleby that disrupted an alleged terrorist attack in Sydney.
The amendments will also allow the Australian federal police to request a control order in relation to those who enable and those who recruit. This is an important part of the legislation. With those startling numbers still fresh in the memories of everyone of this gallery, it is vital that we crack down on the so-called hate preachers, those who incite young Australians, those who muster those young, innocent minds and convert them to a place that they can never return from. This legislation reaches and captures those people who seek to corrupt the children of our nation.
Although such individuals may not necessarily participate in terrorist acts, their conduct in supporting and facilitating terrorism through the provision of funds and equipment or by recruiting vulnerable young people to champion their cause and even to die for it is instrumental in carrying out terrorism. The expansion of the control-order regime to cover such individuals will disrupt terrorism at an earlier stage and help to keep Australia safe.
Contrary to some inaccurate media reporting, the amendments will not enable ASIS to kill Australians or others. There is no change to the existing limitation under subsection 6(4) of the IS Act, which states that ASIS must not plan for, or undertake, activities that involve paramilitary activities or violence against a person or the use of weapons other than in accordance with the act by staff members or agents of ASIS.
The role of ASIS is to provide intelligence support to the ADF. The ADF is providing military support to Iraq in the fight against terrorist organisations. In using any intelligence provided by ASIS, the ADF is bound by its rules of engagement, which are developed in consultation with the Office of International Law and the Attorney-General's Department to ensure compliance with Australia's international law obligations. Clearly, these recommendations are absolutely vital to our intelligence agencies.
Without intelligence, such as that provided by ASIS, the ADF is not only hindered but also potentially put in danger. The government must ensure the ADF is in the best position to protect its personnel, and this measure helps achieve this objective. For those in the public who have concerns of overreach, the existing control-order regime is already subject to significant safeguards and oversight mechanisms, including through the need to obtain both the Attorney-General's consent and a court order, which will continue to apply. It means these departments cannot go out on a whim to obtain these.
The bill, including implementation of the PJCIS recommendations, will improve operational and administrative safeguards and require the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor to review the control-order regime, with specific reference to safeguards. All of the existing safeguards and oversight mechanisms in the Intelligence Services Act 2001 will continue to apply, including in relation to the amendments to better facilitate Australian Secret Intelligence Service assistance to the ADF.
In conclusion, I suggest that both sides of the House support the current legislation before the House and they support it because we are united as a House on the defence of our realm. Neither side of this House wants to see our children leave this country to get engaged in a fight on the other side of the world knowing that they can potentially never return to a normal life. Our law enforcement agencies must have every strength, both legislatively and through a support mechanism from the Australian public, to be able to go about their business in a professional, courteous and accurate manner so that Australians we can put their heads on their pillows each night and know that they live in a safe country. The current security threat created by ISIL in Iraq cannot be defeated just by legislation. This legislation alone will not defeat our enemy, but united, with strong regulation, strong legislation, a committed Defence Force and a strong coalition partner globally, we will be victorious in our fight against terrorism. I commend the bill to the House.