This paper outlines the key reviews of Australia's counter-terrorism and national security legislation, followed by a more detailed comparison of the recommendations of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and Council of Australian Governments reports with each other and, where relevant, those of earlier reviews.
Following the events of 11 September 2001 in the United States and the subsequent United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), the Australian Government, in cooperation with the states and territories, embarked on a series of significant legislative reforms to respond to the threat of terrorism. The reforms included special powers for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), a range of new offences and the introduction of a mechanism for the proscription of terrorist organisations. The London bombings in July 2005 prompted further reforms, including the introduction of the control order and preventative detention order regimes and additional police powers in relation to suspected terrorism offences. Given the extraordinary nature of the new powers granted and the reach of the new offences, which were designed to capture conduct in the early preparatory stages, the relevant legislation required that reviews be undertaken at certain junctures. In addition, the office of Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) was established in 2010 to provide ongoing oversight of Commonwealth counter-terrorism and national security laws.
Accordingly, there have been several significant reviews of Australia’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation, the most recent and comprehensive being those of the INSLM and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Review Committee.
The Government is now embarking on a further series of national security reforms, the first part of which is contained in the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 (the Bill), introduced in the Senate on 16 July 2014. The Bill responds to recommendations on legislation governing the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in 2013. The Attorney-General has stated that the Bill is ‘just the first step’ and indicated that the Government would introduce further legislation to both respond to recent reviews and proactively address any other shortcomings it identified. On 5 August 2014, the Government announced it would soon be introducing further reforms to, among other things, remove sunset provisions from a range of legislation, expand the criteria for the proscription of terrorist organisations, lower the threshold for arrest without warrant for suspected terrorism offences and enable requests for the suspension of passports in certain circumstances.
This Research Paper provides a brief overview of key reviews of counter-terrorism and national security legislation, followed by a more detailed comparison of the recommendations of the INSLM and COAG reports with each other and, where relevant, those of earlier reviews. It also provides information on how governments have responded to review recommendations.