29 June 2003

Amended bill hits security target
The original bill was one of the worst introduced into the federal parliament. The amendments made by all parties have made a significant difference. Although the bill will still not satisfy those who argue against greater powers for ASIO, I believe that the right decision was made to pass the amended version as a one-off security measure. After September 11 and the Bali attack, national laws are needed to better protect the Australian people and to fulfil our international obligations to fight terrorism.

The bill can be justified in giving ASIO the power to question people about terrorism. It is true that the bill goes further than this and important reservations remain. But as a product of parliamentary compromise, it is a remarkable achievement. It is also a powerful example of the need to retain the Senate as an effective house of review.

Of course, if the prime minister's Senate proposal was now in force none of that review or compromise would have happened and the original bill would have been rammed through a joint sitting unamended.

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