I thank you, Deputy Speaker Wilkie, for giving me the call, and I thank the member for La Trobe for his words, who has great experience as a former serving police officer. The reason there was a lot of controversy when these laws were introduced was that they affect our freedoms. I don't know what you're like as a member of parliament, but every time I see a piece of legislation like this I place my children and my grandchildren into it. I say, 'What if this legislation were directed at my child, at my son, and they were detained, without charge, for a period of time?' That's why these issues are controversial. That's why when we, as a parliament, decide to extend these powers for another 12 months—whether they have been acted on or not, or used or not—an enormous amount of power is given to the Australian Federal Police to act on our behalf. As long as they are acting on our behalf, we will applaud each move that they make. But all of these powers can be misused and abused. I know no-one else will come in and talk about that today, but that is exactly the reason these powers were so controversial in the first place.
I'm here as a member of parliament not only to serve my constituency and this nation but to protect my constituency and this nation—even, sometimes, from our own government. And you say, 'What a preposterous proposition you're putting—that somebody somewhere would abuse these laws for their own benefit, that there would be no corruption in this country whatsoever, that no person would ever step out of line.' That's not what history tells us down the line, and that's why so many people who are libertarians—I don't know what you call them these days; there are not many left—look at these issues and take them really seriously. If powers like these are misused, your freedom's gone. I think they have been misused in Australia in the last 12 months, particularly in Victoria, but that is a whole other issue, and we won't go down that track.
The government and the former government—there will be no difference—are deciding that we should extend these powers for 12 months. So I immediately went to the legislation and asked, 'Why are we doing this?' We're doing this so we can give some consideration to other legislation that may be put in place and be considered by the government of the day. It will get the consideration of the backbench committee of the government of the day or the caucus committee of the government of the day, and the backbench committee or the caucus committee of the opposition of the day. It will be debated in the House. There will be consideration by the caucus and the party rooms, so there will be further consideration of this issue as we build up to new legislation that may cover it. So I start to feel a bit more comfortable, because I know the backbench committees in my party and the caucus committees within the Labor Party are not stupid. There are men and women in there that have views about these particular issues, and they will voice them.
Then the legislation will go to the Senate. I believe either the Greens or others will ask that it be considered by a Senate committee. So it will be considered again. I'm just making the point that, when we make legislation in this House, there's far more consideration given to it than what is in the Herald Sun for just a fleeting moment. I'm sure that the Independents will want to have something to say about powers that affect the freedoms and obligations of the Australian people.
I don't want my children, my grandchildren or any of my family or those that I care for to be pulled up in the street for no reason whatsoever. I think that you can be pulled over in a car for no reason whatsoever, for just a check. That was never the case years ago. You couldn't just be pulled over for no reason, just for a check. But I think you can be now. The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (AFP Powers and Other Matters) Bill 2022 is important. All the reasons listed for the bill—such as to protect the nation—are important because, as the member for La Trobe quite rightly said, the threat to Australia is still real and probable. I don't even like the ads on television that talk about the re-enactment of the Bali bombings. I don't want to watch a re-enactment of a horrific event, which was a major attack on hundreds of Australians who happened to be there at the time, and on the Germans and French and all the other people who were caught up in that horrible, horrible, horrible situation.
I hate terrorism. I hate the fear that drives it and I hate the disregard for human life that surrounds it—to create more fear. But I also fear incremental changes to our freedoms. Our freedoms are grievously important, and, if governments of the day and members of parliament as individuals don't have regard for the freedoms that are crucially important to a nation that has spilled blood for such freedoms, then they may be incrementally taken away, piece by piece, little by little, until the individual no longer has the rights that the previous generation enjoyed. That's the only point I'm making here.
There is good reason for this legislation to be put in this way, because the parliament wants more time to consider. I've just been through—before the member for Wright got here—a number of backup provisions and a number of committees that go through any legislation before it gets to the point of being enacted. We had a big fight about this legislation a long time ago. We had a big fight about the controversy of it. And it wasn't even in the context of an immediate threat. There have been times in this country when we've faced the threat of terrorism, and in fact some damage has been done by individuals. All of these things that are in this bill do go toward protecting Australians. I don't deny that. And there can always be good arguments put up for bad legislation. I'm not suggesting this is bad legislation. I'm just suggesting to you all that protecting freedoms in this nation should be priority No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.
When I leave this place—and, guess what, we all do. One day, even you two younger members of parliament on the other side will leave. One day we all leave. I'm going to make sure that, when I leave this place, I leave this nation as free as it was when I first came here in 1990, because that is really important to me. That's a legacy that we must leave as a nation. When our men and women have gone and shed their blood overseas for us, and you ask them why, they will say, 'Because we were fighting for the freedom to live the way we want to live in this nation.' I'm not going to go into the restrictions that were put in place in Victoria because of COVID, the excuses that were given, the responses that happened there and the powers that they then claimed back to enact what they wanted to enact using the Victorian police. I am very, very attuned at this time to any legislation that may affect health, wellbeing and, especially, freedom of movement and freedom of association. I want to be able to walk down the street in the freest nation in the world.
I know we're not under threat like other nations, like Israel and Palestine—what's happening in the Middle East. We don't live that life. We're not waiting for a missile to come roaring over from nearby, from Mount Ainslie or somewhere, and drop into parliament. We don't live that life. We're not Israelis. We're not Palestinians. We're not all the people under threat around the world. And it gives us a different view. The Australian view says: 'She'll be right. You can bring in legislation like this. It's not a problem unless it's misused or abused.' Why would it be misused or abused? I don't know. The other option is that we don't have legislation like this at all, and then the Federal Police can't act. That's not a go either. That doesn't work for me either. You have to give the powers to the Federal Police to be able to act on your behalf. But, at the same time, I notice that each time there is judicial oversight along the track.
Mr BROADBENT: No, they haven't been used. But, once these laws are in place, it wouldn't surprise me if in 12 months time the government come back and say, 'Look, we need another 12 months,' and then the laws will have been enacted and in place for a number of years. I think what this should be saying is, 'If this comes back again, there should be amendments moved to say, "No, we'll do a full review."'
Mr BROADBENT: Absolutely. This legislation says that we're working towards new legislation—I don't want to run out of time here. That's fine, except that the sunset clauses are put in legislation like this because of the seriousness of the legislation. They're not put in there just to say, 'Oh, we'll have a look at that at the end of a certain amount of time.' The sunset clauses are put in there to say, 'Yes, we recognise how important this legislation is to the freedom and wellbeing of this nation, so we're putting in a sunset clause so the government of the day, which is a new government, has to come back and look at the legislation.' They have to, because there's a sunset clause there,. I'm sure the Australian Federal Police are saying, rightly, to the government: 'Look, these laws have been extremely important to us to be able to use if we need them. So they're there ready to go. We have been very careful in how we've used them to this point.' And they have, clearly, because they haven't used any of them. They've been very careful as to how they've used them, because they know how sensitive this is for the Australian people.
I suppose a lot of the Australian people just expect us—and expect you too, and you too, and you, Mr Deputy Speaker—to act on their behalf. They want to believe that you are protecting them in everything you decide in this place so they don't have to worry about it. They will say to me, 'Russell, we elected you to make these decisions.' I had some contractors in my house. I won't tell you what the issue was, but one day they said, 'If you don't make it compulsory, that'll be fine.' One of them turned to me and said, 'Look, Russell, we actually elected you to make this decision.'
So I feel a very heavy responsibility when it comes to bills like this that affect the individual freedom of everybody in this nation, because I believe Australia needs to be a beacon of freedom. We need to be a place where people know they can come, get refuge and live in a free society. This may all sound like rhetoric to some people, but it's real because it's real legislation. They can really arrest you. They can arrest you without charge. They can accost you without charge. Yes, it's serious, because it's all about our freedoms. That's why I am pleading with all parliamentarians: take this legislation very seriously. On anything that comes up that's going to affect your personal freedom or your family's personal freedom or your grandchildren's personal freedom, make sure that you give it your best shot and that you are very comfortable with what the government is doing at any time in legislation that has such a dramatic effect. We've had the blue about it, and now we're agreeing with and supporting this legislation. Thank you for your indulgence.