Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (17:27:53) — As promised I will speak very briefly on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2018. I have been listening to the debate in my office with great interest. If this bill is passed, it will allow for terrorism subjects to be detained and questioned for four days without charge. It extends the preventative detention scheme to 14-year-olds, it changes shoot-to-kill provisions and it creates presumptions against parole, amongst other things. Ms Pennicuik and certainly Mr O’Donohue went into great detail on the bill, and I appreciated that as well as the second-reading speech in the lower house.
I appreciate that governments must protect Victorians from the risk of serious violent harm. I think we do not have to look much further than the work we are doing on family violence, which as we know kills far more people than terrorism ever has in our society. However, it is the fear and it is the risk of terrorism that this bill is addressing, and it is obviously a very fundamental role of this Parliament and of government to protect its citizens, but I think it is also our role to protect our human rights, and sometimes these bills put this into a very delicate balance of protecting human rights over protecting us from the risk of harm.
It is a very difficult tension that is involved, and it is something that I take very seriously and something I have reflected on. On the one hand I agree that when it comes to the question of curtailing the rights of a small number of people to protect tens of thousands of Victorians, then it could be justified. But on the other hand it is our human rights standards that distinguish us and the kind of society that we wish to live in. I think — and Mr Finn said this as well — we should be able to do what we want, as long as we do not harm others. He also said he believed that civil liberties were very important to our existence.
But it is our human rights standards that distinguish us, as I said, from the kinds of societies that terrorists want to create, and we must be very wary that in tackling the horrors of terrorism we do not give up the very values, rights and freedoms that we as a society want to protect. As Benjamin Franklin very famously said:
Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
I think Larry Flynt even paraphrased this to say:
Those who would give up their civil liberties for security deserve neither.
Victoria has an existing preventative detention scheme and a framework of laws that deal directly with terrorism. Ms Pennicuik also mentioned that these really have not been tested yet.
The issue before us today is not whether we should enact a set of terrorism laws but whether the changes to those laws are necessary, and clearly Justice Harper and Mr Lay, two incredibly clever and important legal experts whom I greatly respect, are of the view that we need to change our existing set of terrorism laws. I cannot say that all of their proposals sit terribly comfortably with me. Since 2014 Victorian police have charged 39 people with terrorism offences; 19 of those were convicted. The striking issue for me is that in that time and of those 39 people, one was a child — one was aged 17. So I cannot see how we are making the case that we should be extending these powers to 14-year-old children.
What I find even more frustrating in this is that all of the therapeutic recommendations outlined in that expert panel’s second report have been completely ignored, particularly the recommendation:
That suitable new disengagement programs be developed and made available to adults and young people on bail or remand.
I would have thought that that should have been at the top of the to-do list, but it has been completely ignored. I know that the 17-year-old that I was mentioning earlier was in fact deradicalised while on remand at Parkville. However, under these reforms the same would not be possible until a person in his position was convicted and sentenced, and that seems absurd. If you have got a 17-year-old kid there, you are able to take immediate action on that child. With these new laws you will not be able to take that immediate action; you will need to wait until that person has gone through the conviction and sentencing process.
As the commissioner for children and young people raised in her submission to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, this legislation would allow children to be detained and questioned even in situations where they were peripheral to or even unaware of a terrorist attack. So a child could just be living in a home, and they could be detained purely because of the vicinity they were to another person. In another example, a child could be subject to a preventative detention order if he or she had been given items connected to a terrorist attack by an older family member, even if that child was not even aware of what was involved in the planning. If they had absolutely no idea why they were given that Melway that was going to be used to mark out a map, that child could then be detained under this proposed legislation. I think we should be treating children as just that: children.
I look forward to listening to the debate during the committee stage. I would like to withhold my judgement somewhat on this bill because I think there are some great concerns about it, but I appreciate the concerns of the community. I must say I have not had many emails saying to me, ‘Pass this legislation today’. In fact most of the emails that I have received have been from organisations that also are very concerned about this legislation and in particular the impact it will have on children.