For the second week in a row, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has been caught out failing to have legislation in place to keep Australians safe.
Last week we learned 40 so-called “jihadis” were able to return to Australia unmanaged because Mr Dutton failed for four years to introduce a Temporary Exclusion Order (TEO) scheme to control the return of foreign fighters.
Now, Mr Dutton continues his pattern of mismanagement as the Government seeks to resume debate in the House of Representatives on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment (Sunsetting of Special Powers Relating to Terrorism Offences) Bill 2019.
The Home Affairs Minister’s embarrassing legislation seeks to extend ASIO’s “questioning and detention warrant” (QDW) power and “questioning warrant” (QW) power which are both due to “sunset” on 7 September 2019.
This legislation can only be characterised as Mr Dutton admitting he has not done his job. Over the past three years, ASIO itself, three Independent National Security Legislation Monitors, and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) have all said these powers are in need of reform.
Mr Dutton has done nothing to reform these powers and now wants another year to do the work.
This is especially concerning as ASIO themselves have said the QW power needs to be reformed so that they can better protect Australia against espionage and foreign interference – something the head of ASIO Duncan Lewis revealed over the weekend is at “an unprecedented level of activity”.
Given Mr Dutton’s failure to do his work, Labor will seek to amend the Government’s bill to give Mr Dutton three more months – rather than the additional 12 months he is asking for – to get on with the job.
Labor’s amendments will also mean the QDW power, which has never been used since it was introduced in 2003, will sunset on 7 September 2019.
Australia would be safer if Mr Dutton had spent more time working on national security and less time plotting to become Prime Minister.