Thursday, 28 June 2018
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (10:57): Minister, I was concerned that you used the term that the debate was 'going round in circles'. These are very significant issues that go to the heart of problematic legislation. There has been such a range of groups' legal advice on this, and these groups advise that they are very troubled about where these two bills will take the fabric of Australian society and how our democratic processes work. To try to sidestep it by using terms like 'round in circles' doesn't do you justice or serve the debate well at all.
To go to my colleague Senator Nick McKim: he asked very clear questions; they weren't confusing questions at all. I would like to repeat those questions and put them in the context of some significant comments that have come from the dean of the University of New South Wales Law School and constitutional law expert, George Williams: This is what he said about the bill:
Even with the changes of the parliamentary joint committee, the bill will remain incomplete and dangerous. It will contain overbroad and uncertain definitions of critical concepts such as national security. The law also will undermine freedom of speech and of the press. As in past inquiries, the committee has given low weight to these values. It has failed to put forward amendments to prevent journalists being imprisoned. The possibility also remains that people who publish information about Australia's economic and political relations with other countries will face jail under new espionage offences.
I want to take you back to that comment from Mr Williams, where he says:
referring to the bill—
will contain overbroad and uncertain definitions of critical concepts such as national security.
I ask: (1) are you aware of these views of Mr Williams, and (2) can you respond to these views, particularly in the context of the debate that we are having here about the bill and those sections of it relevant to the definition of national security'?