Australia will finally have a mechanism to appropriately control the return of foreign fighters into the country following the passage of the Temporary Exclusion Order (TEO) legislation through the Parliament this afternoon.
This is not a victory for Peter Dutton who, as Home Affairs Minister, could have had this legislation in place four years ago – just as the United Kingdom did in 2015.
Instead, Minister Dutton left Australia unprotected for four years, allowing, as we learned this week, 40 so-called “jihadis” to come back into Australia unmanaged.
Labor has always supported the intent of TEOs – which is why we have taken every step to ensure the scheme works, keeps Australians safe, and is constitutional.
The reality is, Australians who have gone overseas to join the so-called “caliphate” do pose a risk to the safety and security of our country. Their return, including those returning to face criminal charges, must be controlled appropriately.
Given this risk, Labor was not prepared to leave Australia without a scheme to control their return like Mr Dutton has done for the past four years.
Labor moved amendments in both the House and the Senate to give full effect to the bipartisan recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).
These recommendations were handed by the chair of the PJCIS, Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, to Peter Dutton himself and signed off on by all members of the committee – including Liberal members Eric Abetz, Amanda Stoker, David Fawcett, Julian Leeser, and Jason Wood.
Regrettably, the Liberal MPs and Senators voted against their own recommendations – marking the first time since 2013 that the Government has rejected outright recommendations from the bipartisan PJCIS.
Instead of working to improve legislation, the Home Affairs Minister and the Government have taken the dangerous step of fracturing the bipartisan approach to Australia’s national security and the compact of the PJCIS.
Minister Dutton also refused to release the Government’s legal advice to put to rest concerns about the constitutionality of the legislation.
When it comes to keeping Australia safe from countering violent extremism and terrorism we should expect and demand more than a Home Affairs Minister and Government that plays political games such as these.
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