Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Police Powers and Parole) Bill 2017

21st June 2017

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 11:18 :00 ): I too contribute to debate on the Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Police Power and Parole) Bill 2017. I state from the outset that I support the bill and I commend the Government for acting swiftly on the recommendations of the State Coroner, who investigated the tragic deaths of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson that occurred during the Lindt cafe siege, not to mention the impact on all other parties involved in that siege. Notwithstanding that acknowledgement, I note comments from members on this side of the House that the legislation has been brought to us at very late notice and we have been given little time to consider a response, which I agree should be bipartisan if possible.

We live in an ever-changing world and we constantly need to adapt to it. We have a responsibility in this House to respond to those needs and requirements to ensure, as best as possible, the safety of the community we all serve.

In this House we sometimes tread a very fine line between maintaining civil liberties and making laws to protect the broader community. But when someone is holding a gun at someone's head in the name of their religion, their politics or some perverse ideology, then they have surrendered the rights they would otherwise have. Police officers already have the ability to use proportional force, including lethal force, when circumstances dictate. However, despite what movies might depict, it is no small thing for a police officer to shoot someone with the intent to kill. When we add to that the weight of any doubt or any second guessing the situation, then the burden on the police officer is unreasonable. An officer in that situation needs to know that they have the imprimatur of the Government and the community to take that ultimate action. Most people would think this is appropriate.

These situations can have a significant impact on police officers' professional careers and health. The lack of certainty and the statutory review of their actions can place an unreasonable burden on them. When acting for the safety of the innocent, police officers deserve to be given the support and protections afforded by this legislation. The legislation provides officers in these situations with the surety that they will be supported by the system. "The system" is the framework that governs, guides or protects the police officers' actions or any actions that their community would reasonably expect them to take. In some circumstances in the past, an officer who was forced to shoot an offender would be hauled before their superiors, integrity commissions and internal investigators and would sometimes be subject to the critical gaze of civil libertarians who would ask, "Why did he not just wait before shooting?". That is all understandable. But times are changing and we have to adapt. This bill provides a course of action in decision-making that will provide our frontline police with a clear course of action, without any ambiguity or question marks over the decision-making.

We need our police, who may find themselves in situations like that which we saw during the Lindt cafe siege, to feel confident that they are working within a clear, definitive system and chain of command. If we think of it in terms of "passing the pub test", we would ask ourselves, "Would the community reasonably expect a police officer or sniper to shoot an offender if the circumstances were clearly warranted and the opportunity was there?", like they were during the Lindt cafe siege. The answer, I believe, would be a resounding yes. When someone is holding people hostage, when they are armed and when they are threatening to kill innocent people, that person has surrendered their right to any benefit of the doubt. Overwhelmingly, the community would agree that the weight of the law and the response from police should favour the innocent victim and not the perpetrator.

This legislation does not discriminate. It is neutral when it comes to dealing with radicalisation and extremism on all sides of any conflict. The legislation is not about any particular group, secular or non-secular. It is about dealing with any religious or political extremism, or with life-threatening situations where there is no religious or political ideology at all. When the victims and hostages inside the Lindt cafe were being terrorised and threatened in the most dire of circumstances they would have wanted police to take the shot. They would have wanted police to take every opportunity to use the appropriate force, lethal or otherwise. As a representative of my community, but also as a father and grandfather, I would want the police to feel confident that they can take such action when circumstances dictate. I once again acknowledge the Government for bringing this legislation forward, following discussions with Commissioner Mick Fuller and other appropriate people working in this space. I commend the bill to the House.

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