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New state laws to keep terrorist sympathisers in jail

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The State Government will introduce new laws that would deny bail opportunities, and instil a presumption against parole, for prisoners with links to terrorist organisations.

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This afternoon Premier Jay Weatherill announced the Government would amend the state’s Bail Act to force police to automatically deny bail – and create a presumption against court-ordered bail – for any person with links to terrorism.

Under the new laws, the Parole Board of South Australia would also operate under a presumption against parole for anyone who has demonstrated support for, or has links to, terrorist activity.

At the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting last week, state leaders including Weatherill agreed they would pass consistent laws nation-wide to create a presumption against parole and bail for those suspected of terrorist connections.

The official COAG communiqué says that Australia’s governments “agreed that there will be integration of security-cleared state and territory corrections staff with the state and territory police, AFP and ASIO Joint Counter-Terrorism Team in each jurisdiction to improve information sharing”.

Weatherill said today that federal authorities would have a greater advisory role in the parole and bail process.

“While South Australia is a safe place, we are not taking anything for granted when it comes to the safety of our people,” he said.

“We are doing what is necessary to ensure potential threats to our security are identified, and we are ensuring that our agencies are ready to respond should an attack occur on our soil.

“We know that the Federal Government holds information about potential terrorists that the State’s do not – therefore it is important that they have some say in the bail and parole process.”

Weatherill added that the legislative changes would “provide an extra layer of security” for South Australians.

“The State Government will do whatever we can to ensure people who pose a threat to the community remain locked up behind bars.”

He did not comment on the proposed laws’ application to specific cases, including that of a Somali immigrant who was arrested last month and accused of pledging allegiance to Islamic State. She was remanded in custody until August.

Police Minister Peter Malinauskas said there was no indication of a heightened security risk in South Australia, but the government was taking “every precaution”.

“SA Police continually assess terrorism risk factors and ensure a high level of preparedness,” said Malinauskas.

“These new measures bolster our ability to proactively keep our community safe.”

Attorney-General John Rau added that it was important that criminals are unable to “exploit any lack of information sharing between State and Commonwealth agencies”.

SA Deputy Liberal Leader Vickie Chapman told reporters this afternoon that “it’s a long time coming, but we welcome [the Government’s changes].”

“It’s very important to us that we strengthen the bail laws.

“…we urge the [Attorney-General] to immediately have that drafted and present it to the parliament.”

The COAG communiqué also includes a commitment on behalf of all Australian governments to “ensure there will be a presumption that neither bail nor parole will be granted to those persons who have demonstrated support for, or have links to, terrorist activity”.

COAG will reconvene “as soon as possible” for a “special” meeting to “fully and more comprehensively review the nation’s laws and practices directed at protecting Australians from violent extremism”.

This morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made a statement to federal parliament this morning warning against a “set and forget” approach to counter-terrorism laws.

He said the Government’s metadata retention regime had helped intelligence and police organisations stop planned terrorist attacks in Australia and argued that the “privacy of terrorists” should never be placed at a higher priority than the “safety of Australians”.

“It’s the most solemn duty of government to keep Australians safe,” he said.

“My commitment, and that of my Government, is never to rest as we do all [in] our power to keep Australians safe, secure and free.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the Labor Party would maintain a bipartisan commitment to maintaining Australia’s national security.

“When it comes to fighting terrorism, and Islamist terrorism, we’re all in this together,” he told the Lower House.

Meanwhile, Labor and the Greens are questioning tougher English language tests and changes affecting families and couples under the federal government’s proposed citizenship laws revamp.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton plans to introduce legislation to parliament this week that includes a values test and university-level English language requirements.

The minister will also have the power to overturn citizenship decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, as he can already do on some visa matters.

It’s understood the Labor and Greens party rooms extensively discussed the proposed changes, even though the government is yet to show MPs the bill.

The Greens – which voted to oppose the laws – were told some people who had received letters confirming their citizenship ceremony date had also gotten phone calls saying their attendance had been cancelled.

The Labor caucus – which is awaiting the bill before making a final decision – heard the case of a husband who received his citizenship but whose partner was told they would have to wait three years.

– with AAP

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