Counter-terrorism bill passes second reading

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

The second reading of the Counter Terrorism Bill has passed its second reading in Parliament. 

New Zealand's Parliament debating chamber.

Labour and National voted for the bill, while the Green Party, ACT and Te Paati Māori voted against.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pledged a day after the New Lynn supermarket terrorist attack, where eight people were injured, that the Government was working to speed up counter-terrorism changes with an aim for it to become law by the end of this month. 

The proposed counter-terrorism legislation  still needs to go through the Committee of the whole House, where MPs can vote on changes, and go through its third reading before becoming law.  

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said it was clear the nature of terrorism was changing, and New Zealand's laws need to change in order to respond. 

"Across the world we have seen more lone acts or small groups, rather than larger organised terrorist groups and as we've seen New Zealand is not immune. 

"This is why the objective of this bill is to strengthen our counter terrorism laws to better prevent and respond to the threat and risks of terrorism," Faafoi said.  

"It provides our enforcement agencies with clear legal authority to disrupt terrorism related activity - hopefully before it occurs."

Several changes were made to the bill in the select committee stage. Faafoi said consulting on the bill was "necessarily limited" due to the potential to expose gaps for exploitation. 

He said it was crucial that the powers in the bill were not used disproportionally against any group of New Zealanders. 

Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono said proper consultations with communities was needed and he did not think that was happening in this case. 

"We all want the safety for our families, for our communities, we want the best for all of us living here in this whenua. But I am concerned of the balance, of keeping people safe while also making sure we uphold human rights. 

"That balance takes time in order to make sure by mistake we don't target the wrong communities," he said. 

"We've seen this before... in 2017 we saw the Te Urewera raids where they raided our whānau. They also raided social justice activists, environmental activists. We had not considered the implications of taking something that was happening internationally, in the domestic context."

ACT also opposed the passage of the bill, with MP Nicole McKee saying it was due to the speed it was being progressed. 

"We view this as an important bill that needs careful consideration. Care must be taken when we start to trade off the provisions intended to increase security of public against the freedoms and rights of the very people we are trying to progress."

National's Judith Collins pledged her party's support for the bill.

Collins said the Government needed to look at establishing a counter terrorism agency and further counter terrorism legislation.

Amnesty NZ's campaigns director Lisa Woods said the bill has significant human rights implications. 

"We are particularly concerned about the fast tracking of current counter terrorism legislation, and the broader pattern of expedited processes where counter-terrorism legislation is fast-tracked to adoption or with inadequate consultation. 

"The legislation must be developed taking into account a variety of potential situations people may find themselves in, with the real life consequences of the law carefully considered.

"Without this proper consideration, there’s a risk it could be applied in ways it was not intended for, which could then have serious human rights impacts."

It passed its first reading in May.

During the first reading, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi pointed to the Royal Commission into the March 15 terrorist attack, which "highlighted the need to consider creating offences which relate to the preparatory behaviour of a terrorist before they attempt a terrorist act".

"Overseas jurisdictions, including Australia and the United Kingdom, have developed offences that are precursor in nature, but this is currently the gap in our legislation."

The proposed law change would amend the two current terrorism laws, and creates offences in the Terrorism Suppression Act "that may be broadly described as precursory in nature, including an offence of planning or preparing for a terrorist act".

"The bill brings New Zealand into line with the way that terrorism is criminalised in overseas jurisdiction with similar legal systems and enhances our ability to meet our international obligations," Faafoi said. 

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill would amend the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 and Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act 2019.