Foreign fighters bill sparks concern over Dutton’s growing power

Foreign fighters bill sparks concern over Dutton’s growing power

New legislation to prevent foreign fighters from returning home has sparked concern over Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton’s growing powers.

Mr Dutton is pushing to have the Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Bill 2019 passed by Parliament by the end of the week, as national security is high on the Coalition Government’s agenda.

The Bill is a redraft of legislation introduced earlier this year, following a review by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) that recommended changes be made to reduce the minister’s power and increase oversight.

However, Labor and crossbench Senators are concerned that the Government ignored key PJCIS recommendations, including the recommendation that the power to grant Temporary Exclusion Orders be given to a judge rather than the minister.

Labor said it supports the legislation in principle, but is prepared to move amendments to the Bill to limit the minister’s power.

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick said he intends to move an amendment to remove security agencies’ exemption from parliamentary scrutiny.

“Time and again governments have asked the Parliament to give them new national security powers,” Senator Patrick said.

“Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and his security portfolio agencies now exercise an array of powers greater than any of those exercised by any government since the national emergency of the Second World War.”

According to reports, some 40 Australians who joined extremist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, including Islamic State, have returned to Australia.

In 2014 the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act was enacted, which introduced a range of punitive measures for Australians who give material support to terrorist groups, including those who left Australia to join militant groups overseas.

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