30 Sep 2021

Counter-terrorism bill passes third reading

11:54 am on 30 September 2021

A new counter-terror law, which would criminalise the planning of a terror attack, has been passed with support by both major parties in Parliament this morning.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Parliament has had an extended sitting this morning, with speeches on the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill continuing until about 10pm last night and resuming at 9am today.

It makes planning or preparing for a terrorist attack a criminal offence, and tweaks the definition of a terrorist act to include the "intention to intimidate", rather than to "induce terror".

It also allows people who are found guilty of a terrorist offence in New Zealand to be subject to control orders.

Labour and National voted for the bill at its third reading, with the Greens, ACT and Māori parties opposed.

The bill was introduced in April aiming to fill gaps in the law to better prevent and respond to terrorism, and has been expedited after the LynnMall terror attack, in which Ahamed Samsudeen was shot dead after stabbing shoppers with a knife he found in a supermarket.

The Crown had tried to charge him under the Terrorism Suppression Act, but planning to commit a terrorist attack was not considered an offence.

The accelerated Parliamentary process the bill has been pushed through under has faced criticism, and some have also raised concerns about the effect of criminalising planning and intention, rather than an act of terrorism.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi last night said the "unfortunately necessary" new legislation would give the authorities more powers to prevent planning and execution of further terror attacks.

"It brings us into line with similar countries which we compare ourselves too, the likes of Australia and the United Kingdom, to make sure that we do have offences where the authorities can bring about a case to show that there is the three pillars of a terrorist attack, in terms of motivation, intent, and purpose, and where a number of elements have come together with planning and preparation," he said.

Green MP Teanau Tuiono, speaking on behalf of the party's justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman who remained at home in Auckland during the lockdown, said the party was concerned by three aspects of the law.

"Firstly, the legislation, although improved, may still capture direct action activists and protests. Secondly, the new planning or preparation offence has been characterised by some experts as thought crime ... thirdly, the terrorism control order is being expanded to people convicted in New Zealand. The whole premise of this regime was to be about the difficulty in gathering evidence to prosecute foreign fighters returning home."

"I think about what happened in terms of 2007, with the raids that were directed against Tūhoe in terms of the lessons learnt by the agencies - they clearly didn't learn them. In 2019, we saw that, because they were looking in the wrong direction."

He said his house was one of those hit by the dawn raids while he was protesting with Aboriginal communities in Australia.

"I came home and the very next day, I got the knock on the door. I opened up the door, the police were there ... I had my third child, who was about a couple of months old - that the first thing that came to my mind was 'I think these people might actually give me a hiding in front of my kids'."

"They went through all of my stuff - and it turns out that law degree I got from Auckland University turned out to be really, really useful - but in the aftermath of that it had a very chilling effect on my community; it had a very chilling effect right across Aotearoa New Zealand."

ACT Justice spokesperson Nicole McKee said the party felt some gaps in terrorism laws needed to be fixed, but they opposed the expedited approach to the bill.

"We believe that the movement of this bill at speed is virtue signalling, and it's virtue signalling off the back of these terror attacks ... we think that when it comes to terrorism, we need to ensure that we have the ability to be able to go through a good lawmaking process and make sure individuals, minorities, ethnic communities are not caught up in the speed with which we legislate."

"The last time we spoke with legal experts on the bill, they were not convinced. They were worried that we had impeded on the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act - and this was the human rights commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, and the New Zealand Law Society."

National's Justice spokesperson Simon Bridges said passing the bill was the right thing to do, and denied that the law had been rushed.

"It's entirely incorrect - as some members of the House say - that somehow we rushed this up, sped this up, we didn't," he said.

"It went through a thorough select committee process. We heard all submissions. We were in deliberations on this bill, in fact, eerily really, at and around the time of the recent terror attacks.

"Sadly, terrorism now is a feature of New Zealand. I hope it isn't again, but it has been in the last couple of years. This bill fills gaps, it improves our legal regime, to make future events less likely. And that's got to be a good thing."

The bill is expected to take effect from 4 October.