Expert warns over anti-terror law delays


Police and other agencies could be deterred from proposing new counter-terrorism laws because of the long political process involved, an expert warns.

It has taken parliament up to two years to pass legislation, including lowering the age limit for control orders from 16 to 14 years.

Part of that delay stems from the need for such bills to be scrutinised by a committee and consultations with state and territory governments.

But the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Jacinta Carroll said it also may indicate "a lack of political urgency about counter-terrorism".

While the parliamentary review process had served Australia well, the head of the Counter Terrorism Policy Centre suggested it had broader implications.

"The lengthy time taken for the passage of CT legislation - averaging 18-24 months - and the costs to agencies through the inquiry process in losing existing powers, the watering down of provisions or additional oversight mechanisms might make agencies loath to propose more legislative amendments," she wrote in the inaugural Counterterrorism Yearbook, published on Tuesday.

A number of reports are due this year, which will provide an opportunity for the government to change its approach to counter-terrorism, Ms Carroll said.

The findings of the coronial inquiry into the Lindt Cafe siege are set to be handed down soon and there will be an expectation the federal and NSW governments will take substantial action in response.

But Ms Carroll feels the government will be better placed to establish broad plans first rather than using the inquiry as a basis for counter-terrorism policy development.

"The inquiry is charged with determining the cause of death of three people, not reviewing all aspects of Australia's CT arrangements and how they should best be postured for the future," she said.

Australia will also need to consider how it will react to the routing of Islamic State from Syria and Iraq and the country's future contributions - if any - to ongoing operations in the Middle East and Africa.

The institute predicts the spread of terrorist activity will be wider than ever in 2017 and that will put pressure on policymakers.

The biggest issue is the return of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria.

"This may be the defining feature of terrorism in 2017," ASPI's director Peter Jennings wrote.

"There's certainly good reason to be alarmed."