The Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the National Association of Community Legal Centres today reiterated their call to the Federal Government to exercise restraint and to complete the scheduled reviews of existing counter-terrorism laws before introducing any further regulation in the area.
Jane Stratton, Policy Officer at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said today:
The Government has the benefit of holding the balance of power in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is incumbent upon them, in exercising this power, to exercise restraint and to safeguard Australia’s tradition of democratic freedoms. Making particular individuals in our community subject to control orders or preventative detention where that person has not committed any crime and has not been before any court, is not consistent with that tradition.
It is a fundamental principle in Australian society that people should be free from imprisonment or restrictions to freedom unless there is good reason to believe they have committed a crime. This is a principle that many Australians take for granted. Unfortunately, the Howard Government is taking away that freedom. All Australians, regardless of their political affiliations, should be concerned when the Government removes such fundamental protections from even one of us.
This was echoed by the spokesperson for the National Association of Community Legal Centres, Annie Pettitt:
It is not acceptable that the Government should seek to introduce this package of laws when it has not had the benefit of the report from its own Parliamentary Committee on the existing laws, and when it has not even begun the required statutory review. In light of the fact that significant concerns about the operation of existing counter-terrorism laws have been brought before the Parliamentary Committee, the Government, by pursuing further laws, is demonstrating a blatant disregard for the impact of counter-terrorism laws on the Australian community, and an equal disregard for its own review processes.
It is important that Australians understand that the new proposals are modeled on counter-terrorism legislation in the United Kingdom. Importantly, laws providing for control orders and preventative detention existed in the UK prior to the July 2005 attacks in London. If those laws could not guarantee the safety of people of London, why is it that the Australian Government places such faith in those measures? And at what cost to Australian democracy?
MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169