New counter-terrorism powers a threat to us all

Today, the States and Territories agreed to share in the Commonwealth Government’s folly by signing up to the Prime Minister’s package of counter-terrorism laws.

‘The States and Territories have rolled over today to give the Commonwealth Government dangerous executive powers. They have extracted minimal protections including a review of the counter-terrorism laws in five years’ time and a ten-year sunset clause,’ said Robin Banks, Chief Executive Officer of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

‘The Premiers and Chief Ministers went into the COAG meeting today talking about the civil liberties and fundamental freedoms of each of us, and the need to protect security and rights, but it seems those concerns were left at the door.’

‘The new laws agreed to today come at a time when the Commonwealth Government ought to be conducting reviews of the already existing counter-terrorism legislation, rather than passing further laws in the area.’

Under the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002 (Cth), the Federal Attorney-General is required to ’cause a review of the operation, effectiveness and implications’ of several key terrorism laws as soon as practicable after 5 July 2005. That review has not yet begun despite calls from PIAC and other community groups that it should be established as soon as possible. In addition the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD is to conduct a review as soon as practicable after July 2005 of various counter-terrorism laws. That report is yet to be tabled.

Ms Banks continued:

‘PIAC has consistently advocated for counter-terrorism policies based on well-reasoned and well-evidenced open debate. The Commonwealth Government has, by consistently referring to ‘national security’ imperatives, foreclosed that debate. It has refused to justify why any further powers are needed in this area.’

‘All governments should be extremely wary of taking such extreme action and relying for support for these actions on people’s fear of potential terrorist attacks. Responsible government means ensuring that the public understands how the measures being proposed are necessary to counter risks that actually exist.”

‘It is not sufficient to take the line, ‘trust us, we have the information’ in these circumstances. All of us should understand why we are being required to accept ‘unusual’ laws that compromise civil liberties that underpin effective democracy.’

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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