Legislating under a cloak of fear

If there is a real and pressing terrorist threat then now is the time for the Federal Police and State and Territory Police to act with urgency on that threat using their existing extensive powers. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre today called upon the Police to take such action and for the Government to provide Australians with appropriate information to enable them to avoid or respond to that threat.

Today the Prime Minister claimed that he has received advice that gives ’cause for serious concern about a potential terrorist threat’. The urgency with which the Prime Minister is acting suggests that the threat is not only potential but imminent.

Robin Banks, Chief Executive Officer at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said today:

‘There is nothing in the current law that prevents the police from taking action where they become aware of a plan to commit a criminal act. Any act of terrorism is already a criminal act and planning an act of terrorism is, similarly, already a criminal act. The Police, both Federal and State, can and should act on any potential threat.’

Ms Banks continued:

‘The Bill does nothing more than to clarify that the existing criminal offences of being involved in training for, preparation for or possessing a thing will be made out if done in connection with ‘a’ terrorist act rather than ‘the’ terrorist act. It also clarifies that an offence will have been committed even if a terrorist act does not occur.’

‘Activity of this sort is already a criminal offence.’

‘It is completely unclear how these changes can be relevant to deal with an imminent threat. If there is such a threat, shouldn’t the Government be providing the community with appropriate warnings to avoid the threat.”

‘Given the Prime Minister has indicated that the remaining aspects of the proposed anti-terrorism legislation are not ‘urgent’ per se, we call upon him and upon the states and territories to ensure that sufficient time is given, once the legislation is made publicly available for real and genuine community debate on the meaning and impact of the Bill.’

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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