NSW Preventative Detention Bill: it’s all in the timing

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today repeated its call for the NSW Government to delay passing the Terrorism (Police Powers) Amendment (Preventative Detention) Bill until the parent Commonwealth scheme is in place. The NSW Bill would permit preventative detention of people, without criminal charge, for potentially rolling periods of 14 days. The Commonwealth Bill is expected to be debated in the Senate from today, 30 November 2005.

Robin Banks, Chief Executive Officer at PIAC, said:

‘We have been assured that any changes to the Commonwealth Bill will be adopted immediately in NSW. Rather than legislating pre-emptively and then playing catch up to incorporate improvements at the Commonwealth level, why doesn’t the NSW Government follow the lead of the Victorian Labor Government and consider its legislation in light of the parent Commonwealth scheme when Parliament resumes in early 2006?’

PIAC questioned the apparent urgency of the bill in NSW. Ms Banks continued:

‘PIAC has been told that the legislation must be passed before Christmas. There is no convincing reason that has been advanced by the NSW Government to warrant the passage of the bill in such an expeditious and ill-considered way.’

PIAC has provided a detailed analysis of the NSW bill to every NSW Parliamentarian, outlining a series of over thirty amendments. PIAC commends the NSW Government for accepting some of its amendments but remains deeply concerned that big ticket items have not been taken up by the NSW Government. Ms Banks explained:

‘PIAC recommended a number of amendments to ensure the NSW Bill strikes a better balance between individual rights and freedoms and collective security. The NSW Government has failed to address significant areas of concern that include the retention of a ten year sunset clause, the potential for rolling preventative detention orders to operate beyond 14 days, and the omission of a guarantee that a person subject to preventative detention orders will have access to the underlying evidence put forward by authorities to justify their detention. These issues are the subject of recommendations by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee and ought to be amended in NSW as at the Commonwealth level.’

The NSW Government should not seek to pass this Bill now. It warrants more explanation, a public justification and certainly, ought to be amended to ensure its operation is proportionate to the threats of terrorism that are said to exist.

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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