The Commonwealth Government is close to securing the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2005 through Parliament. Its officials told the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee that the Bill complied with Australia’s human rights obligations. Today, PIAC joined the Australian Greens and the Democrats to call on the Government to explicitly recognise its human rights obligations in the Bill and to provide a legislative assurance that the powers under the Bill will be exercised in compliance with human rights standards.
Jane Stratton, Policy Officer at PIAC, repeated her comments before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee:
If the Government is confident in its advice there are no human rights problems with this Bill, then why not give the undertaking and give people the assurance that every other comparable jurisdiction have by virtue of a Charter of Rights? If there is to be no Charter of Rights federally at this point, then why not give an assurance in the Bill?
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee’s report on the Bill recommends some 52 amendments to the Bill, some of which have been accepted by the Prime Minister and Attorney-General. Ms Stratton commented:
PIAC commends the Committee for its work in a ridiculously tight timeframe. PIAC is however, deeply concerned, that the Prime Minister and Attorney-General have appeared to be ready to dismiss the Committee’s work and that Government backbenchers had to stand their ground to ensure the Committee’s work was considered by the Government.
This mode of governance is hardly consistent with the Prime Minister’s undertaking when the Government won control of the Senate. The Prime Minister said:
But I want to assure the Australian people that the Government will use its majority in the new Senate very carefully, very wisely and not provocatively. We intend to do the things we’ve promised the Australian people we would do but we don’t intend to allow this unexpected but welcome majority in the Senate to go to our heads.
PIAC condemns not only the substance of the Anti-Terrorism Bill but the process by which it has been rushed through Parliament. Ms Stratton concluded:
Part of protecting our security is to be vigilant against politicians who seek to make political hay under a fearful sun. We ought to demand that our politicians, as legislators, act dispassionately, upon sound evidence, using democratic processes and in accordance with fundamental human rights.
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Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169