Terror laws still a threat to Australian activists
by Peter Mac Legislation to proscribe organisations described as "terrorist" has now passed through the Senate and is expected to become law shortly. Senator Bob Brown (Greens) said, "The legislation, even with amendments from the Government and ALP, turns normal legal practice on its head." The legislation was amended so that only those organisations listed by the United Nations Security Council and subject to Parliamentary veto could be subject to a banning order. Although this would deny the Government the right to ban any organisation it chooses, the law still carries the potential for major violation of the rights of ordinary citizens. The Foreign Affairs Minister may list individuals and organisations as terrorists and freeze their assets. This remains as a backdoor means by which a government could financially cripple individuals and organisations that oppose its agenda. Membership of a proscribed organistaion is still an offence and carries a penalty of 15 years jail. An offence of treason encompasses support for organisations and countries in conflict with the Australian Defence Forces. For this alleged "crime" there is a sentence of life imprisonment. Friends and family who fail to report someone they know is committing treason can also receive life imprisonment. The Bill which aims to increase the powers of ASIO has been deferred for consideration of amendments in the August sitting of Federal Parliament so there is still time to intensify the protests against this piece of legislation. The ASIO Bill would allow ASIO to arrest and detain Australian citizens for up to seven days without the right to silence or independent legal assistance. A person detained could be interrogated for information just on suspicion of having committed a crime. Greens leader Bob Brown has called for the Bill to be dumped, not amended. Public objections Despite widespread public objections, the new legislation still carries convictions for many acts that are, at the moment, perfectly legal, including membership of organisations proscribed as having an intent to commit acts of terror. The government backed down on proposals which would have allowed a number of government agencies to snoop on email, SMS and voice mail messages without an interception warrant that is required when tapping phones.