The Guardian July 3, 2002


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.

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