The Guardian November 20, 2002


Dictatorial powers:
Carr Government's terror laws

by Marcus Browning

Under cover of anti-terrorism, the NSW Carr Government has rushed through 
Parliament laws that attack fundamental civil liberties and democratic 
rights. Under the Terrorism (Police Powers) Bill police only have to have 
"reasonable grounds" to suspect a terrorist attack to pre-emptively detain 
and search suspects without a warrant.

The powers also allow police to detain foreigners without trial if there is 
"reasonable suspicion" they have terrorist links, give police unfettered 
access to the files of government departments without needing a court 
order, demand disclosure of the files, faxes and phone calls of members of 
activist organisations, and charge activists if they fail to reveal 
information about terrorist suspects.

People can be prosecuted for revealing information about facilities such as 
nuclear sites or the movement of nuclear material when authorities consider 
such information to "prejudice the security of the state".

"Reasonable force" can be used to take photos of those detained, and they 
can also be ordered to remove items of clothing.

Police have more power to conduct electronic surveillance of individuals 
and to detain and interrogate them without access to a lawyer.

The legislation lays the groundwork for the next phase of draconian laws 
nation-wide. It aligns the State Government with the Federal Government's 
terror legislation while at the same time introducing new laws that may be 
adopted or triggered federally.

No other State has proposed such legislation. Carr's legislation is far 
more serious than an election ploy with NSW voters going to the polls next 
March. Carr has demonstrated time and again that he and his government are 
ideologically committed to the imposition of police-state authoritarianism. 
(See WTO story for example)

Like the Howard Government, the Carr Government knows that the economic 
austerity programs being implemented are creating ever stronger opposition 
and resistance. In order to enforce globalisation and give open slather to 
the operations of the big corporations, dictatorial powers are being 
introduced.

At the time when the Olympic laws were introduced Carr clearly had long-
range objectives beyond the Games themselves. That legislation, which 
allows for the use of the military at power stations, dams, water treatment 
plants and other facilities will be reinstated.

These laws take away the right to freedom of expression, the right to 
protest, freedom of assembly and movement: rights which have been 
guaranteed by law.

They allow for the searching and removal of persons on the thinnest of 
pretexts by the police, the military and "authorised persons".

They give security forces the power to warn, search and remove persons from 
public places. They may prevent the distribution of promotional material; 
stop the use of cameras, recording or broadcasting equipment; search people 
and their possessions; demand names, addresses and proof of identity; seize 
property and issue on-the-spot fines.

They allow for large-scale use of military forces against civilians through 
the federal Defence Legislation Amendment (Aid to the Civilian Authorities) 
Bill, introduced in June, 2000. The military can even shoot civilians down 
in the street with impunity.

Additional changes to these laws will include the NSW Crime Commission 
being given extra powers to carry out surveillance and spy on citizens. 
Convictions for "terrorist" offences will range from 10 years to life.

The head of the Crime Commission, Phillip Bradley, has been seconded by the 
Howard Government to oversee the setting up of an Australian Crime 
Commission along the lines of the American FBI.

The NSW Commission is to have a permanent representative from ASIO and a 
Police Counter-Terrorism Coordination Command of 70 paramilitary officers. 
The NSW Government has also set up a Cabinet Committee on Counter Terrorism 
which is meeting with the FBI this week. The Committee is comprised of 
Carr, Treasurer Michael Egan, Attorney-General Bob Debus and Police 
Minister Michael Costa.

NSW taxpayers will also pay for new bomb disposal and forensic equipment, 
an eight-seat Eurocopter to transport bomb and forensic experts, new 
technology for electronic surveillance and biological, chemical and 
radiological equipment.

The laws add to the already extremely dangerous attack on the right to 
demonstrate, take strike action and generally express dissent against 
unacceptable government policies. They represent a threat to the rights and 
freedoms of all Australians and must be resisted.

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