pm’s new counter-terrorist package: recipe for a police state

Friday, 9 September 2005 NSWCCL media release: 5/2005


The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has reacted angrily to the Prime Minister’s announcement of new terrorism laws that will severely restrict privacy, freedom of speech, movement and religion in Australia. 

The legislation has not yet been released publicly, but the Prime Minister’s press release revealed that the new laws will reduce civil liberties by increasing federal police powers to electronically track citizens, detain citizens for up to 14 days without charge, order journalists and others to hand over documents without a court order and to undertake random bag searches. The laws will also allow ASIO to spy on citizens for longer and to remove and retain items from citizen’s homes - making ASIO more closely resemble a secret police force than ever before. It will also become a criminal offence to leave your baggage unattended at an airport. It also appears that sedition laws will be significantly broadened without any reference to the likelihood of clear and imminent danger. 
"My overall view of this package is that it is exactly the sort of package that is going to lead to a police state", Mr Cameron Murphy, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said today. 

"I think this approach is just going to make matters worse. I think it is going to catch a lot of innocent people and as history shows all that it inevitably does is send people underground and create martyrs giving them credibility that they otherwise wouldn't have", Mr Murphy said. 

“These are the sort of measures you see in regimes like apartheid South Africa and are not the sort of things you should see in a free and democratic nation", Mr Murphy said. 

“In relation to proposed new incitement laws, it's very difficult to define when someone is inciting violence. It's an absolute nightmare”, Mr Murphy said. 

“Will the legislation allow people to be charged with inciting violence if no violent act follows? Will the new offences apply to someone who never intended their words to provoke a violent response?” Mr Murphy asked. 

“What would happen if a Christian fundamentalist expressed their view that homosexuality is evil according to the Bible? What happens if someone hears that and then attacks a homosexual? Should that Christian person be charged with the offence of inciting violence? That's what the Government is suggesting. It's a dangerous way to deal with this issue, and the wrong way", Mr Murphy said. 

“Extremists need to be challenged and debated publicly. Laws don't change people's extremist views. It just sends them underground, or it creates martyrs," Mr Murphy said. 

“When the Prime Minister and Attorney-General point to the UK or the US and say ‘they have these laws over there’, what they are not telling the Australian people is that in the UK and the US they have a Bill of Rights that protects citizens from laws that encroach on civil liberties. Australia does not have a Bill of Rights to protects us from bad laws like the ones proposed by the Prime Minister”, Mr Murphy said. 

“Without a Bill of Rights, we cannot compare our laws to laws in the UK or the US. Unlike the US and the UK, our courts do not have the power to ensure that our privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, freedom from unnecessary search and seizure, and freedom from discrimination are all protected”, Mr Murphy said.

For more information contact: 
Cameron Murphy, NSWCCL President, 0411 769 769.