Despite vigorous opposition from the Labor Party and the Greens, the NSW Parliament last week passed extraordinary new controls on the right to protest, on freedom of movement and association and a wide range of other constraints using police powers conferred by Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPO) and Public Safety Orders (PSO).
If that was not enough the Premier and Police Minister simultaneously introduced a disturbing new counter-terrorism bill into the Parliament -The Terrorism (Police Powers) Amendment (Investigative Detention) Bill 2016. This will allow the detention and interrogation of persons aged 14 and over for up to 14 days.
We expect this Bill to be pushed through the Parliament this week.
These come hot on the heels of the equally unwarranted and extreme Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement (Interference) law passed in March. This law is a blatant attack on the right to peaceful protest in NSW- motivated it would seem by the Government’s wish to deter protests against CSG projects and other environmentally motivated protests.
NSWCCL is not alone in noting that these four initiatives are part of an accelerating and disturbing trend in legislation to impose serious controls – including detention – on persons who have not been found guilty of any criminal offence (indeed under the SCPOs they can have been found NOT guilty). However, if they breach the controls that are placed on them they will be guilty of a criminal offence - with a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment under some of these control regimes
These controls are justified as ‘preventative’ of serious and organised crime or terrorism. It is a moot point as to whether they are effective in preventing offences- but they certainly impose punitive conditions. They greatly increase the powers of police and, more generally, the power of the State to encroach on rights and liberties.
They are a growing threat to our justice system and to long held principles underpinning the Rule of Law in Australia.
More detailed comments on the Investigative Detention Bill will be posted on the CCL website.
Dr Lesley Lynch