NSWCCL launches national fightback to roll back extraordinary ASIO powers

"The greatest assault on civil liberties in Australia since World War II." Professor George Williams AO tonight launched a national campaign led by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties to wind back the excessive and disproportionate powers given to ASIO in the decade since 9/11.

Professor Williams is a leading Australian expert on anti-terrorism legislation. He left the audience in no doubt that the campaign was needed:

"The ASIO powers remain rotten at their core. They confer unprecedented powers on a secret intelligence agency that could be used against the Australian people by an unscrupulous government.

The powers are more consistent with the apparatus of a police state, such as General Pinochet’s Chile, than the laws of a modern democracy.

They have no place in Australia, should be repealed."

Australia has passed an extraordinary 54 pieces of anti-terrorist legislation. Cumulatively they have embedded in Australian law exceptional powers and sanctions that were previously considered to be anathema to liberal democracies - except in time of war. These include:
• restrictions on speech through sedition laws and new rules of censorship;
• the banning of organisations by government decree;
• control orders that can enable house arrest for up to a year;
• detention without charge or trial for up to 14 days;
• covert surveillance of non-suspects; and
• warrantless searches of private property by police officers

Professor Williams told the gathering:

"Collectively, these laws represent the greatest assault on civil liberties in Australia since World War II."

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Over 350 people gathered in the CBD Sky Phoenix Restaurant to support the launch at the 49th NSWCCL Annual Dinner.

Media comments:
NSWCCL Secretary : Stephen Blanks 02 9555 8654 stephen.blanks@nswccl.org.au