By Marian Wilkinson, David Marr and Joseph Kerr
October 15, 2005
Supporting the insurgency in Iraq, Afghanistan or any country where Australian troops are deployed could carry a penalty of seven years’ jail under the Prime Minister’s new terrorism laws.
The changes also allow for control orders of unlimited duration, secret preventive detention, the monitoring of lawyers, and life imprisonment for funding terrorist organisations.
The draft legislation, disclosed by by Greens yesterday, details the far-reaching security regime proposed by John Howard for “very dangerous and difficult and threatening circumstances” in the wake of the London bombings.
New sedition offences will put big constraints on anti-war protests, familiar since the Vietnam era, and come down hard on those advocating violence against any religious, national or political group.
Those charged with sedition can argue they were acting “in good faith” but it is unclear how the courts will interpret this.
The bill sets out new federal police powers to detain terrorist suspects for up to 24 hours, and up to 48 hours with the approval of a judge or magistrate. Suspects will get access to a lawyer to challenge the detention order in a court or complain of maltreatment.
Last month the states agreed to allow extensions of up to 14 days for detentions when a terrorist act is believed imminent. The suspect must then be released if no terrorist act occurs.
Detentions are secret but suspects are allowed to contact a family member or employers to say they are safe but, “not able to be contacted for the time being”. If they disclose the detention they can be jailed for up to five years.
Under the bill, the Government can apply to a court for control orders on terrorist suspects who have not been charged. These orders include house arrest, preventing them using the telephone or internet and restricting their social contacts and work opportunities. Suspects can also be fitted with tracking devices.
The suspect’s lawyer can be shown the control order but not necessarily the evidence or reasons behind it.
The orders can last up to 12 months and can then be renewed any number of times.
Persons under control orders may be given “counselling or education” if they agree.
The bill does limit to three months control orders on those aged between 16 and 18.
Also contained in the legislation are wide-ranging search powers that will compel the production of any documents relating to “any serious offence”, regardless of any laws protecting privacy or legal privilege.,
The new laws are to be debated this month, after the Labor premiers agreed to their broad outline at the recent terrorism summit in Canberra.
The proposed laws have been strongly criticised by human rights lawyers and some Muslim leaders, who have described them as draconian.
The premiers and Mr Howard insist the new laws contain sufficient safeguards to ensure they are not abused. SourceÂ