Most of the focus on the government's proposed new and
tougher anti-terror laws has been on greater powers of surveillance
on what people do on the internet, phone calls made and social
media. While some people may feel uneasy about prying eyes as they
surf the web, this is not the most intrusive aspect of new
anti-terror laws the government is seeking to introduce.
Bills before parliament also grant immunity from prosecution to
intelligence officers engaged in special operations, and open the
possibility of jailing journalists and whistleblowers for
publishing information about a terrorism investigation.
Foreshadowed are new laws under which anyone who travels to certain
locations will have to prove they weren't involved in terror
activities - reversing the traditional legal onus of being innocent
before being proved guilty.
These new laws come on top of existing laws enabling the
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to detain and hold
any person in secret for a week. Don't answer their questions
and you can be jailed for up to five years. Those held and
questioned can't tell anyone they are being detained. They can
only tell their employer and one family member that they are safe
but will be out of contact for a while. Once released they
can't say they were held by ASIO and can't talk about it
On top of that a court can issue what's called a
"control order" which can stop a person from being in
certain areas, communicating or associating with certain people,
owning or using certain articles, carrying out certain activities
including work, and from using the internet These laws were
considered necessary when they were introduced after the 2002 Bali
attack and strengthened after the London bombings. But it was
acknowledged at the time these measures were extreme, so it was
written into the laws they would expire in ten years time. However
the government now wants to make them permanent.
While it is vital for security agencies to have necessary powers
to seek out and catch anybody planning acts of terror in Australia,
it is also vital that we don't lose the rights we have in a
democratic and free nation. Aspects of these laws remove our legal
rights such as assumed innocent before being proved guilty and the
right not to be detained without reason. The proposed laws mean
journalists could be prosecuted for reporting on national security
leaks such as revealed through Wikileaks.
A free press and personal freedoms are essential to our strength
as a free people. Once these are taken away in the name of fighting
terrorism, the terrorists have won.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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