In the last few months, Australia has had an avalanche of draconian counter-terrorism bills introduced into the Australian parliament. With each bill that was introduced, very limited time was permitted to debate the need of the proposed new laws and the deficiency of the current state and federal counter terrorism laws, as well as the significant encroachment the proposed laws would have on civil liberties and human rights.
The avalanche of counter terrorism laws includes the bills that have now become law; including the National Security Legislation Amendment Act (No.1) 2014, the Counter-Terrorism legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014, and the proposed laws such as the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2014 and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014.
These laws have been introduced largely with bipartisan support i.e. the Australian Labor Party supported these laws being introduced. The only opposition to these laws inside the Australian Parliament was the Greens Party and a handful of independents.
The Muslim Legal Network (MLN) appeared at the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security regarding the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2014. MLN presented joint submissions with the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties at the inquiry and articulated their grave concerns regarding this Bill.
Essentially, the proposed laws will substantially lower the threshold for the Australian Federal Police to obtain control orders over people who have not been convicted or even charged with a criminal offence.
It could also result in intelligence gathered on Australian citizens by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) being shared with the Australian Defence Force, resulting in this intelligence being used to facilitate “targeted killings” of these Australians overseas. Publicly, the Australian Government has denied that this Bill could allow, “targeted killings”; however MLN position is that if it is not to facilitate targeted killings then a prohibition should be included in the law. The Australian Government has refused to include this prohibition.
It is likely that this “intelligence sharing” will be used to target Australian citizens fighting in declared areas overseas (the “no go zones” have not yet been declared, but it is understood that this will occur “very soon”). Again, the Australian Labor Party is supporting this Bill. Recently, the Attorney General refused to answer questions or provide further explanation regarding the Bill when asked by Greens Senator Wright in the Senate.
Liberal Senator Nikolic also unleashed a vitriolic attack against Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson when he called for a stop to the current rhetoric regarding issues or national security and terrorism.
The Muslim Legal Network issued an urgent press release on 13 November 2014 urging parliamentarians to reject the Bill. Again, Labor supported the proposed laws and it was passed by the Senate and is back before the House of Representatives where it is expected to pass.
To add to this already overwhelming suite of laws, on 21 November 2104, the Attorney General introduced the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 (“the Data Retention Bill”). The Muslim Legal Network will be preparing submissions on this Bill and will provide further information to the community in the near future.
On a separate issue, the Muslim Legal Network recently wrote to several senators urging them to reject the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 which is due to be debated this week.