Terrorism Bill: urgent action required
The Howard Government has attempted to stifle public protest over the new repressive "Anti-Terrorist" legislation, and the legislation to greatly extend the powers of ASIO, by extremely limiting the time for public submissions. However, it is not too late to voice your opinion! Although the deadline for official submissions to this Senate Committee has passed, you are still able to send a "letter". It will not be considered formally, but as "correspondence" will still be circulated to every member of the Committee. Write in if you have a new angle to present, or to reinforce an argument already made — multiple letters on the same issue will have a greater impact. You can also write in to bemoan the limited public consultation period! Naturally, a short concise protest letter is more likely to be read and remembered by a busy Committee member than a long letter. For letters to the "Anti-Terrorist" Committee write to: Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee Parliament House CANBERRA ACT 2600 And to protest against the new ASIO powers write to: Committee Secretary Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD Parliament House CANBERRA NSW 2600 The terror bills The legislation creates new offences of terrorism, gives the government the power to ban organisations and gives ASIO the power to detain people incommunicado for up to six days. During that period they would have no right to a lawyer and no contact with family or the outside world. People could face up to five years in jail for refusing to answer questions, removing people's right to silence. Such powers would not be restricted to those suspected of terrorism, but anyone who might have information regarding politically motivated violence. The Attorney General has said this could include lawyers and journalists and even children. Organisations banned Like the Menzies Government's Communist Party Dissolution Act, the Security Legislation (Terrorism) Amendment Bill will give the government wide powers to outlaw organisations that it opposes. The Attorney General will be able to proscribe organisations "likely to endanger, the security or integrity of the Commonwealth or another country." People who are members or assist banned organisations face up to 25 years imprisonment. Terrorism or activism Terrorism has replaced communism as the justification for the secret snooping of intelligence agencies and the development of powerful national security infrastructures. Following the rise of the global social movements challenging corporate globalisation, security institutions have scrambled to gain new powers and greater resources. The attacks on September 11 have been used as an excuse to further this process, with police and intelligence agencies arguing that terrorism and activism are the same problem and need to be approached in the same manner. Terrorist acts The government's proposed terrorism offences have the potential to be used to criminalise militant unionism and direct action from social movements. The Criminal Code will be amended to create a definition of "terrorist act", which includes actions that are made with "with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause". While there is an exemption for industrial action and lawful advocacy, protest or dissent, such an exemption does not cover a range of industrial action such as effective picketing of the docks or a range of acts of civil disobedience. All offences can attract a penalty of life imprisonment. It is easy to imagine that a picket line or civil disobedience could be labelled as terrorist and these laws used to criminalise political opposition to government policy. For more detail on the terrorist legislation see back-copies of The Guardian (in particular page 1, March 27, 2002) on our website: http://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/guardian.html or phone the office on 02 9212 6855 to have the information posted to you.