The Guardian April 17, 2002


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.

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