NSW Police can now invade your home
You're at work, or buying groceries, or at the beach. You come home. There are a few items out of place but generally things are as you left them. What you do not know is that while you were out the police were going through your belongings. They secretly entered your home, photographed your correspondence, examined your most personal and intimate possessions, made copies of photographs and carried out forensic tests. This is the scenario under new legislation introduced by the NSW Carr Government. Once this legislation becomes law it could be used in relation to almost all terrorist offences under Commonwealth legislation in the name of that ever-expanding umbrella labelled "anti- terrorism". Carr has once again broken new ground to violate people's rights on behalf of the Howard Government: the first was the federal- state coordinated increase in powers given to the Federal Police, ASIO, ASIS and the military in the lead up the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The NSW police will not be obliged to inform you they have broken into your home until six months after the event. In addition, they will be able to bug your phone and computer and your home continuously for three months. A judge will be able to issue a warrant if he or she "is satisfied there is a reasonable suspicion that relevant offence has been or is likely to be committed". The judge can also extend indefinitely the six-month period that the occupant of a searched premises is kept in the dark. It will be easier for police to covertly obtain search warrants, which will also allow them to seize property, access computers, make copies of documents, operate electronic equipment and carry out forensic tests without revealing the purpose behind the investigation. Carr was not coy about what he was doing, announcing, "These changes will give police the power to observe potential terrorists covertly over long periods and develop intelligence about their network". Police will also have increased powers to spy on those locked in the NSW prison system: as Carr put it, to monitor "inmates in our prisons who may be involved with terrorist groups". Prisoners targeted are to have their contact visits limited and their mail more closely scrutinised. But other questions remain: how monitoring in the prison system itself will be increased, and which category of prisoner will come under surveillance. Presumably the hours prisoners are asleep and their visits to the toilet will no longer be considered private and personal activities. And people are mistaken if they believe these laws won't affect them as long as they "don't do anything wrong". If you know anyone in the peace and environment movements, or anyone in a political organisation or party outside the mainstream; if you actively support your union or if you have protested against government policies — or are connected in any way with someone who has — you will potentially be caught up in the widening net of police powers. Or maybe someone will simply, anonymously, email/phone/write to the police about what they have perceived as your "suspicious" behaviour, using the terrorist information hotlines set up by the Federal Government. Cameron Murphy, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, pointed out that NSW has the toughest anti-terror laws in the world. "There's no evidence these additional powers will assist in finding and prosecuting terrorists", Mr Murphy said. In addition, the increased powers will "exponentially increase the risk of police corruption". He rejected as "rubbish" Carr's claim that the new laws would have helped police catch Willie Brigitte, who was arrested in Australia on terrorism charges. "In the Brigitte matter, the federal agency was aware of it. And what did they do? They chose to deport him." NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon accused Carr of using scare tactics to deflect attention from his government's mismanagement. "These laws will not make society safer — it's another massive over- reaction by the Premier." She said allowing police to conduct property searches without telling the occupants removes another fundamental legal right.