Terrorism laws: No police state in Australia
Thursday October 27th 2005, 7:19 am

Treasurer Peter Costello says he won’t know if HoWARd’s terror laws are constitutional until there has been a challenge in the High Court. He’s not wrong. Australia has no Bill of Rights which defines limits on government power. Citizens do have some rights, but only those established by precedent in case law.

If we had a Bill of Rights, in a case where the government enacts law which exceeds its authority, it would be possible to sue the government to have a decision on the questionable law rendered in the courts, against defined limits on government power. Without a Bill of Rights, someone prosecuted under the laws has to suffer through a test case.

However, if police are given power to shoot-to-kill people only suspected of illegal activity, that person is fully deprived of due process. There’s no redress and being a test case is just a tick undesirable.

HoWARd’s terror legislation is extraordinary in that in any application of these laws, a person would suffer unusually and would have extreme difficulty challenging them. There is a very good chance that the government could even prevent a test case from ever making it to the High Court.

Peter Beatty, Steve Bracks and Paul Lennon have expressed reservations about the proposed laws. HoWARd is heavily engaged in lobbying the Premiers and Chief Ministers to get them to acquiesce to these police-state powers.

You should be lobbying them, too.

Dear Premier/Chief Minister

I am most concerned about John Howard’s proposed terrorism laws. The unchecked powers to detain, surveil and to shoot-to-kill persons who are merely suspected of criminal activity, as well as removal of right to legal counsel and to inform one’s family of being detained are completely unacceptable in a first-world democracy.

There must be checks and safeguards made available to suspects under this legislation, to at very least conform with international human rights standards. A person must be able to contact their family and have a right to legal representation. Police shooting to kill without warning must only be permissible when there is a clear and present danger to life- not a mere suspicion of wrongdoing.

There are already laws in effect which define and prohibit terrorist activities. The government is in effect asking for the power to detain and surveil persons who cannot be demonstrated to a magistrate to be involved in terrorism activities as they are currently defined. The government wants the power to detain innocents and hold them incommunicado- powers the government shouldn’t have for ten seconds, much less the proposed 10 years until the sunset provision takes effect.

The most disturbing of Howard’s proposals concern the redefinition of the offence of sedition. The draft legislation proposes to eliminate the test of ‘overthrowing the government by force’ as one of the necessarily intended goals of a person prosecuted under the law.

All one need do under the Howard proposal is to ‘urge disaffection against the Government’ to be guilty of sedition. This specification could very easily be interpreted by a court as a prohibition of letter you are now reading. The change is an unacceptable prior restraint on free speech. This restraint would also prevent the proper operation of a free press.

Through the deportation of Scott Parkin, a well-known pacifist and peace activist, it is clear that this government will abuse its authority to protect itself from public criticism. It is not unimaginable that public comment critical of government policy could be deemed sedition.

Please work to oppose the Howard terrorism law proposals.  There is no threat at present which justifies a police-state or martial law in Australia. Restricting civil liberties in the face of a perceived threat to civil liberties at the hands of terrorists is not only illogical but counterproductive. Please help to preserve our freedoms in Australia.


(your signature)

Contact details for Premiers and Chief Ministers, for your convenience: 

Steve Bracks – Victoria
Office of the Premier
1 Treasury Place
Australia 3000

Ph (03) 9651 5000
Fax (03) 9651 5054

email: premier@dpc.vic.gov.au

Morris Iemma – New South Wales
Electorate Office:
48 Thurlow Street,
Riverwood NSW 2210
PO Box 1200,

Phone (02) 9584 1788
Fax (02) 9584 1945

Ministerial Office:
Level 40 Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place SYDNEY NSW 2000

Phone (02) 9228 5239
Fax (02) 9228 3934

email: thepremier@www.nsw.gov.au or lakemba@parliament.nsw.gov.au

Peter Beatty – Queensland
Office of the Premier
PO Box 15185
City East
Queensland 4002

Phone: (07) 3224 4500
Fax: (07) 3221 3631

email: ThePremier@premiers.qld.gov.au

Dr. Geoff Gallop – Western Australia
197 St George’s Terrace,
Perth, WA 6000

Phone: (08) 9222 9888
Fax: (08) 9322 1213

email: wa-government@dpc.wa.gov.au

Mike Rann – South Australia
State Administration Centre
200 Victoria Square
Adelaide SA 5000

Phone: (08) 8463 3166
Fax: (08) 8463 3168

email: premier@saugov.sa.gov.au

Paul Lennon – Tasmania
Premiers Office
Department of Premier and Cabinet
11th Floor, 15 Murray St, Hobart
GPO Box 123B
Hobart Tasmania 7001

Phone: (03) 6233 3464
Fax: (03) 6234 1572 

email Paul Lennon

Jon Stanhope – Australian Capital Territory
Chief Minister’s Department
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601

Telephone: 13 22 81
Fax: (02) 6207 5886

email: stanhope@act.gov.au

Clare Martin – Northern Territory
GPO Box 3146
Darwin NT 0801

Telephone: (08) 8901 4000
Facsimile: (08) 8901 4099

email: chiefminister.nt@nt.gov.au

Make sure our leaders know that you don’t want a police-state in Australia.  If you don’t have easy access to a fax machine, I am happy to forward faxes on this issue. Compose your letter in MS Word or scan it into a JPG or PDF file and send it to me via email and I will fax it as soon as I receive it.


6 Comments so far
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Some niggly questions, Weez. What happens to Australians who work for Doctors without Borders or the other group Builders (?) without Borders?
What about the Red Cross helping the Red Crescent?
What if you’re locked up, no one knows so your cats and dogs die. Can the RSPCA sue Howard for crueltry to animals? Okay the last bit’s way out but it could happen, some terrorists might like animals. The first two are legit questions.

Comment by JahTeh 10.28.05 @ 5:49 pm

Totally off topic. Centrelink lady was very nice.
She’s having a knee replacement so shot me out very quickly before I could share my pics and reports about what they do when you’re ‘under’.
Shortest interview ever.

Comment by JahTeh 10.28.05 @ 8:01 pm

JT, incommunicado is incommunicado. Disappeared is disappeared. You don’t call your kids, partner, parents or employer. You just stop showing up everywhere for at least two weeks and then can’t tell anyone why.

I’ve taken to wearing short pants whenever I get called in to talk to C’link. I have around 750mm of incision scars on my legs- quite a road map. They’re a real BBQ stopper. I don’t get too many queries about my level of disability once the C’link worker gets a look at my frankenlegs.

Comment by weezil 10.30.05 @ 7:48 am

Just measured my scars, damn you beat me but not by much.

Comment by JahTeh 10.30.05 @ 2:49 pm

From The Age: Deported peace activist blameless.

Here’s the thing. As a citizen I am willing to trust my elected representatives to exercise their duties in the context of limited (that is, liberal) government. However, the ASIO Act, the proposed “anti terrorism” laws and, it now appears, the Immigration Act, give the Commonwealth administration largely unlimited powers within the scope of those acts. As a citizen I am not willing to trust my elected representatives to exercise their duties in the context of unlimited government. And my lack of trust is independent of which people hold which executive office within the administration because it is not possible for just government to exist in the context of unlimited executive power. It was for this very reason that the whole concept of limited government was invented in the first place.

Australia likes to think of itself as a liberal democracy. But the phase “liberal democracy” is a tautology because there is no such thing as an illiberal democracy. If its illiberal, or unlimited, it becomes something other than a democracy.

Comment by Peter F Bradshaw 11.01.05 @ 11:45 am

[…] Despite a bipartisan recommendation to drop the sedition provisions from Howard’s terror law proposals, Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock is wedded to the idea of criminalising criticism of the government. […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 11.29.05 @ 10:16 am

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