Does Australia need new anti-terror laws?

National security Terrorism Human rights Australia

Australia does need new anti-terror laws, but many of the measures being proposed by the Abbott government go far beyond what is required, according to this speech presented at the Lionel Murphy Memorial Lecture 2014.


My topic today is one of great contemporary concern. Next week, Parliament will debate the most significant new anti-terrorism measures introduced in Australia since the London bombings of 2005.

The so-called Foreign Fighters Bill is a large piece of legislation. It runs to nearly 160 pages, and deals with some of the most contentious aspects of Australian law. It seeks to greatly expand the reach of government power in a number of new areas, such as by jailing Australians for up to 10 years for entering any area declared a no-go zone by the government.

You might think that Parliament will take a long, considered look at this Bill. The reality will be different. After a rushed committee process that has recommended largely cosmetic changes to the Bill, debate will begin in the Senate on Monday. This will likely conclude the next day. The Bill will then come on for debate in the House of Representatives, where it will be passed before Parliament rises on Thursday.

This truncated timetable matches the government’s desire to have this legislation enacted as quickly as possible. We know the government will almost certainly get its wish because the opposition has agreed to facilitate this. Indeed, the leader of the opposition has written to the Prime Minister indicating that the opposition will ensure the bill is enacted by the end of October, that is, by the end of next week.

I wonder what Lionel Murphy would have made of this process. I doubt he would have been complementary …

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