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Senate Inquiry into Anti-Terrorism Bill (No 2) (2004) Print E-mail
Monday, 26 April 2004

 

On 23 June 2004, the Senate referred the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No.2) 2004 to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 5 August 2004.

 

The Bill sought to introduce a number of new measures, including a new offence of "associating with terrorist organisations", and to amend the ASIO Act 1979 so that those subject to ASIO applying for a questioning warrant are prevented from leaving Australia. 

 

Campaign 

Together with the Civil Rights Network, AMCRAN ran its first community campaign, "Kill Bill No. 2", to mobilise the community to voice their concerns about this Bill.

 

A total of 93 submissions were made to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee that is reviewing Anti-Terrorism Bill No 2 2004, including submissions from a number of Muslim groups such as Muslim Women's National Network of Australia, the Islamic Information and Research Centre, and AMCRAN. This far exceeds the number of submissions made with respect to the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2004 (now an Act, unfortunately), where 28 submissions were made, indicating a general increase in community awareness about the anti-terrorism legislation and their huge concern about the "association" offences.

 

Many (approximately 70 of the 93) of the submissions were based on the pro formas co-written and distributed by the Civil Rights Network and AMCRAN as part of their "Kill Bill No 2" campaign.

 

The submissions, including AMCRAN's submission (No 84), are available from the Senate's Web Site.

  

AMCRAN Appearance before committee

On Monday, 26 July, two representatives from AMCRAN, Agnes Chong and Dr Waleed Kadous, appeared before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee to present their arguments with respect to the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No 2) 2004.

 

Along with other organisations and individuals involved in the defence of Australians' civil rights, such as Patrick Emerton of the Castan Centre for Human Rights and Joo Cheong Tham of Latrobe University and the Civil Rights Network, they attacked the bill's provisions, focusing on the "association" offence. The offence would mean that anyone who associated (i.e. meet or communicate) with a member of a terrorist organisation more than once could go to jail for 3 years. Other issues were also raised, such as ASIO's ability to take away someone's passport without even a warrant being issued.

 

The Committee was in many ways supportive of the issues raised by the witnesses they called. Several senators expressed concerns about the erosion of civil rights.

 

Senate Inquiry Report

The Senate Committee Report on the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No 2) was tabled on 6 August 2004, and was sent to all those who made a submission.

 

The bipartisan Committee had serious concerns about the introduction of the association offence under the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No 2). It said that there was no persuasive evidence that there was a need for the offence in the first place, given the already wide ambit of existing terrorism laws, the breadth of the definition of 'terrorist organisation' contained in the Criminal Code, and other existing laws such as the law of conspiracy and accessory liability. In particular, the Committee noted 'with apprehension the tendency towards 'legislative overreach' in relation to counter-terrorism measures in Australia'.

 

The Committee was also concerned at how the proposed offence was drafted: there is a lack of detail, certainty and clarity in the definitions, and the exemptions are too narrow. The Committee said that 'serious difficulties would result in its practical application', for example, in its potential capture of a wide range of legitimate activities, such as some social and religious festivals and gatherings, investigative journalism, and the provision of legal advice and legal representation.

 

The Committee also noted the strong opposition in the community. There were a large number of submissions made to the Committee that were against the introduction of the offence. There was only 1 submission that was in favour of the offence ? and that was from the Australian Federal Police.

 

The Committee made a number of recommendations for significant amendments, including further defining some of the terms used, that the presumption against bail not to apply for the offence, expanding the exemptions to cover religious practice in places other than public places being used for religious worship, to clarify what type of aid is contemplated by the proposed exception, and to ensure that there is proper access to legal advice.

 

Before the release of the report, the Attorney-General Philip Ruddock 'challenged' the Opposition to allow the passage of Bill No 2, saying that 'the true test of an Opposition is its preparedness to make the hard decisions to fill legislative gaps that have been identified and could be abused by terrorists.' No, we say that the true test of an Opposition is to make a stance and not be bullied by the Government into making decisions that would adversely affect the lives of all Australians.

 

To read the full report, click here for HTML or PDF version.

 

 
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