The terrorist threat to Australia has not been diminished by
arrests resulting from raids in Sydney and Melbourne, and stronger
anti-terrorism laws remain vital, Australia's chief spy says.
the Senate inquiry hearing the warning was also told the new
legislation to counter the terrorist threat could backfire on the
federal government, by making susceptible Muslims more open to radical
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
director-general Paul O'Sullivan on Thursday defended the need for
stronger legislation when he appeared before the Senate committee
inquiring into proposed amendments to Australia's anti-terror laws.
He said strong powers were needed to counter the continued terrorist threat.
"A number of people in Australia are facing terrorism charges as you know," Mr O'Sullivan told the inquiry.
will, however, note that the threat has not abated and we need to
continue the work of identifying people intent on doing harm, whether
they are already in our community, or seeking to come here from
overseas, or to attack Australia's interests overseas."
Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN) said the
recent raids had shown existing legislation was strong enough to
counter the threat of terrorism.
AMCRAN spokesman Dr Waleed
Kadous said the new legislation could backfire by encouraging
susceptible Muslims to accept radical ideas.
"Legislation is not just about law, it's about social messages," Mr Kadous said.
not within my power to guarantee that the introduction of these laws
will not lead to people susceptible to radical ideas falling for them
as a consequence of what they see as being railroaded."
sentences for advocacy crimes and the absence of a three-year sunset
clause were among other concerns highlighted by the group.
Chief Minister John Stanhope said Prime Minister John Howard had twice
failed to assure him the legislation complied with Australia's
obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Mr Stanhope, who has received an ASIO briefing on
the terrorist threat, said he believed counter-terrorist legislation
was needed in Australia.
But he said these laws could still abide by the ICCPR principals.
Federal Police deputy commissioner John Lawler told the committee the
legislation would "fill in many of the gaps" in the current police laws.
is different to other offences that the AFP investigates in that its
outcomes are much more unpredictable and potentially catastrophic," Mr
"These powers will be used judiciously and cautiously."
Council for Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy said the clause
requiring a review of the law after 10 years was too long.
He said police and other agencies would find the extra powers very difficult to give up after a decade of use.
Murphy also urged the government to think of the ways in which sedition
laws could be used if a different administration won office.
"It's very easy when you're in power to think these things won't be used against us," he said.
The Senate committee will resume on Friday before reporting its findings in 10 days' time.