The Government's controversial anti-terrorism laws are a threat
to anyone disagreeing with Australian foreign policy, a rally to
start a weekend of national protest about the laws has been
Up to 1,000 people gathered at Belmore Park in Sydney's city
centre today as part of the weekend of protests against the Federal
Government's anti-terrorism laws.
They rallied to show their opposition to the anti-terrorism
legislation tabled in Parliament this week and expected to come
into force before Christmas.
Organisers of the noon rally, Stop the War Coalition, say the
new laws would pose a threat to anyone who disagrees with
Australian foreign policy, while compromising everybody's civil
Among the speakers was NSW Council for Civil Liberties
vice-president and lawyer David Bernie, who described the new laws
Mr Bernie said it was absurd that under the laws people detained
as suspects would not have the right to discuss their situation
with anyone including family members.
"Would John Howard, if he was told by his son, 'I am safe but I
can't tell you where I am', not tell Janette about it? It is a
ridiculous situation," Mr Bernie said.
After weeks of negotiations with the states over concerns the
draft laws failed to properly protect civil rights, the fine-tuned
legislation was introduced to parliament this week.
The laws toughen jail terms for inciting race hatred or violence
against the community, and have been criticised as an attack on
Their introduction came as Parliament rushed through a special
amendment to anti-terrorism laws in the wake of an intelligence
warning of a potential terror threat to Australia.
Greens senator Kerrie Nettle said the laws sought to silence any
opposition to Australia's involvement in the war on Iraq.
"The sedition laws that are in this legislation mean that you,
me, anyone here, who says that we think that it is good that the
United States is having difficulty imposing their regime in Iraq,
could be locked away," she told the rally.
"If this Prime Minister was genuinely interested in addressing
the root causes of terrorism he'd be calling our troops back here
to Australia and calling on the US to do the same thing."
Muslim Civil Rights and Advocacy Network spokesman Waleed Kadous
said he believed the new laws would "undermine cherished principals
that have taken centuries to develop".
"It is no longer clear who is doing the most damage to our
freedoms and securities - is it the terrorist or our own
Government, we don't know anymore?" he said.
"We want all groups and communities to feel respected and not
suspected which is what is happening now."
Other rallies have been organised for Melbourne and Canberra
tomorrow about noon.
Concerns about the laws are not confined to civil libertarian
Yesterday, prominent Liberal backbencher Malcolm Turnbull
reiterated concerns on the coalition backbench about the proposed
Mr Turnbull told the ABC's Lateline program last night
changes to sedition provisions in the Government's anti-terrorism
package were not as clear as they should be.
"I do not believe the sedition provisions in this bill are
ideally drafted," he said.
"I think they are an attempt, and I think a very good effort,
but nonetheless I don't think the outcome is as clear or effective
as it should be."
Opposition legal affairs spokeswoman Nicola Roxon also said the
sedition provisions in the Government's anti-terrorism legislation
were "lazily drafted".
"They could actually catch a whole lot of people in an
unintended way," Ms Roxon told the ABC.
AAP and SMH, 5 November 2005