Opposition seeks clarification on counter-terrorism laws Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 August 2006


The federal Opposition has raised concerns that new counter-terrorism laws could inadvertently make it illegal for Australians to train and fight with foreign forces.


Labor MP Duncan Kerr has told a joint Parliament Security and Intelligence Committee the legislation does not distinguish between the laws of war and terrorism, and he has sought clarification from the Attorney-General's department.

Mr Kerr says currently Australians who serve in the armed forces of another country, such as the Israeli Defence Forces, could be subject to proceedings under the laws.


"There is an argument that they would fall foul of those anti-terrorism provisions simply because they are training with a military force, and the action of the force that they are training with is undertaken as part of advancing the political objective of the Israeli government," he said.


The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission says the new laws must face regular scrutiny.


Since the introduction of the laws in 2002 and 2003, the Australian Federal Police have conducted 479 counter-terrorism investigations and charged 24 people with terrorism related offences.


The commission's Joanna Hemingway told the committee the legislation needs to be reviewed at least every three to five years.


"Whether that's done by a body every three years that's comprised of practitioners from various aspects that are touched by terrorism laws, so for instance privacy issues human rights practitioners, security and intelligence practitioners that yes, we do need that independent review," she said.


The committee also heard that Muslims feel they are being deliberately targeted by the new laws.


Dr Waleed Kadous from the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network says Muslims are suffering from an increased sense of alienation.


Dr Kadous says there is a perception that the laws are being tailored to attack their communities, and many feel they are being monitored by the authorities.


"This has had an impact in a number of ways," he said.


"Firstly, people self-limit their behaviour, they over-estimate the reach of the laws and are unnecessarily cautious.


"So for example we have seen people not wanting to go to normal Islamic classes because they fear that ASIO may be watching or something like that.


"We have heard people telling their children not to go to protests because you are just exposing yourself once again."


ABC News , 1 August 2006

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