Police say new laws will lead to racial-profiling Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 September 2005


TANYA NOLAN: The Premiers may largely be in agreement over the new terrorism laws, but police and Muslim groups are raising their voices in concern.

The Police Federation of Australia says the new laws will inevitably lead to racial profiling of the Muslim community and it wants the Federal Government to legislate to protect police officers from any civil action that may come from focussing their investigations on any particular group.  


Muslim organisations say the admission from the Police Federation is proof that their community is at risk under the new laws, despite assurances to the contrary by the Prime Minister.

Edmond Roy reports.

EDMOND ROY: The Prime Minister said it wouldn't happen but Muslim groups have all along been warning that it'll be members of their community who will be targeted under the new laws.

This morning, the Police Federation of Australia agreed. Muslims, the Federation's Chief Executive Mark Burgess said, would inevitably be in the spotlight, leading to charges of racial profiling against his officers.

MARK BURGESS: Look, what we're concerned about is that intelligence generally will identify the type of person who might be under suspicion for a terrorist attack. That person by and large are not going to be 60-year-old women and 70-year-old men. Unfortunately, more often than not, the profile will be young men of Middle Eastern appearance.

And that's what's happened in the United States, that's what's happening in the United Kingdom, and we just want to make sure that there's protection for police officers in Australia if that sort of thing arises here.

EDMOND ROY: How can you be covered?

MARK BURGESS: Well, it's a very difficult area. We're just saying to the Government they need to take into account the concerns that we're raising.

It's inevitable that there will be unintended consequences of this legislation, and we just want to make sure that there is some protection for police officers.

EDMOND ROY: While welcoming the new anti terror laws and the new powers it would grant its members, the Police Federation was concerned not by the arguments raised by several human rights experts, but by the fact that they could be sued for racial profiling.

According to the Federation, the Government needed to put in place new legislation that would protect police officers if they were sued.

It's a development that concerns the President of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Simeon Beckett.

SIMEON BECKETT: One has to be realistic about these sorts of things. I mean, clearly the main threat seems to be… everybody is conceiving the main threat is coming from people who are associated with fundamentalist or extremist forms of Islam, so it's clearly going to be that form, those people, who are following those extreme forms of Islamism that are going to be targeted.

EDMOND ROY: Now, if that were the case, and the Government, as the Police Federation now warns, will have to legislate to protect police officers from being sued later on, how is that going to come about?

SIMEON BECKETT: Well, I'd like to see what the proposals are. I mean, the first we've heard of those concerns from the police is this morning. I'd be interested to see what they're proposing in that respect.

I mean, to enact laws that would prevent the civil suits against lawyers, against the police, would be of considerable concern.

EDMOND ROY: Also causing considerable concern within the Muslim community is the wide-ranging powers being proposed within the new anti terrorism laws.

Waleed Kadous is one of the founders of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network.

WALEED KADOUS: The applications of these laws would have a severe impact upon the Muslim community.

Let me give you some examples from existing legislation to show you how that happens. There have been dozens of homes raided, and all of those homes that have been raided have been people of Muslim faith.

At the same time, they've only led to a handful of arrests. That means that there are whole bunches of innocent Muslims whose homes are being raided, and they're not leading to convictions or anything like that. Surely that should raise a flag to us that things are going wrong.

Another example is the listing of terrorist organisations. All of the organisations listed by the Australian Government are linked, or self-identified as Muslim groups. That's not the same as in the US.

So it seems that at the current time the application of these laws is having a particular impact upon the Muslim community, and I respond to the Prime Minister's challenge yesterday and that's what I'd like to say. They are having an impact. People's homes are being raided, people of the Muslim faith, and then they're being found not to have done anything wrong.

TANYA NOLAN: Waleed Kadous of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network.


Edmond Roy

The World Today , ABC Radio, 27 September 2005

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