Govt’s anti-terror law promises will not stop abuse of power

24th Sep 2014

Promises by the Federal Government not to abuse proposed anti-terror legislation are not enough to protect the rights of Australians, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

ALA spokesperson and barrister Greg Barns said the moves by the Commonwealth to slightly amend the upcoming National Security Legislation Amendment Bill, including a specific ban on the use of torture and that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will only prosecute disclosures of ASIO special operations if it is in the public interest, were insufficient to allay wider concerns.

“The Federal Government has grudgingly made minor concessions, however the heart of the proposed national security legislation remains untouched,” Mr Barns said.

“Despite ASIO being banned from using torture under the legislation, ASIO will still be able to inflict mental and physical harm on individuals and get away with it because of the criminalising of disclosure.

“There is nothing stopping ASIO keeping a person in solitary confinement for weeks on end, making threats against them, or threatening to harm them or members of their families,” Mr Barns said.

“It should also be noted that under this new legislation ASIO will have the power to monitor the internet usage and online activities of every Australian.  As there is no tort of privacy in Australia, there is no recourse for anyone who has their right to privacy breached.”

“ASIO can misuse that information and know that the chances of it being sanctioned are minimal,” Mr Barns said.

“Similarly, it’s just nonsense to concede that the Director of Public Prosecutions can only prosecute journalists and others who publish details of special operations by ASIO,” Mr Barns said. 

“The test that prosecutors use when deciding whether to pursue any case is the public interest, so this concession means nothing.”

Mr Barns said that the bipartisan political support which is evident for the Bill was also a major concern.

“It is disappointing that the ALP is supporting Attorney-General Brandis’s security legislation amendments,” Mr Barns said.

“Both major parties are using terror fears to allow ASIO to harass and rough up individuals, spy on our neighbours, and other associated activities without the media being able to ensure Australians know about such abuses of power.”

Tags: Access to justice police powers terrorism