ben moretti on Wed, 10 Apr 2002 09:29:48 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Terrorism bill 'worst legislation ever seen' 

Terrorism bill 'worst legislation ever seen' 
By Lee Glendinning 
April 9 2002 

Prominent legal professionals condemned the federal Government's proposed
emergency terrorism legislation yesterday, demanding it be withdrawn from
parliament and re-drafted.

During an inquiry into the legislation - which critics say has been rushed
through because of last year's terrorist attacks in the United States -
those making public submissions referred to the bill as "panic-stricken",
"extraordinarily bad" and "the worst legislation ever seen".

The Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill defines a terrorist
act as "an action done or a threat made with the intention of advancing a
political, religious or ideological cause", excluding lawful advocacy,
protest, dissent or industrial action.

The president of the International Commission of Jurists, Supreme Court
Justice John Dowd, opened the public submissions yesterday, saying that
while an act could be unlawful in nature in most cases, it was not
necessarily an act of terrorism.

He warned the Senate inquiry that the legislation had the potential to
change the nature of Australian society, with the possibility of trivial
or minor offences being interpreted as acts of terrorism.

"Does this mean when you walk down the street in protest and somebody
breaks out and breaks something, it makes it unlawful?" he asked.

"At what point in time will a protest become unlawful?"

While the bill should be hastened, more time was needed to greatly improve
it, he said. "We ought not, as Australians, countenance having such
legislation on the books with the mind that we could tidy it up later."

During questioning, representatives from the Attorney-General's Department
were asked if someone arrested for cutting bolts in the recent protest at
Woomera would be seen to be involved in an act of terrorism under this

A representative confirmed this would be the case.

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy,
lambasted the bill, telling the legislation committee that it destroyed
the principles of democracy in order to suppress terrorism.

Mr Murphy cited examples of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi being
labelled as terrorists in the past, but now recognised as freedom

"This is some of the most insidious legislation we have ever seen in this
nation. It gives the Government the right to virtually outlaw another
group, and has the potential to sit on the statute stacks for years before
it is ever used."

The social commentator Eva Cox made an impassioned speech, saying the
legislation had the potential to stifle democratic processes by trying to
protect against terrorism.

"We really are constrained to things that seriously endanger the security
of our country and don't pick up the normal rabble-rousing of political
dissent," she said. "This legislation is extraordinarily badly drafted."

The inquiry will continue next week with a hearing of further public
submissions in Melbourne.

This story was found at:

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