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Terrorism law review gets go-ahead

Terrorism law review gets go-ahead

Flawed laws that were passed in the wake of September 11 are overdue for reform, the Law Council of Australia (LCA) has claimed, following the Federal Government’s announcement that a review of Australia’s counter-terrorism legislation will go ahead.

The review, originally due to start in 2010, will look at federal and state counter-terrorism legislation that was introduced after the London terror attacks in 2005. Prime Minister Julia Gillard revealed yesterday (9 August) that retired NSW judge Anthony Whealy QC will chair the review and report back to the Council of Australian Governments within six months.

LCA president-elect Joe Catanzariti said more than 50 pieces of counter-terrorism legislation have been passed since September 11, 2001, “many of which were rushed through Parliament and have never or very rarely been used”.

“A number of these laws contain measures that run counter to established principles of criminal justice and the rule of law,” he said.

The LCA has advocated strongly for a review of the laws over a number of years, pointing out that the current definitions of a terrorist organisation and the associated offence provisions are too broad, Catanzariti continued.

He believes the “danger of these broad and unwieldy offence provisions” is that they are dependent on police and prosecutorial discretion to be exercised fairly and without unduly infringing upon fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of movement, association and expression.

“[The provisions] potentially expose a person to criminal sanction for largely innocuous behaviour, but they are available to serve as a hook for the exercise of a wide range of law enforcement and intelligence-gathering powers,” he said.

Catanzariti added that many of the provisions have never led to a successful prosecution, “and possibly never will”.

The other members of the review committee are: David Jones AM, retired Victorian County Court judge; Richard Bingham, South Australian Ombudsman; Commander Justine Saunders, Australian Federal Police; Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon, Queensland Police, and Graeme Davidson, Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

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