THE LAW COUNCIL of Australia continued its slamming of “draconian” anti-terror laws last week, claiming that the international legal profession believes there should be more faith in our traditional protections.
Speaking last week at a national legal conference in Canberra, Law Council president John North asked whether the proposed legislation “actually makes us safe or just makes us feel safer”. He said any change that affects Australians’ right to live in peace and “to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention” must be subject to scrutiny.
“They are arming our police and intelligence services with powers that history shows will likely lead to abuse and misuse,” he said.
In a series of international conferences on governmental responses to terrorism, the erosion of human rights had become a primary concern. “At recent conferences of the American Bar Association, the International Bar Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association and at last weekend’s LawAsia conference, the prevailing theme has been the need for lawyers to act now to halt the march of executive power,” North said.
While terrorism is a significant issue, we should be careful not to rush into terror laws that infringe on our rights, he said. “We understand that the people are scared, we understand that terrorism is the major, major issue, but we must not take away fundamental rights without asking our government to assure us that we are going to be safer,” he told the Ten Network’s Meet the Press.
“We’re most concerned about the control orders and the preventative detention orders,” he told the ABC on the weekend. “They will allow the Government to seek and obtain these orders without the people even having any right to know about it, or to inform themselves or properly inform lawyers,”
A major concern, he said, was the arbitrary detainment of people in times of fear. “In this legislation, it looks as if the Government is going to be able to lock people up in times of fear … and if they think that there’s going to be trouble, they can pull people off the street and hold them under these orders,” he told ABC radio.