The Australian Bar Association has urged the government to reconsider proposed reforms to Australian counter-terrorism laws that will permit the detention of 10-year-olds for up to 14 days without charge.
A pre-charge detention regime that has been unveiled as part of proposed reforms counter-terrorism laws has been critiqued by the nation’s leading barristers’ group.
Australian Bar Association (ABA) president Noel Hutley SC issued a statement on Wednesday, calling for the federal government to reconsider the measures which he said went too far.
“In the absence of any demonstrated need for longer periods of detention without charge than already exist, the proposed changes are unjustified and represent an over-reach by government,” Mr Hutley said.
He went on to acknowledge that while it was essential for robust protections to keep the community safe, it was just as critical to ensure that no fundamental freedoms were diminished in the process.
Mr Hutley added that just this month, the federal attorney-general had given a speech, cautioning lawmakers about the unintended consequences that overreaching anti-terrorism legislation could have.
The ABA president cited remarks made by Attorney-General George Brandis QC during a speech to the International Bar Association’s conference in Sydney on 9 October. In his speech, the senator said:
“In protecting our people from terrorism, for instance, we must be careful to ensure that our legislative and policing response is at all times consistent with our values and obedient to the rule of law, even if, on occasions, that may constrain what our law enforcement authorities can do. That is the price we pay for being democracies.”
Mr Hutley called for the government to make extra details about the proposed regime public if it wanted to push on with the changes. This should include detail about the extent of judicial oversight and opportunities for more consultation about the proposed reforms with the legal profession, he added.
“The ABA firmly believes in the rule of law and urges the government to maintain an appropriate balance between the undeniable need to keep the community safe with the protection of fundamental legal rights,” Mr Hutley said.