How Terror Laws Can Affect You
Most of the focus on the government’s proposed new and tougher anti-terror laws has been on greater powers of surveillance on what people do on the internet, phone calls made and social media. While some people may feel uneasy about prying eyes as they surf the web, this is not the most intrusive aspect of new anti-terror laws the government is seeking to introduce.
Bills before parliament also grant immunity from prosecution to intelligence officers engaged in special operations, and open the possibility of jailing journalists and whistleblowers for publishing information about a terrorism investigation. Foreshadowed are new laws under which anyone who travels to certain locations will have to prove they weren’t involved in terror activities – reversing the traditional legal onus of being innocent before being proved guilty.
These new laws come on top of existing laws enabling the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to detain and hold any person in secret for a week. Don’t answer their questions and you can be jailed for up to five years. Those held and questioned can’t tell anyone they are being detained. They can only tell their employer and one family member that they are safe but will be out of contact for a while. Once released they can’t say they were held by ASIO and can’t talk about it with anyone.
On top of that a court can issue what’s called a “control order” which can stop a person from being in certain areas, communicating or associating with certain people, owning or using certain articles, carrying out certain activities including work, and from using the internet
These laws were considered necessary when they were introduced after the 2002 Bali attack and strengthened after the London bombings. But it was acknowledged at the time these measures were extreme, so it was written into the laws they would expire in ten years time. However the government now wants to make them permanent.
While it is vital for security agencies to have necessary powers to seek out and catch anybody planning acts of terror in Australia, it is also vital that we don’t lose the rights we have in a democratic and free nation. Aspects of these laws remove our legal rights such as assumed innocent before being proved guilty and the right not to be detained without reason. The proposed laws mean journalists could be prosecuted for reporting on national security leaks such as revealed through Wikileaks.
A free press and personal freedoms are essential to our strength as a free people. Once these are taken away in the name of fighting terrorism, the terrorists have won.