Australian Civil Liberties Union

Your Rights 2004

Chapter 22


ALP and ASIO Bill, NSW search powers, ASIO Bullies?


Labor drafts softer version of ASIO detention powers
Annabel Crabb, November 19 2002, The Age

Labor is preparing to drop its opposition to the detention of innocent Australians for interrogation, in a development that could give the government a breakthrough on its controversial ASIO legislation.

Senior Labor sources indicated yesterday the opposition was prepared to strike a deal on the ASlO counter-terrorism legislation, which would avoid the damaging possibility of a double-dissolution election on the matter.

In a softening of the party’s previous opposition to detention of non-suspects for interrogation, Labor’s home affairs spokesman, John Faulkner, has drafted a “private” model that offers a compromise to the government.

The compromise would allow Australians to be detained and questioned at ASIO’s behest for an unspecified period, even if they were not accused or suspected of being involved with a planned act of terrorism. But questioning would be carried out by the Australian Federal Police instead of ASIO, subjects would have access to a lawyer and children under 18 would be protected.

Labor has previously criticised the detention of non-suspects, but it is believed that Senator Faulkner’s model, drafted with the help of Left MP Daryl Melham and Labor elder statesmen Kim Beazley and Robert Ray, will be adopted without complaint by caucus.

The government’s legislation, as it now stands, would allow ASIO to detain people as young as 14 for questioning for up to seven days - the first two days of which could occur in the absence of legal assistance for the detainee.

Senator Faulkner said yesterday the model, submitted to the Senate’s inquiry into the proposed legislation, was not necessarily Labor’s final bargaining position. He denied that it represented a substantial backdown. “We’re saying that rather than making ASIO into a secret police force, the questioning should be carried out - in our suggestion, by the AFP, but in any event in a regulated environment - and, unlike the government, we’re also saying that children shouldn’t be questioned under the bill.”

Senator Faulkner said the compromise package was still a private suggestion at this stage as caucus not approved it and the Senate inquiry was not complete.

But party sources said the model was unlikely to be opposed in caucus, given it had the backing of the Left - Senator Faulkner and Mr Melham - as well as senior figures in the Right with Mr Beazley and Senator Ray.

ASIO chief Dennis Richardson appeared before the Senate’s inquiry yesterday, saying his intention was to not abuse ASIO’s proposed new powers. “Just as (opponents of the legislation) have their views and I respect them, I have my views, and they don’t come from a mad, driven perspective of wanting to break the laws and infringe on rights,” he said.



Another face-down over ASIO bill
The Sunday Age, February 2, 2004

The Iraq crisis has sapped much Interest from the rest of the political agenda. An exception is the battle over the legislation to give ASIO tough new power to interrogate people who may have information about terrorism.

This, we were told by the government last year, was absolutely vital and had to be passed ASAP. But not so critical that the Coalition was willing to compromise when Labor dug in its heels over the more draconian aspects. The bill failed to pass after an acrimonious all-night sitting at the end of the pre-­Christmas session.

The government accused the opposition of ignoring the country’s security needs and proposing changes that would make the bill worse than useless. Labor said the Prime Minister was just playing politics.

Despite some dire predictions, we’ve survived into the New Year apparently none the worse for not having the legislation.

However, Labor knows it is politically vulnerable over it. It’s heard nothing from the government, so the ALP leader in the Senate, John Faulkner, has written to Attorney-General Daryl Williams in the past week suggesting negotiations be resumed.

In the marathon sitting both sides made some concessions. The government has accepted Labor’s sunset clause and its proposal for supervision of interrogation. The opposition dropped its insistence that the rules governing the interrogation of people could be disallowed by the Senate.

Three key issues of disagreement remain.

1.      The Government wants people to be able to detained for up to a week. The opposition says they should only be held for a maximum of 20 hours for questioning.

2.      The bill would allow people to be denied a lawyer for 48 hours; when they do have access, it would be only to lawyers from a panel who have been security cleared. Labor says that, except in extraordinary circumstances, people must be entitled to a lawyer from the start and one of their own choice.

3.      The legislation proposes people over 14 can be interrogated; the opposition wants to raise this to 18.

It is important to remember this legislation is dealing not with people who themselves are accused of terrorist acts but those who may have information about such acts.

George Williams, a law professor at the University of NSW, a trenchant critic of the legislation in the form the government wants it, has said the bill “gives innocent Australians who may or may or may not have useful information fewer rights and protections than terrorist suspects”. Under the criminal law, those suspected of terrorism can only be detained and questioned for a maximum of 12 hours.

Williams, addressing the National Press Club last week, said any way forward “must start from the premise that parliament should not legislate for the detention in secret of Australian citizens who are not suspected of any crime”.

“There is a strong case for Australian citizens being compelled to answer questions about information they have on terrorist activity. This approach would focus the law on the questioning and not the detention of people with useful information.”

Coalition sources say the government will keep talking but that to give further ground would undermine the operational effects of the legislation. The opposition suggests there is some room to move but says it won’t compromise on “basic principles”, including that people should not be detained for a sustained period without charge and should not be denied legal advice.

Although the government stresses the necessity for the legislation, the ALP believes the coalition might be just as pleased to see it rejected twice and become a possible double-dissolution trigger. However, these issues are often more complicated than they seem. While people want strong action against terrorism, they can also become quite critical of assaults on basic rights. Anyway, there is a quite powerful argument, from the coalition’s point of view, against a double dissolution, whatever the trigger. Such an election would likely replace Democrats with quite a few Greens, an outcome that would sour a win for the government.



Police to get power to search without a warrant
Jonathan Pearlman, 19 November 2002 Sydney Morning Herald

Police will have the power to search without a warrant and without reasonable suspicion under proposed new terrorism laws released by the NSW Premier Bob Carr today.

“Police only exercise these powers in the wake of a credible threat or a terrorist strike and even then they would need to be renewed - in the case of a terrorist strike after 48 hours,” said Premier Bob Carr at Parliament House today.

“The increased police powers mainly involve the power to search. I would argue they are entirely reasonable given the kind of threat that post-Bali we face.”

Mr Carr said while there would be no change to the police’s powers of detention the laws give police “the power to [search] without relating it to a reasonable suspicion. That was the power they enjoyed during the Olympics.”

The powers could be invoked by police with the authorisation of the police minister and would last for up to seven days before a terrorist threat or for 48 hours after a terrorist incident.

The police minister Michael Costa said in a terrorist incident involving a large van, such as the Oklahoma bombing, police would have the power to search all large vans without a warrant.

“If that’s the information that has been received - that a large van is likely to be used on a particular terrorist attack- they could for a period of seven days before or 48 hours after the event have those powers of search.

“Under normal circumstances they would only be able to search the vehicle if they had reasonable suspicion of that specific vehicle.”

The power to search without a ‘‘reasonable suspicion” would apply to persons, homes and cars in an area that police believe has been targeted for attack.

Under the new law, police could release descriptions, photographs or identikits to identify people, cars or areas suspected of planning an attack.

Police could then search anyone or anything who appears to match the description.

Mr Costa said descriptions such as “anyone who attended a religious lecture carried out by a particular person” or “of middle eastern appearance” would not be sufficient to permit widespread searches.

“It would have to go further in the detailing of that person. It may well be ‘a Middle Eastern person with a beard and identification scarring.”

“The powers are extensive but triggered by information that there will be a likely terrorist attack by an individual person or vehicle.”



ASIO: big bad bullies
Andrew Bolt, 21 November 2002, Herald Sun


When will we accept that Muslim extremists have nothing against us and that ASIO has gone way over the top?

ASIO can’t fool me. There is no way in this wide-eyed world Jack Roche is an Islamic terrorist.

It’s absurd that this convert to Islam was charged on Tuesday with plotting to blow up Israel’s missions in Canberra and Sydney.

True, I used to rely on facts before saying something so seemingly silly, but that got me a nasty reputation for being Right wing.

So I decided to listen instead to our human rights and ethnic lobbies, as many shiny-eyed people do, bless their gently beating hearts.

And now I know Roche was set up from the moment ASIO stormed his Perth home three weeks ago.

It was the Australian Council for Civil Liberties that first put me right, denouncing the raids that day on some 20 homes in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne as “a stunt”, and warning it would formally complain.

Then the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties said, worse, it was a campaign of “harassment”.

Gosh, I thought. ASIO is harassing suspected terrorists and their supporters just for publicity. This wickedness must stop.

And soon I was shoulder to well-fed shoulder with Liberty Victoria, which called for the officers involved to be disciplined, and denounced the raids as a violation of freedom of association and of expression.

So what if it turns out the man Jack Roche has been associating with (as he told the Australian) is Hambali, a terrorist boss and al-Qaeda’s point man in Asia. Nor should it matter if the expressions the two men allegedly uttered included phrases not very dissimilar to:

“Jack, I want you to form an al-Qaeda cell in Australia and bomb filthy Jews in Canberra and Sydney.”

IT’S just words, isn’t it? It doesn’t really mean anything, just like I wouldn’t really mean anything if I said: “Our ‘peace’ activists are just terrorists’ dupes.”

Of course, Liberty Victoria was criticising the ASIO raids before it had actually heard of Jack Roche or his alleged bomb plot, but I’m sure it’s heard nothing since to make it revise its opinion. That’s what I love most about the human rights brigade. It is never wrong.

Rather: Even when it’s wrong, it’s right. Nothing will make it change its mind -- certainly not the facts.

Take Kerry Nettle, the NSW Greens senator who had also bagged the ASIO raids. Even after Roche was arrested, Nettle said she stood by her criticism.

“At this stage it’s very hard for us to comment on the value of the raids,” she said on Tuesday. “Certainly there were concerns raised at the time and I would stand by those concerns .

YOU’VE got to admire Nettle’s bull-terrier grip on the seat of ASIO’s polyester pants, no matter what hell has erupted around her.

ASIO raids Muslim homes. Nettle has “concerns” about ASIO.

One of the men raided is alleged to have taken orders from the world’s worst terrorist gang. Nettle has “concerns” about ASIO.

He allegedly plotted to blow up buildings (before, he now claims, changing his mind). Nettle has “concerns” about ASIO.

We’re then warned that terrorists threaten to hit Australia within two months. Nettle has “concerns” about ASIO.

Yesterday we find that some “refugees” who landed here were members of Jemaah Islamiah, the extremist group thought to be behind the Bali bombing. Nettle has “concerns” about ASIO.

Even if Osama bin Laden personally delivered a hotly ticking nuclear bomb to Nettle in her Parliament House office, I imagine she’d just pop it on a chair as she kept telling her charmingly exotic visitor of her “concerns” about ASIO.

That’s why Nettle’s “Hands off Saddam” Greens have joined Labor to block the Howard Government’s bill to give ASIO more power to fight terrorism, to the cheers of the Socialist Alliance, Australian-Iraq Friendship Association, Workers’ Communist Party of Iraq and Greenpeace. Reliable people like that. Patriots.

But much as I admire Nettle’s mettle, it is Roland Jabbour of the Australian Arabic Counc~ who has filled me with true awe.

This is the man who merely glanced at the TV pictures of the houses searched by ASIO and instantly declared these sudden raids were ‘totally unnecessary”. ASIO would be silly if it didn’t now exploit Jabbour’s extraordinary ability to divine a true terrorist.

The next time it must search for mad bombers, it should just walk down a street and have Jabbour tag along, feeling the vibes of each house and shouting: “Cold, warm, warmer…”

So much easier than all these ‘stunts” ASIO stages in looking for confronting things like evidence.

You’ll say I’m a fool to believe our “ peace” mongers when they say the greatest menace to us comes not from terrorists, but from really sinister people like John Howard and his henchmen at ASIO.

And it’s true, I did once believe that ASIO might just be right, and does have information suggesting we have terrorists or their sympathisers right here.

But you have no idea how quickly our “peace” activists can explain away anything that might make you think there really is any terror threat to deal with.

THIS was demonstrated conclusively only last week, when we all saw -- on TV or on the front pages of our papers -- pictures of Amrozi, one of the Bali bombers, waving and smiling while he was being “interrogated” by happy Indonesian police.

Silly you might have thought this was proof that Amrozi was a merciless terrorist whose gang really did like killing Australians, and would do it again unless we stopped them dead.

But that would make you as “judgmental and narrow-minded”, wrote Mark Robson, a Bangkok-based Australian, in the Age, in a letter echoed by many other Asia experts” horrified by our “cultural insensitivity”.

Amrozi’s smile was just ‘a natural Asian response to embarrassment or an awkward situation”, Robson said, and us criticising it showed “why countries react strongly to actions of the Western world”.

You see? Getting cross with smiling Asian killers makes us racists who are just asking to be killed ourselves. How often must the Left say it: They have seen the devil and it is us. Or, to be precise, you.

Still, it was odd when a real Indonesian -- the general heading the Bali bombing investigation -- this week said Amrozi and the police around him were laughing simply because they were happy. As happens with folk everywhere.

There were a lot of funny words spoken by Amrozi,” explained General Made Mangku Pastika. “That is why, in the picture, everybody is so relaxed.”

APPARENTLY one of the funny things Amrozi said, having spotted an Australian watching him, was: Those are the sorts of people that I wanted to kill.” That really killed Pastika’s men. Only figuratively, of course.

Never mind. I’m sure our Left are right, and the true terrorists aren’t really people like Amrozi or fall guys like poor Jack Roche.

To believe anything else just lets true monsters off the hook -- monsters like ASIO and all those Australians so racist they believe there really are people worse than themselves who must be stopped from doing this lovely country harm.

I know, the facts are against me and my new friends in the Left. But how sweet the world now looks, drenched in this pink light.



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