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Rudd terrorism law reform no better than Howard’s: Witnesses

Media Release
Scott Ludlam 22 Sep 2009

At a hearing into an Australian Greens’ Bill to repeal aspects of John Howard’s terrorism laws  in Sydney today, witnesses have repeatedly warned against the Rudd Government’s proposed approach to terrorism law reform.

Representatives of the Australian Press Council, Law Council and human rights lawyers have told the Senate Inquiry that they prefer the Greens’ Bill rather than the Federal Government’s proposals for terrorism law reform.

“Highly credible witnesses today are saying that they prefer the Greens’ Bill,” Greens’ Legal Affairs Spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said.

“It was clearly established through numerous cases such as the quashed conviction and acquittal of Jack Thomas, the dismissal of the Al-Haque case and the Haneef debacle, Howard’s terror laws severely eroded civil liberties and are in dire need of fixing.

“However, the Attorney-General’s discussion paper released last month indicates that the Rudd Government does not plan adequately address the erosion of human rights begun seven years ago under John Howard.

“For example, it is proposed that the Australian Federal Police will have the right to enter premises without a warrant, without stating clearly the circumstances under which this would be allowed.

“The Greens are concerned about the use of dangerously broad and vague phrases that could be used to inhumane and undemocratic effect, such as the offence bizarrely listed as ‘reckless possession of a thing’.

“We need to address restrictions on freedom of expression and association and protect the principle of fair and open trials.

“The Greens’ Anti-Terrorism Laws Reform Bill 2009 would remove these in favour of the tried-and-tested criminal laws and procedures that Australia relied on prior to 2001 to prosecute and penalise terrorism-type actions,” Senator Ludlam continued. 

“We note that the Government released its paper prior to the counter-terrorism white paper and before the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Laws has been appointed. 

“The Greens believe that some of these laws are so clearly extreme, repugnant and redundant that they could be abolished, prior to the long-awaited independent reviewer of terrorism laws.  

“But instead of reforming these laws, the Government appears intent on largely continuing and in cases deepening the erosion of civil liberties that Howard began seven years earlier.”

Notes to editors:
Introduced to the Senate in June, Senator Ludlam's Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and Second Reading Speech may be read here:
http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fbillhome%2Fs719%22
The terms of the Senate Inquiry into the Bill, and submissions, may be viewed here:
http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/anti_terrorism/index.htm

For more information or media enquiries please call Eloise Dortch on 0415 507 763

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