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Bishop wants terror legislation thrown out

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council's acting chairman yesterday welcomed a Senate Committee's caution on new anti-terror legislation, but urged that it be rejected and rewritten rather than amended.

Commenting on recommendations by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee to amend radical new terror legislation proposed by the Government, Bishop Christopher Saunders warned the recommendations do not address all of the concerns raised by the community, given the absence of a grave and immediate terrorist threat to Australia.

"We do not believe that the Government has demonstrated the need for such legislation, which has serious potential to infringe Australia's human rights obligations at international law," he said. "Eminent lawyers and jurists have likened these measures to the apparatus of a police state."

A statement from the Council points out that the Attorney General's Department itself asserts that there is no specific terrorist threat to Australia at present, and that this provides time for more careful thought and drafting.

"We welcome the Legal and Constitutional Committee's recommendations that the definition of terrorism in these measures be more precise, that absolute liability offences be removed, and that a broad and unreviewable power to proscribe organizations not be vested in the Executive."

Bishop Saunders underlined his view that such legislation involves serious limitations on the rights and freedom of people. He said that if it was brought into force in the context of a serious, grave and immediate threat to national security, it should be for a limited period only, and a sunset clause should be provided.

Inquiry into the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 [No.2] and Related Bills
Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee




10 May 2002