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Council advises remaining alert to new terrorism legislation

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has regretted the passing of the Government's controversial ASIO Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill.

"The Council urges citizens and community leaders to remain alert to its implementation given that the new laws must be reviewed under a three-year sunset clause and a Parliamentary review after 30 months," advised a statement released yesterday.

The legislation to increase the powers of ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) will come into effect over the next two weeks.

Following last week's passing of the legislation, Council members voiced significant concerns at a meeting last weekend.

They recognised that the politicians' drive to address possible national security risks is driven by a concern for the common good of the community. But they warned that ASIO's new powers are likely to "undermine fundamental rights and the rule of law that all Australians enjoy and take for granted".

"Under common law, no Australian can be detained by police without charges being laid," said Chairman Bishop Christopher Saunders. "Under the new laws, people who are not even suspected of having committed a crime but are simply suspected of having information that may be helpful to ASIO can be detained, held without charge for up to seven days and interrogated for eight hours at a time."

The ACSJC holds fears for people as young as 16 with little knowledge of their legal rights who could be removed from their homes and questioned continuously for eight hours at a time. The Council said that

The use of previous ASIO powers in raids that have involved armed police forcing their way into family homes, of course raises concerns that the new powers to detain might be unnecessarily targeted towards particular cultural minorities within the broader community.

Australian Catholic Social Justice Council

Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
National Security website
ASIO Bill opposed by ACSJC (13/6/03)
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 (
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 [No.2]

4 Jul 2003