Although Australia is far from New York City and Washington DC it has had a significant impact on Australia. We were involve in decades-long insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. The attacks had lasting effects on the legal system at home. Before 9/11 Australia had zero national counter-terrorism laws. We now have 92 of these laws, which totals to over 5,000 pages of powers, rules and offences.
These laws have changed our ideas about criminal responsibility, separated us from our closest friends, and reinforced a troubling culture for secrecy. But are they making us safer?
Australia Unprecedented Power
Australia has the largest collection of anti-terrorism laws in the world. They are vast in scope. They include. Control orders allow courts to impose restrictions on individuals to prevent them from engaging in wrongdoing again. They can impose curfews and limits on internet or phone usage, as well as electronic monitoring. Preventative detention orders allow police to secretly detain individuals for up to 2 weeks to protect evidence or prevent an attack.
All metadata of Australians must be retain for at least two years. Enforcement agencies can also access the data without warrants. The power of the minister for home affairs to deport dual citizenships involved in terrorist acts of terrorism from their Australian citizenship. These schemes, which are often unprecedented in Australian law and surpass our historical wartime power, are not only unique but also quite extraordinary.
Kent Roach, a Toronto University law professor, is one of the most respected experts on counter-terrorism legislation. He has called Australia’s approach hyper legislation. This refers to both the large scope and the number of laws pass, as well as the speed at which they were done.
Each law was approve on average after taking around two and a half days in each chamber. These are generous figures. They count the number of days that bills were introduce to parliament, even if no debates took place. When a new anti-terrorism law was introduce into parliament every 6.7 weeks, the Howard government was the fastest. However, the trend has not stopped.
Two laws that contain extensive, highly controversial surveillance powers were pass through the federal parliament without much scrutiny at the end of last month http://126.96.36.199/.
A Pre-Crime Approach Australia
Australia’s counter-terrorism laws have changed the direction of the criminal justice system. People can be jail for harms that they might cause in the future under wide-ranging offenses, as oppose to harms they caused in the past. This known as a pre-crime approach in criminal justice. Justice Anthony Whealy stated this when he sentenced five terrorist offenders in 2010.
The legislation is intended to be enacted quickly, long before any preparatory acts become dangerous or deadly for the community. This is the most obvious example of the offence of planning or preparing a terrorist act. After the terrorist attack in Auckland, New Zealand will soon have an equivalent offence.
This offense and others can trigger criminal responsibility earlier than the usual criminal law. For example, it is not a crime to plan a murder or robbery. An individual convicted of a terrorist offense can be held in prison for a longer period than their initial sentence. This is based on the threat they pose to the community.
Our Allies Are Even More Difficult
When designing our first anti-terrorism laws, Australia closely followed the United Kingdom. This was in addition to our close political and legal ties. The UK had already passed counter-terrorism laws that were based on emergency powers granted to Northern Ireland prior to 9/11.
Our laws have become more severe over the years, putting us in a different league from the UK and other Five Eyes partners, Canada, the United States and New Zealand. Australia doesn’t have a bill or rights, so tough policies on terror have been well received by Australian voters. This has allowed the government to pass counter-terrorism laws that are not possible elsewhere.
This is evident in the mandatory retention for two years of all Australians’ telecommunications metadata. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that blanket retention of this time period violated the fundamental right to privacy.
Other powers, like preventative detention orders would not be possible in countries that have constitutional protection for human right. According to the 2013 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) review of counter-terrorism legislation, preventative detention orders are more likely to be used in discredited totalitarian governments.
The Secretive, Most Secretive Democracy In The World
The New York Times reported that the federal police raid on ABC Headquarters in 2019 resulted in Australia being the most secretive democracy in the world. These high levels of secrecy are enable and enshrine by Australia’s anti-terrorism laws. It is illegal to disclose basic information about the counter-terrorism powers use or the fact that they were use.
The 2018 overhaul espionage laws make it a crime for anyone to possess or obtain national security information that would made accessible to a foreign government, company or organization (including publication in the media). The definition of national safety is extremely broad and includes everything about Australia’s economic and political relations with other countries.
Journalists and whistle blowers who are acting in the public interest face serious risks from these offences. These offences may also be use to bring down the integrity of open justice and the right for a fair trial.