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New anti-terror laws are undemocratic

November 19, 2011
Sunday, August 9, 2009 – 10:00
By Jay Fletcher & Tim Dobson

On August 4, more than 400 police, including the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, staged a pre-dawn raid on 19 homes across Melbourne. The raid was carried out under the federal government’s “anti-terrorism laws” — extreme and repressive legislation created by the previous Howard government.

The attacks came after recent noises from the federal ALP government about the need to expand the current laws. Taking advantage of widespread fear and nationalism whipped up by the media, the government intends to make its draconian “terrorism” laws even more severe and entrenched.

The planned new laws also specifically target young people.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland explained the new laws target “those who try to incite violence among young people based on race or religion”, ABC Radio said on July 29.

McClelland addressed the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on July 21 to outline the proposed additions to the law. Without revealing the full extent the changes, he said they included “prosecuting those who attempt to induce others, including vulnerable youths, to commit acts of politically-motivated violence”.

McClelland went further on August 8, telling ABC Radio’s AM the government was “considering ways to counter radicalism among young people in Australia”.

This included finding “the best ways” to stop young people joining “terrorist organisations” and introducing a new system for banning such organisations.
The five men charged are all Australian citizens. All are in their 20s.

McClelland and the government dishonestly argue the new laws are about stopping discrimination on racial or religious grounds and the “radicalisation” of young people to incite violence. In fact, the laws will only entrench discrimination.

Racial or religious-based violence is already illegal under existing criminal law. There are no grounds to make a new law specifically prohibiting young people any more than there are grounds for a law specifically prohibiting 40-year-olds, or aged pensioners.

The racism behind the new laws was made stunningly clear on July 21 when McClelland said: “I see centres for Islamic Studies at tertiary institutions as having a particular responsibility in this area.”

So the “particular responsibility” of “identifying extremists” rests on Islamic communities at universities. By implication, academics and professors should “dob in” students for their views or activities.

Universities should be a place for the free exchange of ideas. However, with the knowledge that their university can and will report them to authorities for “extreme” views or “suspicious” activity, less people will speak their minds.

University administrations have already proved themselves all too willing to hand over confidential student information when authorities demand it.

In 2007, in the lead-up to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, the University of Technology, the University of Sydney and the University of Wollongong were revealed to have handed over student files to the Australian Federal Police and NSW police.

Similarly, the “anti-terror hotline”, created to collect information about “suspicious activity”, was used against anti-war activists and student organisers, including the then Wollongong student union president and Resistance member Jess Moore in 2006.

In reality, the “anti-terror” laws are not concerned with protecting citizens or national security. These are excuses to radically expand the powers of police and secret service agencies, which are primed to be used in times of political dissent and civil protest.

In the lead-up to the mass protests in Sydney against APEC in 2007, and during the Australian visit of warmonger and then US president George Bush, the terrorism laws were used as a model for huge expansion of NSW police powers. These were used consistently to harass protest organisers and participants.

Under these laws, the police were able to detain anyone secretly and without charge. The purpose was to threaten and intimidate activists and discourage people from joining the protests.

The government and security forces habitually confuse and intertwine the words “protester” and “terrorist”. It’s about stopping people from expressing dissent.

The expansion of these anti-democratic laws relies on racism and nationalism, encouraged by media hysteria. But its use does not stop at the Muslim community or political activism.

Once anti-democratic laws are passed on a temporary basis, it is only a short step for the government to make them permanent.

Aspects of the “extraordinary and temporary” police powers after APEC — such as lock-downs, extensive stop-and-search powers for police and the “excluded persons” lists — have been kept by the state government.

Similarly, anti-bikie laws introduced by the NSW government after several violent incidents earlier this year are only models for expanding the laws to the entire population.

Prominent in the crackdown is a restriction on the people targeted individuals can associate with.

Astoundingly, the law prohibits bikies associating in groups of more than three.
The “anti-terror” laws were created in the name of the “war on terror”, a US-led war drive against Iraq and Afghanistan.

Resistance will continue to organise and fight against every unjust war and every attack on civil liberties the government throws at us. The Australian government should withdraw all troops from Afghanistan immediately and scrap the anti-terror laws and ASIO.

From GLW issue 806

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