more on NSW's Terror laws and the Australian Labor Party
k_bullimore at hotmail.com
Fri Nov 29 13:47:03 MST 2002
Article by Margo Kingston from the Sydney Morning Herald on the NSW's ALP's
new proposed "anti-terror" laws and the free reign it will give to Michael
Costa, the NSW ALP police minister. Kingston, a self declared "leftie" from
way back, was a long time member of the ALP, but is now a member of the
Be warned; Carr's terror law is an abuse of power
By Margo Kingston, Sydney Morning Herald
November 29 2002
Unaccountable power always produces abuse of power.
Abuse of power means innocent people get hurt. It means
people lose more trust in the integrity and trust
their government, and that they come to fear it instead.
deliberate or careless fostering of fear within a fearful
community facing a terrible threat to its collective
the antithesis of leadership, and a recipe for the
of our democracy.
We live in a time of national crisis, when our safety is
threatened by terrorist attacks without warning. Often the
instinct of government in such circumstances is to grant
more power and control over us and to sweep away the
checks and balances which keep government honest. There
are three main constraints on this.
The first is the official opposition. The second is the
the courts - the arbiter of disputes between citizens and
State - to ensure that the State apparatus acts within the
powers granted to it by the people through the parliament.
The third is open, public discussion on the merits of
increasing state power and the accountability expected for
Bob Carr released his Terrorism (Police Powers) Bill 2002
last week. It is a profoundly shocking document. It lets
people of NSW down, it betrays our democracy, and it lays
the foundation for State terror on innocent citizens.
Bob Carr solemnly asserts that he is deeply committed to
freedoms and liberties. If this is so, I ask: Why do you
the police minister from any accountability whatsoever - by
the courts or anyone else - for the exercise by your police
minister of the new powers you want to give him? If you
committed to the protection of our civil liberties while
our safety from terrorist attacks, wouldn't you want
oversight? Wouldn't you want a citizen who believed he was
wronged the right to test the validity of Mr Costa's
Wouldn't you want to be sure that the new police powers you
insist are now necessary are properly exercised, and not
Remember, this bill gives any police minister, at any time
the future, these powers. This is a fundamental structural
change in the relationship between the citizen and the
Neither Australia or NSW has a bill of rights. When rights
liberties are removed in NSW, there is no way back.
Mr Carr wants to give the police minister, for now the
confrontational, controversial and openly divisive Michael
Costa, the responsibility for authorising what are, in
serial states of emergency. Target areas, people, and
can be declared, allowing police untrammelled power to
break into your home or vehicle and search it, and to frisk
strip search you. Giving any minister this power, let alone
with Michael Costa's record, is too awesome to also give
total immunity from scrutiny. It's called absolute power.
Section 13 of Mr Carr's bill states: "An authorisation (and
decision of the Police Minister under this part with
the authorisation) may not be challenged, reviewed, quashed
or called into question on any grounds whatsoever before
court, tribunal, body or person in any legal proceedings,
restrained, removed, or otherwise affected by proceedings
the nature of prohibition or mandamus."
There it is, in black and white. Michael Costa can, quite
literally, do what he likes. You have no redress. Mr Carr
knocked out the judiciary as a check on power. What of the
I spoke to the shadow police minister, Andrew Tink, today.
said he would not "go down the road" of commenting on Mr
Costa's record as police minister, or his actions regarding
protesters against the WTO two weeks ago. He opposed
requiring an independent person to oversee the police. "In
terrorist situation there has to be someone exercising the
powers.The police minister is the logical office holder to
it," he said.
His only amendment in this regard will be to make the
minister subject to the jurisdiction of the Independent
Commission Against Corruption. He is otherwise happy with
Mr Costa's immunity from accountability. He said the
opposition had not decided whether or not to pass the bill
his amendment failed.
Not only does Mr Carr want unaccountable police powers put
in place, he doesn't want to give the public the right to
what's happening under them. He wants secrecy, too,
another subversion of a key mechanism to maintain our
democracy, that of transparency and public debate.
There is no requirement under the bill to report to
or the people on what authorisations have occurred, what
they involved, and the results of them. Mr Carr's lack of
faith is also proved by the fact that he wants the bill
through parliament next week without ANY inquiry to allow
public discussion and input, and with no sunset clause.
Given that emergency powers need to be rushed through,
wouldn't a Premier deeply committed to our liberties and
freedoms order an immediate parliamentary or independent
inquiry to report back so considered legislation could be
passed to replace the emergency laws?
No. Mr Carr wants these police-state powers to remain on
the books indefinitely. I asked Mr Tink why the opposition
would let the bill pass without a sunset clause to allow an
inquiry. "Because I believe we face an emergency terrorist
threat," he replied. I suggested that given this, there was
reason not to pass the bill as a temporary measure now,
a sunset clause. He said he was happy with section 36. It
says: "The minister is to review this Act to determine
the policy objectives of the Act remain valid and whether
terms of the Act remain appropriate for securing those
objectives". He is to table a report within a year of each
So, the police minister reviews himself and reports to
parliament what he reckons.
Mr Tink believes this to be an appropriate way of ensuring
that these emergency powers don't stay on the books at the
The opposition has bowed out of its democratic
We live in dangerous, frightening times. Emotions are high,
prejudices aflame. There is deep division within our
on the correct approach to take to win the war on terror.
suspension of the citizen's protection against abuse of
power may be necessary, but it is fraught with terrible
dangers to the way of life we are fighting to preserve.
There are several, very basic ways to improve Mr Carr's
to ensure that our personal safety is protected without
trashing our rights with impunity. The opposition, it
too frightened to put them up or mount the case for them in
the current climate. The lack of leadership in NSW has
been more obvious, or more dangerous for us all.
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