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A new national regime

Webdiary Deputy Editor Kerri Browne: Below is a transcript of Prime Minister John Howard's latest announcement on counter-terrorism measures. The transcript is available via the PM's Newsroom.



In anticipation of the special Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on counter-terrorism to be held on 27 September, I announce a number of proposals to further strengthen Australia’s counter-terrorism laws. These proposals are designed to enable us to better deter, prevent, detect and prosecute acts of terrorism.

Following the terrorist attacks on the London transport system in July, law enforcement and security agencies were asked to examine whether further legislative reforms could be made that would enable Australia to better respond to the threat of terrorism.

Consistent with the Government’s comprehensive response to the post-11 September security environment, the proposed legislation is a combination of best practice from overseas and innovative solutions that respond to Australia’s security needs.

Some of those amendments – such as enhanced use of closed circuit television – draw directly from the experience and observations of the Australian Federal Police, state police and the officials from the Department of Transport and Regional Services who travelled to London after the bombing.

Other amendments such as modernising the existing sedition offences target those inciting violence against the community.   

The Government will grant increased powers to law enforcement and security agencies to enhance their capacity to prevent attacks. Importantly, control orders will be available to our law enforcement agencies in circumstances where a person might pose a risk to the community but cannot be contained or detained under existing legislation.

Law enforcement agencies have advised the Government that the introduction of a regime allowing preventative detention during terrorist situations might be critical in preventing an escalation of the incident or subsequent attacks. Similar powers have been available to police in the United Kingdom for some time.

Accordingly, I will seek the agreement of State and Territory leaders at our special COAG meeting to introduce a new national regime, similar to that applying in the United Kingdom, allowing for preventative detention in a terrorism situation. Such a scheme would require the States and Territories to enact legislation complementing the work of the Commonwealth and I will be seeking their agreement to do this as a matter of priority.

In addition, I will call on the States to extend police powers at transport hubs and places of mass gatherings outside Commonwealth jurisdiction, and to consider under what circumstances they would support the use of random baggage searches.

While we have been fortunate not to suffer a terrorist attack on our soil, Australians have been the victims of attack overseas and Australia itself has been a target for terrorists in the past.

Governments cannot afford to be complacent. Our terrorism laws have so far proven to be effective, resulting in the arrest and conviction of a number of people here in Australia. However terrorists have demonstrated that they are innovative and determined and we have to make sure our laws stay one step ahead of them.

The reforms I have announced today will ensure Australia’s counter-terrorism legislative regime remains at the forefront of international efforts to counter the global threat of terrorism.

I am releasing the details of our proposal at this time to allow detailed work with State and Territory officials to commence as soon as possible and to give State and Territory leaders ample opportunity to consider the proposals in advance of the COAG meeting on 27 September.

The special COAG meeting will be an opportunity for State and Territory leaders to demonstrate their commitment to working cooperatively with the Commonwealth on national security. I look forward to a continuation of our productive relationship with the States and Territories in co-operatively fighting counter-terrorism.

* Details about the proposals are attached

8 September 2005

Counter-Terrorism Laws Strengthened

The terrorist attacks on the London transport system in July have raised new issues for Australia and highlighted the need for further amendments to our laws. The Government has comprehensively reviewed our existing laws and will move quickly to implement the following new regimes:

1. Control orders

A new regime to allow the AFP to seek, from a court, 12-month control orders on people who pose a terrorist risk to the community. These would be similar to apprehended violence orders but would allow stricter conditions to be imposed on a person such as tracking devices, travel and association restrictions. The Government will be conferring with the States and Territories about the details and administration of the orders.

2. Preventative Detention

A new preventative detention regime that allows detention for up to 48 hours in a terrorism situation. Preventative detention is to be contrasted with ASIO and police detention for the purposes of questioning which is limited by the intelligence available to allow proper questioning. As is the case in the UK, the focus of preventative detention is primarily about stopping further attacks and the destruction of evidence. At the 27 September COAG meeting, States and Territories will be asked to provide for longer detention periods, similar to those available in the UK which allow for up to 14 days detention, because there are constitutional restrictions on the capacity of the Australian Government to provide for this type of detention.

3.  Notice to produce

A new notice to produce regime to facilitate lawful AFP requests for information that will assist with the investigation of terrorism and other serious offences.

4.  Access to passenger information

Provide access to airline passenger information for ASIO and the AFP.

5. Stop, question and search powers

Extend stop, question and search powers for the AFP where there are reasonable grounds that a person might have just committed, might be committing, or might be about to commit a terrorism offence.

6. Exploring with the States and Territories about extending these powers to police at transport hubs and other places of mass gatherings as well as the use of random baggage searches and a National Code of Practice for Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Systems for the Mass Passenger Transport Sector.

7.  ASIO warrant regime

ASIO’s special powers warrant regime is being refined to:

  • clarify the definition of 'electronic equipment', and allow for entry onto premises, in the computer access warrant provisions
  • extend the validity of search warrants from 28 days to 3 months
  • extend the validity of mail and delivery service warrants from 90 days to 6 months
  • amend the search warrant provisions to provide that material may be removed and retained for such time as is reasonable "for the purposes of security".

8. Strengthening existing offences and creating new offences

Create new offences for:

  • leaving baggage unattended within the airport precinct, and
  • inciting violence against the community to replace the existing sedition offence, to address problems with those who communicate inciting messages directed against other groups within our community, including against Australia’s forces overseas and in support of Australia’s enemies. This is consistent with the Gibbs Committee in its Review of Commonwealth Criminal Law in 1991 which recommended that the sedition offence should be updated and simplified and the maximum penalty increased from 3 to 7 years imprisonment.

9. Strengthen existing offences for financing of terrorism, providing false or misleading information under an ASIO questioning warrant and for threatening aviation security.

10.  Terrorism offences in the Criminal Code will be clarified and the criteria for listing terrorist organisations extended to cover organisations that advocate terrorism. This will be another issue that will be discussed with the States and Territories.

11. Citizenship

We will continue to work on visa and citizenship security and character checking processes but will move immediately to strengthen our citizenship provisions including:

  • extending the waiting period in order to obtain citizenship by 12 months to three years,
  • security checking of citizenship applications, so that citizenship applications can be refused on security grounds; and
  • strengthening the deprivation of citizenship provisions relating to serious criminal offences to include offences committed in the period between approval of an application and acquisition of citizenship.

12.  Terrorist financing

Improve our terrorism financing regime to better implement criminalising financing of terrorism, alternative remittance dealers, wire transfers and cash couriers. The Government will investigate with the States and Territories better ways to ensure charities are not misused to channel funds to terrorists.



08 September 2005

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re: A new national regime

Our previous soft, feel good, laws have got us into the mess that we now have. These will go part of the way to claw back what should have been the norm in the first place.

I still await when those who preach hate (regardless of religion) are packed up and sent back from where they came.

re: A new national regime

So the new proposals do not infringe upon the liberty of the subject, Mr Howard? Pardon me, your royal slip is showing: we are not subjects, we are citizens.

re: A new national regime

J Wilshaw, So, if the persons that are preaching hate come from here, what do we do with them?

re: A new national regime

Didn't we all see this coming a month ago? It seems nowadays that as soon as you consider the future, you find out it's already happened. Look at the powers being given to the Victorian police.

re: A new national regime

"Our previous soft, feel good, laws have got us into the mess that we now have." What mess are we now in J.Wilshaw ?

Which laws do you regard as soft ?

re: A new national regime

J Wilshaw, Send the preachers of hate back where they came from?

If that means John Howard has to go back to Earlwood, I'm sorry, I can't agree. It's too close to where I live.

re: A new national regime

Excellent news. Couldn't come soon enough.

re: A new national regime

J Wilshaw can you provide some specific examples please?

Which laws are the problem?
In which states?
What behaviour took place that was the problem?
How will these laws help?

I can't think of any incidents involving left packages for example, though I imagine the proposed financing legislation will help limit funding to both terrorists and more helpfully (as it is a much bigger danger) general crime.

re: A new national regime

If anyone quotes Martin Niemoller I'll scream.

re: A new national regime

Hmm, do you reckon that the "reasonable grounds that a person might have just committed, might be committing, or might be about to commit a terrorism offence" will be interpreted in the same way the Immigration Department interpret their reasonable grounds to believe a person is not legally in Australia??

Some of these seem annoying but relatively harmless such as number 11 (though what use they will be in stopping terrorism I can't see).

Others will probably be useful - though I guess the airlines will have to come up with some place for passengers to leave their stuff while they go to the toilet ...

But the ones that worry me are 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7 - of course we need to see the exact legislation, but it seems that none of these are in response to any real incidents or evidence that they might be of use.

Can anyone help out here? Is there any evidence that the UK preventative detention laws were useful during the London bombings for example?

re: A new national regime

So J Wilshaw, to where would one send Pat Robertson should your "send 'em back where they came from" law apply in the US?

re: A new national regime

Kerri, is this fair dinkum? It just seems too surreal and somewhat practical-joke-like.

ed Kerri: the date says it all, Phil. It ain't April 1st.

re: A new national regime

The twin pygmies standing together announcing turning Australia into a police state looked like the two amigos standing together and announcing "we will decide who comes to Australia and the circumstances in which they come".

That was bull from whoa to go and so is the need for these ridiculous new laws.

Nothing has happened in Australia.

Jay Wilshaw, those hate mongers you want deported - who are they?

Howard and his cronies are the only ones who have incited hatred in this country in the last four years and they went and blew up two countries on that hatred.

re: A new national regime

What terrorism is the Lying Tyrant on about now? Is it the kind of terrorism that Downer conveniently forgot to tell us was imminent in Bali on 12 October 2002, just when many footy clubs were having their end of season beano’s and shortly after the anti-war demonstrations in Australia, demonstrations that were gathering more and more momentum which culminated in the massive rallies over the weekend of 16 February 2003, despite the bombings that Howard, Downer and co., thought might turn around public opinion in favour of an attack on Iraq? Is it that sort of ‘green flag terrorism’ that the Lying Tyrant is on about? Or is he going on about something more mythical than that? Perhaps the Australian branch of al Qaeda headquartered in some Sydney suburban mosque or maybe our own ‘home-grown’ Aussie-born martyrs or even Anglospherian converts to radical Islam.

Are these latest measures this week’s dose of the ‘terror’ drug that’s supposed to feed our addiction to ‘fear’? (Remember how last week we needed to keep an eye out for those road petrol tankers that were careering toward the crowded inner city petrol stations and the week before that we really needed to be wary of those Middle Eastern looking ‘homeless’ people that were sussing out their next targets?)

My cynicism aside, cannot anyone see what is going on here? The slow, remorseless erosion of basic civil rights? Does nobody see any parallels or similarities to some aspects of the ‘Enabling Act’ of March 1933 in Germany? Of course, Howard wouldn’t bring on anything as abrupt as the ‘Enabling Act’ per se but he’s trying it on very, very slowly and insidiously none the less in the hope that no one actually notices.

Of course, most of us aren’t extremist Muslims so we don’t need to worry, do we. Do we? Of course, J.‘I-still-await-when-those-who-preach-hate-(regardless-of-religion)-are-packed- up-and-sent-back-from-where-they-came’ Wilshaw will no doubt be polishing up the old model rocket tonight!

re: A new national regime

I don't see any safeguards in this legislation to protect citizens from authorities abusing these powers. When it states "those who communicate inciting messages directed against other groups within our community", could this apply to a TV show like Today Tonight and their recent program that beat-up some statements that were made by some Islamic youths about not integrating?.

Possibly it will become an offence to actually think a certain way and this legislation could completely inhibit the media who will no longer be able to present the beliefs of others in the community if they appear to be attacking other groups.

re: A new national regime

I note that one of the PM's favourite terms of contempt is "passing strange".

Without wanting to appear paranoid, I do wonder if many Australians feel the same as the PM when contemplating the timing of his security announcement, hot on the heels of what is clearly a scandal of monumental proportions with respect to Telstra? What particular issue or event prompted this announcement?

re: A new national regime

OK, so the "terrorism" bogeyman gets another run from Howard J.

What do you think he's trying to stop us thinking about this time? Telstra, IR, the looming federal leadership bloodbath, the fascist takeover of the NSW Liberals perhaps?

Does anybody else get the feeling that the Federal Government is getting the wobbles? Not much seems to be going according to the script at the moment.

re: A new national regime

Amazing! Howard puts in a blitheringly inept performance on the ABC, has to defend himself today that he hasn’t misled the Australian public over Telstra in any way shape or form, as its share price keeps dropping, and waddya know, out from the closet comes Fridge Magnet Man to grab the headlines and divert the collective bleating sheep's attention away from his self manufactured crisis and onto TA DA!, the terrorism bogeyman.

Purely coincidental of course.

A "ridiculous proposition" as he put it.

Total bullshit and utterly predictable is how I'd describe it.

re: A new national regime

I'm going to embarrass myself here, but to tell this anecdote it's necessary to confess having had a love of accordions and pinball machines. Bear with me…

I'd left my squeezebox in its case near the counter of the "Pinnie Parlour" and gone to play a couple of games. Shortly a policeman was calling out agitatedly "Does anyone own this case?" To my affirmative response he asked it's contents, and was told of the accordion. "Christ! he said, "I thought it was a bomb!"

That was twenty years ago.

If members of the constabulary were being so vigilant at that time, it could be guessed that similar problems to those we face today were as prevalent then as now.

That being the "case", what makes it so suddenly necessary to implement tough laws?

A cynic might consider as a catalyst the imminent arrival to our shore of Donald Rumsfeld and Condaleeza Rice. Be certain there will be no margin for error in security measures when the White House comes Down Under.

re: A new national regime

Considering that this is the same "team" that brought you the worst abuses of human and citizen rights with DIMIA, mandatory detention and who repeatedly lie, cheat, and mislead the Australian public we're not exactly starting off from a great foundation that we should all trust them to get this right.

Given the express strategy of Al Qaeda to use Westerners' liberal laws against themselves (see earlier posts in Webdiary for documentation) I think we do need to look at these issues very carefully BUT as Beatty said tonight on Lateline - there must be appropriate, and I would say, iron-clad, checks and balances to ensure that abuses do not occur and mistakes do not occur... and frankly, with this mob's track record that is asking one helluva lot.

Very difficult territory.

re: A new national regime

Look, it's quite simple really - it's time to go back to the White Australia Policy. The first thing we do is deport all the Methodists. Then we get rid of all the people who don't look like me ... then ...well you know who you are - just leave.

re: A new national regime

Margo, the proposed increase powers of government agencies for anti-terrorist activities, at the expense of civil liberties, is a dreadful development for our democracy.

All the evidence to hand indicates that the key to success in pursuing terrorism within our nation is through the combination of law enforcement and intelligence. The laws and powers are sufficient for the pursuit of this sort of serious crime.

The government's proposed changes are unnecessary and should not be given on the basis of "trust" or "hope". The government is out of the first and the second is not a method.

re: A new national regime

Very sensible and reasonable proposals that will be accepted by the Australian public as such. The world has changed in many areas even if many here have not caught up.

The Australian population will gain the protection that they desire. The usual suspects will gain the righteous indignation that they crave.

A win win situation in any person's language.

re: A new national regime

More wag the dog legislation from Australia's favourite wedge politician. Any bets that part of the Federal Election spin will be: "I always go the extra inch. Thanks to my tough new laws there have been no terrorist attacks in Oz." Mr Howard has fallen for the trap of believing his own terrorist bullshit. It'll be interesting to see if his charisma will persuade anyone else to go along with his latest paternalistic fantasy.

These laws are typical of the PM's asinine big stick approach to everything. Watch for disgruntled citizens sparking terrorist alerts on a daily basis.

re: A new national regime

Jay White, "The world has changed in many areas even if many here have not caught up."

Please explain how you think the world has changed.

If you are referring to terrorism, please provide data showing the frequency of terrorist attacks in the four years before the Sept 11 '01 incidents and the four years since.

An account of other ways you think the world has changed would be appreciated.

In regard to proposed new anti-terrorism laws in Oz, how many times have the current laws been invoked? How many prosecutions?

re: A new national regime

Howard has used the word "regime" several times in his preamble and in the body of the proposed changes. That really frightens me.

I immediately think of jackbooted thugs in full length leather coats with the officer in charge always wearing non reflective spectacles. Most of us have see historical re-enactments of the war years when Hitler, the SS with the Gestapo regularly rounding up people in the dead of night on suspicion of "crimes against the state".

Maybe all that sounds a bit melodramatic, but there are people still alive today who lived and survived that "regime".

One of your regular contributors (my apologies to that person for forgetting your name) commented on the "banality of evil". It is now staring us in the face.

God help us all if Howard is not stopped.

re: A new national regime

Anjad Mehboob, chief executive of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, believes it is a step backwards for Australia and the Muslim community.

"We feel that this is going to drive people who might be contemplating acts of violence and terrorism underground," he said.

Well if he does not like the laws here, they can always pack up and go back to where they came from. There is plenty of work in the bomb factories in Iraq.

re: A new national regime

Jay White reckons: “Very sensible and reasonable proposals that will be accepted by the Australian public as such.” Really? Unfortunately it’s not a matter of acceptance, it’s already fait accompli! That’s the point – we had no CHOICE but to ‘accept’ as our democracy and rights are whittled away even further.

Jay White should read carefully a couple of articles that are in the SMH this morning. This one and this.

Jay White goes on: “The Australian population will gain the protection that they desire.” What utter crap. First, protection from what? Secondly, do you really believe that these laws are going to stop a determined attack even if there were real ‘terrorists’ around that wanted to attack us? The only protection Australians need is from fear-mongers like Jay White and the rest of the paranoid right that are trying to foist their anti-Muslim Judeo-Christian extremism on to the Anglospherian world.

re: A new national regime

Damian Lataan: "do you really believe that these laws are going to stop a determined attack even if there were real ‘terrorists’ around that wanted to attack us?"

Damian, do you lock the doors and windows of your house when you go out? Or do you leave them unlocked and open? After all locked doors aren't going to prevent a determined burglar.

Do you leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition when you park it? After all we all know a locked car won't prevent a determined car thief.

The answer is of course not because we all know that if we were all to leave our doors, windows and cars unlocked there'd be a lot more home burglaries and stolen cars.

re: A new national regime

Jay White, this poll in the SMH puts paid to your idiotic notion that these laws “…will be accepted by the Australian public.”

re: A new national regime

I think you’ve missed my point, Alfred Stimoli. I’m not talking about someone stealing your telly and video or even your car. I’m talking about a regime that is insidiously stealing your democratic rights by using the age old confidence trick of ‘fear’ – exactly the same tricks that Hitler used to gain dictatorial control of Germany. Think it can’t happen? Think again. Ask any German in 1930 if they thought they would ever lose their right to democracy.

I appreciate your analogies may be well intentioned but they are completely misguided.

re: A new national regime

I am by no means an expert in national security but it seems to me that common sense would indicate that many of these laws are plain old useless.

Control orders: Seeing as the AFP would have to have grounds to seek a control order from the court I question how useful this would be. By all accounts the London Bombers blended in perfectly well with mainstream society, thus I suspect that were these laws in place prior to said bombings, the London bombers would be walking around tracking device free.

Preventative Detention: From what I have heard ASIO has yet to use its 7 day detention powers. If this is the case one wonders why the AFP need 14 days.

Random Bag Searches: If I am a London-style suicide bomber and somebody stops to randomly search my bag, I am simply going to blow my bag up in his face.

Making leaving baggage unattended an offence: Blowing people up is also an offence. I doubt anyone planning to perpetrate that crime, will be at all bothered by the fact that leaving his bomb unattended at the airport is also an offence. Seems like it will inconvenience travellers more than terrorists.

Citizenship: What is it about a permanent resident that prevents him from detonating explosives on trains?

Now love him or hate him John Howard is not stupid and has probably thought of all these things. So why has he brought them in? The answer is that he has lost control. He has lost control of Telstra, he has lost control of the NSW branch of his own party and he has lost control of the agenda. Unsurprisingly he wants control of the agenda back, so he has introduced these laws knowing they will get a reaction.

The initial announcement will create headlines, as will the inevitable denouncement from civil liberties groups. A few of the neo-con commentators who seem to think that anything War on Terror related is the best thing since sliced bread will be all over it and will proceed to wax lyrical about the glory of the Government in the back pages of newspapers. And all the while Telstra headlines become all together more scarce.

re: A new national regime

Col Everton, what a repulsive thing to say. Most of the Muslims in Australia are from Turkey and Lebanon, why should they go and work in bomb factories in Iraq?

Most of them were born here so why should they go and live elsewhere?

We blew up two Muslim countries, murdered tens of thousands, completely destroyed their infrastructure and destroyed their ways of life. Maybe they might want us to piss off out of their countries with our violence and decadence.

To make our streets safe there is only one thing we can do.

Take all the bloody cars, buses, trucks and trains and trams off and bring back the horse and cart.

Ban smoking, booze and other drugs, thus reducing the possibility of psychosis.

Go and take a cold shower for a week or two Col. It makes me sick, the constant stream of racism against Muslims here when is it we who are making their lives miserable not the other way around.

Muslims have been in Australia for over 160 years, what the hell is all this whining about from stupid white men?

During my lifetime I have waited patiently for the reds under beds, the Asian invasion, the hordes of the yellow peril, nuclear wars and so on.

So far it is only us doing the invading and killing.

re: A new national regime

re: A new national regime

Of course the AFP or ASIO would never think to abuse those powers would they? Nor would those same departments be open to pressure from our politicians to cover up or lie to protect themselves.

re: A new national regime

J Wilshaw seems to have evaporated along with the mess he illuded(sic) to.

re: A new national regime

I must say I am guilty here of a bit of baiting. I saw the subject, and though oh, the usual suspects will be ranting on about this one, I might as well stir em up…

Jolanda, We lock em up here. If they are not Australian Citizens then we deport them, if they have become Australian citizens then we revoke their citizenship and deport them

Michael, Pat Robertson… I don't follow your point. Are you talking about the US religious broadcaster?

Michelle, the laws (or lack thereof) that I refer to are those which allow people to broadcast that it is OK to blow up civilians with bombs, and we can do nothing about it until they actually do it. A specific example is a bookshop in Sydney selling material which teaches young people to worship Osama Bin laden, sells books preaching Jihad and suicide bombings. Our laws have slowly got more and more politically correct. We allow people into Australia that don’t want to assimilate, don’t want to respect our way of life and don’t want to live as part of our multi cultural society. Another example.

Michel, see above. When an open and free society like Australia is forced to invoke laws like these to protect its citizens, I call that a mess.

Marilyn, I don’t know why I bother responding to you, but here goes:
“Howard and his cronies are the only ones who have incited hatred in this country in the last four years and they went and blew up two countries on that hatred.”

I would remind you Marilyn that September 11 was BEFORE we invaded two countries. See Marilyn what you loopy lefties don’t understand is that when a free nation is attacked ( 9/11, Bali, Madrid, London) they generally have a dig back.

Oh and also see the link above re: Howard being the only one who has incited hatred..

“Nothing has happened in Australia”

Nothing had happened in London either, so do we wait until they blow up the Opera House then implement the laws, or try to stop it. Or would you prefer we allow clerics to continue to preach hate to young kids so they grow up to be radicals.

And finally Damien, the same SMH poll section said Mark Latham will win the election, and Paul Keating is their favourite PM of all time... Yeah, we will pay lots of attention to this one.

re: A new national regime

In political science professor Andrea Scheller's 2001 paper on democratic consolidation, the concepts that were considered in relation to regime survival in Latin America can be applied to John Howard's methodology in creating his personal legacy.

The thrust of the argument was that for a democracy to be deemed sufficiently culturally entrenched to survive indefinitely it would need to demonstrate the ability to endure significant levels of attack. This line of reasoning is not far removed in ideology from the aggressive proliferation of US democracy that the globe is currently experiencing.

Is it possible that Usama and his "band of evil henchmen" are actually doing democracy a favor? Consider the quantity of cultural adrenalin that has been injected into Western society through the recent attacks upon it. A previously unexperienced level of ethical Darwinism has been thrust upon us, and we are now to be forced to choose how our way of life will endure.

How our government, and those of the US and UK, engage in regime protection may result in activities perceivable as regime change by self-generated cultural evolution. Implementation of such a procedure should be subject to the utmost of scrutiny.

re: A new national regime

There is an extraordinarily blatant and transparent attempt in The Australian today to polarise even further the Muslim and Judeo-Christian Anglospherians of Australia. It accuses an Islamic newspaper, one published by a fundamentalist Muslim group, of saying that the tragedy of 9/11 was a “…massive US-inspired conspiracy”. However, when one takes a closer look at the article one finds that the Muslim newspaper is only featuring claims that are made, not by any Muslim but an American writer, David Ray Griffin.

This miserable attempt at trivialising demonstrates two things: first, the Murdoch press shows just how racist it is by using this very unsubtle piece of wedge propaganda, and, secondly, one needs to question why the necessity to try and debunk a story that’s been around for a long while. Is it because it is one that is gradually gaining traction in the US? Is this another case of ‘protesteth too much’?

The questions that David Ray Griffin raises in his book, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 are very pertinent and require answers.

re: A new national regime

You know not how fragile our liberties are - or how hard fought and won. (A conveniently accessible if largely unreferenced source is the opening of Robertson's recently published The Tyrranicide Brief). The price of liberty is often said to be eternal vigilance and, as a soldier, I agree but it has never been eternal repression. Now, I do not want to skew this thread off into another fruitless debate about immigration detention but I do want to say something about detention generally.

On 9 December 1994, after being passed without a single dissentient voice by both houses of Parliament and ratified by the Governor-in-Council, the Community Protection Act came into force in NSW. There had been debate about it in the House but only to the extent of the width of its application. Ultimately, the Fahey Government limited the Bill to apply to just one person: Gregory Wayne Kable. The effect of the Act was to enable a Supreme Court Judge to make a determination that Mr Kable was of sufficient danger to the community to be incarcerated without charge, trial or conviction for a period of 6 months which could then be extended on application by the State.

One might have thought that such a law was not one for "the peace, welfare and good government" of the people of NSW and, for that reason, unconstitutional. Not so said the Court of Appeal which was unanimously horrified by the legislation but refused to strike it down. When the case came to the High Court, that champion of Uniting Church liberalism, Sir Darryl Dawson, humanitarian extraordinaire, saw nothing wrong with the legislation and, with Sir Gerard Brennan the then Chief Justice, upheld the State Parliament's powers to do what it bloody well liked thank you very much. Thank goodness for Gaudron, McHugh and Gummow JJ who allowed the appeal and some 18 months after Mr Kable's detention order for six months was made, declared the legislation invalid.

Kable's case had unusual features. He had killed his spouse by knifing her to death during a family court dispute. The Crown had accepted a plea of guilty to a charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Kable served his full sentence without any parole. While imprisoned, he wrote letters seeking to maintain contact with his children and asking to see them both on visits and on release. Relatives of his wife denied that access and regarded the content of the letters as threatening.

The question of his release at the end of his sentence became media fodder with the usual tabloid "never release this dangerous monster" overtones. All this despite the fact that a perfectly well informed crown had accepted a plea of guilty and a perfectly well informed judge had imposed an entirely appropriate sentence for the crime and the crim had done all his time.

As a not particularly civil libertarian lawyer, I have always regarded this legislation as a complete outrage.

That aside, it raises a perennial question about crime: can it be deterred? Despite the mouthings of various judges from time to time (including both the present Chiefs Justice of Australia and New South Wales) experience suggests it cannot. If the punishment for murder were a deterrent, there would be no murders. At a conference held on the Gold Coast earlier this year, a gentle and (I thought) compassionately thoughtful, Callinan J expressed the view that we should not have the death penalty basically because the system does, from time to time, make mistakes and that particular one is difficult to correct. I expressed the view that if the death penalty were a deterrent it would never have to be executed.

What of this for terrorism? The implications are quite simple: there is no deterrence which prevents terrorism; there is no effective way of stopping it.

In those circumstances, I can see no grounds whatever for the sorts of measures being proposed. It is a fundamental principle of our criminal law that a criminal act has two elements: the act itself (characterised as a breach of some legal rule purporting to prohibit or proscribe it) and guilty intent (or recklessness). If I strap myself up with semtex and wander around the city, provided I intend no harm, I should be free to do it. Heaven knows some people dress frightfully all the time and get away with it (seen anyone in fishnets lately?). Similarly, I can intend all the harm I like as long as I don't give vent to it. This probably explains why Clover Moore is still alive.

To impose powers of search and seizure at the whim of some goon however is beyond the pale in my book. I would rather have my liberties taken away by a terrorist blowing himself up beside me than I would by a security guard asking me to empty my pockets simply because he thinks I should. While I realise that is a view at one extreme of the spectrum, it is the sort of eternal vigilance I expect to pay for those liberties. Also, I think I'd have a fair chance of getting the bastard first. Self-defence is always a defence.

This debate will never go away, however. In every war over the last century or so, governments have introduced draconian measures connected with 'security'. Mostly, this has been done by regulation and trawling the law reports will produce many cases dealing with the validity of those regulations both here and in England. It usually takes about five years for them to wend their way to final appellate level. Ponder this: will Mr Howard still be here to face the music in five years time? Opinions may differ but it is the only reason I should ever want him to stay so long.

Please forgive this unusually long post but I think it important.

re: A new national regime

Marilyn: "During my lifetime I have waited patiently for the reds under beds, the Asian invasion, the hordes of the yellow peril, nuclear wars and so on.

So far it is only us doing the invading and killing."

WE are the only ones invading and killing?

I guess you are leaving out the WW2 attacks on Darwin (one raid alone killed more than 200 ) but - to give you the benefit of the doubt - you did say 'during your lifetime' and you may well have missed those particular murderous raids.

But you obviously were around for the Bali Bombing in October 2002 - that wasn't Australia killing people.

9-11? Australians were killed but it sure wasn't us doing the killing.

Marilyn the world has changed and other threats to Australia have evolved. Yes, terrorism has always been a threat but at the moment it is the biggest threat.

In previous decades we have made moves to mitigate the other threats that you mentioned. We forged a strong alliance with the US and gained a nuclear ally in the Cold War. We spent money on over-the-horizon radar so we could see what was coming down from Asia, if it ever did.

We wouldn't pass an amendment outlawing the Communist Party even at the height of the reds-under-the-beds scare. Australians knew that was a step too far. But these new measures can help protect us against terrorism and - hopefully - give you one more threat to add to your list of things that never eventuated. That is entirely the point.

re: A new national regime

And the TAMPA was before September 11 and that is when Howard started his hate campaign.

Hate Muslims, lock 'em up, drown 'em, turn 'em away. They can't come here - blah, blah, blah.

re: A new national regime

J Wilshaw seems to think “…the same SMH poll section said Mark Latham will win the election.” I wonder if that poll was before or after Howard’s lie about interest rates.

re: A new national regime

Alfred Stimoli - I leave my doors and windows open all day, even when I go out (and at night now that winter's over). One night my purse was taken from my unlocked car - the cash ($30) was removed and then the purse put back over the fence where I found it in the morning. How cool is that?

Are we really all so frightened of one another? Despite what the government/media tell us, I think the day to day norm is people looking out for one another, acts of kindness, promises kept.

Terence, the Roman dramatist, said: "I am a human being and therefore nothing human is alien to me".

Another Terence (McKenna) said: "Being an anarchist means that you are not afraid of your fellow man. All the political theories that come out of Thomas Hobbes and the paranoid school are about controlling the perceived inherent evil in human beings. Well, I think if you perceive it and assume it and set society up as basically a series of checks and balances against the assumed bestial nature of your fellow human beings, you're going to have a nightmare."

I am passionately in love with my own species - and at those times when I enter into the madness of fear, it is not so much about what one of you might do to me, but what I know I am capable of doing to you. I am the only threat and I keep a watchful eye on myself (alert but not alarmed!).

re: A new national regime

Richard This is why I wrote the piece on M-Words here because we are indeed in dangerous territory. This announcement only reveals more of Howard's hand and the potential danger to any Australian regardless of race, creed, colour, age, gender, religious persuasion.

Anyone who thinks such laws can't be abused should read about the McCarthyism era in the US. Here is a good summary site

re: A new national regime

Marilyn Shepherd, the Muslims from Turkey and Lebanon are also pretty good at blowing innocent people up, or don’t you read the papers.

They may have been born here but they still want to inflict their way of life here, and it’s not on they have to live by our rules.

What do you mean “Take all the bloody cars, buses, trucks and trains and trams off and bring back the horse and cart"?

We will be up to our necks in horseshit, which might make some of your friends feel at home but the majority of us can do without it.

Marilyn, it is you that needs the cold shower, I am not aware that any Australian troops are killing thousands of Iraqis, it is the Iraqis who are killing their own people.

Just get your facts right.

ed Kerri: Hi Col. Conversations can get tetchy sometimes and Webdiary editors have, on a number of occasions, cut personal abuse directed at Webdiarists from the posts of your antagonist. This is a friendly reminder that we will do the same with yours where necessary.

re: A new national regime

Come to think of it I also suspect that the changes dealing with incitement of violence against the community will also be useless, unless to goal is to keep Sheik Omran off Lateline.

The fact is if there is a market for hate speech then someone will inevitably service that market and no amount of legislation will prevent it. As long as young Islamic men are still angry and in need of someone to blame radical Islamic clerics will be there to point the finger for them. All these laws are likely to do is drive it underground were it can fester well beyond the gaze of public scrutiny. Don’t expect the Australian to report on the circulation of any Jihadist literature in bookshops once these laws pass, but likewise don’t expect the literature to stop circulation.

This is just a prediction, but its one that has proved accurate time and time again. Just as the prohibition of alcohol and the prohibition of heroin have failed so to will the prohibition of jihadism. Forgive me if I sound like an economist but if you want to put an end to a market you have to eliminate the demand, not illegalise the supply.

I am sure that assertion is going to see me pilloried as an “appeaser” by those lucky enough to be in possession of a towering Churchill complex, and Noelene may even pop up and brand me “root cause left” but I am convinced that history and economics shows that this is the only way to eliminate a market.

A discussion of how this is to be done probably belongs in another topic, but I would suggest that a good place to start would be to stop electing windbags like Sophie Panopoulis and Bronywn Bishop, who even the unashamedly right-wing Andrew Bolt can see are little more than counterproductive numbskulls.

re: A new national regime

Increased Security?
For what?
For whom?

This is just like the crap we heard about pre-emptive strikes. Where is that topic now? I seriously suspect that those who proposed it are secretly and silently trying to bury it especially after all the flak it received from our closest neighbours. Now that it has served its purpose to drive up support to help it win the last election I suspect these people are trying to pretend it never existed in the first place.

If the government was serious about terrorism then it would be proactive in knowing who the enemy is and educating and removing the causes that drive young people to those extremes. In other words support the communities that that we are living with and not alienating them as we have done in the past.

This is not about security. It is about popularity for re election, it is about control, just as that crap dished up to us with national ID numbers. All this is done under the pretext of security.

re: A new national regime

Chris Monnox What you forget is that there is more than one way to eliminate demand. And while you cannot eliminate demand, you can curtail it to the point where it becomes an annoyance, rather than a serious issue.

re: A new national regime

Marilyn Shepherd 'Hate Muslims, lock 'em up, drown 'em, turn 'em away. They can't come here - blah, blah, blah'

You know, for an evil overlord and all, Howard doesn't seem to be that effective at locking, downing or turning Muslims from the country. Indeed, 66% of our legal migration comes from Asia/Middle East. So how does he do it? How does he 'disappear' people?

By the by who has he been drowning lately?

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