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Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorder: Aussie funds manager

G'day. Here's one out of the box - Australia's biggest investment fund manager of international equities going for it big time on the terror laws in a just-published submission to the terror laws inquiry.  Platinum Asset Management is hard nosed, to say the least. Take its stance on ethical investing:

Platinum regards the subject of ethical investing as highly complex and points to the contradictions and conflicts that are an essential element of the capitalist system. Platinum has no way to assess the individual beliefs and values of our investors. Cognisant of a diversity of views on this subject, Platinum does not take into account labour standards and environmental, social or ethical considerations when investing, retaining investmenrts or divesting. 

Still, Platinum has always enjoyed its independence and been unafraid to do and say different things to the pack. For example, Platinum led the fight to stop foreign company Xstrata taking over MIM on the ground that the offer was below fair value. Platinum's managing director Kerr Neilson knows a bit about how human rights violations impact on business; he worked in South Africa before migrating to Australia to become Bankers Trust's highest flying investment manager when he picked the 1987 stockmarket crash.

Disclosure: my investment in the Platinum International Fund is one of two last holdouts in my asset sales to keep Webdiary going. After reading this letter, it will be the last to go.

Platinum logo

11 November 2005

Mr Owen Walsh
Committee Secretary
Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee
Parliament House

Dear Mr Walsh

Re: Inquiry into the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism (No. 2) Bill 2005

Platinum Asset Management is a privately owned funds management business based in Sydney, managing in excess of A$16 billion. Predominantly these funds are sourced from Australian individuals and superannuation funds, although in excess of A$3 billion are sourced from offshore clients. Over 95% of these funds are invested in listed companies outside of Australia, making Platinum the largest Australian-based entity investing in offshore equity markets.

Our concerns with the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism (No. 2) Bill 2005 are twofold:

  1. Major changes to basic human rights threaten to undermine the foundations of both our society and economic system. As international investors with considerable experience covering the emerging economies of Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, as well as the worlds major economies, it is our observation that strong basic rights enshrined in the law and the judicial system are fundamental to creating economic prosperity. Indeed the level of trust within societies and the correlation with economic prosperity has been an area of significant academic study in recent years. We believe there is a high risk that the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism (No. 2) Bill 2005 will, over time, damage the level of trust in Australian society.
  2. There are significant practical difficulties for individuals, and financial institutions and their clients, in remaining compliant with aspects of the Bill relating to the financing of terrorism. Ultimately these issues could well impinge on the ability of Sydney to maintain its position as a major financial centre in the region.

Although the above concerns may sound alarmist, one cannot foretell how the innocent remarks or actions of today may be seen in a different light tomorrow. We concur that Australia faces the real threat of terrorist acts on our shores. However, in the event of an attack(s), the subsequent confusion, fear and sense of injustice could produce an environment that sows the seed for a discordant civil order, exacerbated by poorly considered and drafted legislation.

Yours faithfully


Kerr Neilson
Managing Director

Level 4, 55 Harrington Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia | GPO Box 2724, Sydney NSW 2001
Telephone 61 2 9255 7500 | Investor Services 1300 726 700 | Facsimile 61 2 9254 5555 | Email invest@platinum.com.au | Website www.platinum.com.au Platinum Asset Management Limited ABN 25 063 565 006 AFSL 221935 trading as Platinum Asset Management®

Part A: The terrorist legislation as a threat to economic prosperity

There is a significant body of literature that attests to the importance of human rights to economic prosperity. Open societies tend to have faster productivity improvements than closed societies. Rather than rehashing the case, may we suggest that you examine the extensive study on this topic produced by the Australian Productivity Commission entitled Social Capital: Reviewing the Concept and its Policy Implications (2003). (The document can be found at http://www.pc.gov.au/research/commres/socialcapital/index.html)

We presume other submissions will address the ways in which this legislation weakens civil rights. However, we note that the lack of full judicial oversight (a key feature of this legislation) may reduce respect for the law even when the guilty are apprehended. Preventative detention orders provide a case in point: if individuals over whom such orders are placed, do not have the same rights as those in a criminal hearing, is it not probable that family and associates of the accused will reject the action as unfair and unjust giving rise to martyrdom? The guilty will be able to dismiss the actions  as conspiracies to rob them of employment, property, and relationships. The lack of judicial oversight to the standard expected in criminal cases bears the considerable risk of injustice and raises the prospect of this country losing the very essence that it is trying to preserve. False witness and martyrdom are unattractive alternatives.

The legislative framework of this Bill could produce an environment that is potentially very unfriendly to economic performance. There are countries where those with connections and influence flaunt the law at the expense of fellow citizens. However, the cost of these weak institutions is seen in the high cost of capital and the inefficient workings of their economy. Fairness in law and the appearance of fairness (in law) is a prerequisite for a fully open capital market and for the economic benefits that competition brings.

This Bill creates the basis for unfair treatment and even if the government administers this law with total benevolence and wisdom, it will create an appearance of unfairness. This will have negative economic consequences.

The sedition rules run the risk of stifling debate on matters of national and economic importance and of reducing economic rights. Arguments put forth in good faith today can easily be characterised as seditious in a different atmosphere. Peaceful protest can similarly be characterised as a violent threat. Past protests involving a blockade of Parliament House would have been seditious under the proposed Bill. These protests were ordinary political activity. (As an aside, why is it believed that muzzling discontents will not drive activity further underground and produce even greater problems?)

Part B: Specific issues with the finance industry and the Bill

There are several provisions which appear to affect the financial industry directly especially the new offences for indirectly financing terrorism. The new offence of financing a terrorist (cl 103.2) allows a person to be imprisoned for life if the person indirectly makes funds available to another person, or indirectly collects funds for another, and the person is reckless as to the whether the other person will use the funds for terrorism. In Federal law, a person is reckless if he or she is aware of a substantial risk that the funds will be used for terrorism, and having regard to the circumstances known to him or her, it is unjustifiable to take the risk (s 5.4, Criminal Code).

A person need not intend that the funds be used for terrorism, nor must a person have knowledge that the funds will be used for terrorism. The offence is committed even if a terrorist act does not occur or the funds will not be used for a specific terrorist act (cl 103.2(2)).

This proposed offence extends criminal liability too far. It makes it impossible for any person to know the scope of their legal liabilities with any certainty. Terrorists may obtain financing from a range of sources, including legitimate financial intermediating institutions such as banks, and employ a variety of deceptive means to secure funding. This offence would require every Australian to vigilantly consider where their money might end up before investing in stocks, depositing money with a bank, or even giving money as a birthday present or a donation to a charity.

As an organisation which accepts money directly and indirectly from foreigners and regularly invests money in foreign activities this alarms us. We are simply not in a position for a great proportion of the time to know who are the underlying investors in our funds or to what use the money will be put. Visibility is limited to public documents. In many cases it is illegal for us to rely on due diligence beyond public documents (insider trading rules can work this way).

Extending the funding of terrorism provisions to the indirect funding is simply too broad. Financial intermediation is the indirect provision of finance. We all do it  whenever we go to a bank or a financial planner. Essentially the provision criminalises (with a penalty of life imprisonment) ordinary financial market activities. Examples are included in Attachment A. These are not the only provisions in this Bill that affect the finance sector. It is simply inappropriate to rush through legislation with widespread industry effects, without consultation with industry.

ATTACHMENT A -  Examples of ordinary activities potentially criminalised by this Bill

Indirectly collecting funds on behalf of another person

The Bill makes criminal (punishable by life imprisonment) indirectly collecting funds on behalf of another person and being reckless as to whether those funds will be used for terrorist activities. The offence occurs even if no terrorist act occurs. This would seem to apply to most financial activity. For example:

Most fund managers invest money on behalf of parties whom they cannot identify. The typical process is that financial planners meet clients and suggest suitable investments. The clients moneys are aggregated in a master trust which then places that money with an asset manager to manage. The fund manager does not own the client relationship and generally will not know who the underlying client is. This is certainly the arrangement within Australia and applies in other countries from which we receive funds to manage. As the fund manager in many instances cannot identify the ultimate client, how can they possibly meet with this proposed legislation? The fund manager would be dependent upon the diligence of the client adviser/master trust administrator.

Even if we assume that the large Australian institutions that manage master trusts are fulfilling their legislative duties, how do we operate internationally? Our business generates considerable export earnings for Australia. This legislation would leave us with doubt and potentially open to prosecution.

This is not a speculative point. There was an occasion when on a marketing trip to the USA we were asked to manage funds for a wealthy family. On the hearsay that this family was highly sympathetic to the IRA we declined to follow up their interest. (This was clearly an ethical issue at the time but in todays environment, rather more poignant.)

The problem extends to ordinary Australians.

Suppose a fund manager invests in an initial public offering (IPO) of shares in which cash ultimately flowed to a vendor who was (or even might be) a supporter of terrorism. The deal is a standard IPO organised through an investment bank. If the fund manager were reckless about the character of the vendor they may be caught under the proposed laws (even if a terrorist act does not occur).

However, not only is the fund manager caught  but all the fund managers clients are caught if they invest money with a fund manager who has failed to correctly monitor the seller of assets they buy. The clients (ordinary Australians) would be indirectly financing terrorism.

Indirectly providing funds that facilitate a terrorist activity

As a fund manager we invest money in businesses which we do not control (and where we cannot influence management policies). The Bill makes it very difficult to ascertain what we can legitimately invest in. For example:

We might invest in a urea (nitrogen fertiliser) plant. As urea can be used in explosives, most governments place regulatory controls on access to the product. There remains, however, a risk that urea finds its way into terrorist hands. Does this rule make investing in urea production illegal even when we check that controls are in place to ensure that access to urea is restricted?

Would we be justified if ex-post it turned out that the company could not account for several tons of fertiliser and that fertiliser had been used in terrorism?

A urea plant is an obvious candidate for specific attention. However, the wording of the Bill is very broad. It only requires that the funds provided can facilitate a terrorist act. Mobile phones have played an integral part in terrorist acts. Surely the drafting, as proposed, does not wish to impose upon us a restriction regarding investing in telephone companies?

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re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Good grief, someone JWH must listen to pointing out the bleeding obvious to him. Could I suggest Kerr Neilson's statements may be seditious and require some detention for retraining purposes? For JWH, that is.

Seriously only for a moment else I'll cry, thank God someone is speaking from a financial perspective. It reveals more than all the honest people opposing the legislation can do as we are simply ignored.

Mr Neilson makes some clear points which can only affect that thing JWH pretends to be in control of, the financial health of Australia. Perhaps jail for life everyone who owns shares just to be careful? And don't forget all those overseas investors, jail them too. Perhaps we could just rename Australia (Jailia?) in honour of white history as it makes a great prison, yes?

This legislation which allows long sentences even if you don't know what you did makes a great deal of sense in today's Australia doesn't it? It's consistent with the overall direction of this government and I'm busy making my lemming suit to join the crowd.

I used to think JWH was set on taking us back to the 50s but it seems he has fonder memories of the mid to late 30s. Where does he get this stuff from and why does any human being even consider agreeing with him? There's no sense in any of it. Maybe he has tickets for Prussian Blue already?

I see he also threw up another diversion today in a desperate attempt to further distract people from the major issues of terrorism/loss of civil rights and IR.

He wants to make laws against cannabis harsher. Now there's a good idea. No mention of alcohol or cigarettes and tobacco. I wonder why? Not. All three substances hurt and ruin people's lives but let's just talk about the one with the lowest rate of use (maybe). If alcohol and tobacco did not exist our hospitals would be pretty much empty, so where's the logic?

After all alcohol is sacred and no parents give children the wrong lead on that do they?

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

I was rather appalled to see in today's Herald Poll that in response to the question "Using torture to stop a terrorist attack. Where do you stand?" the following results:

For it - 33%
Against it - 67%
Total Votes (at the time I looked): 5296

Quite a sizeable sample, and under other circumstances probably statistically meaningful, although, it should be noted that, according the the Herald, "These polls are not scientific and reflect the opinion only of visitors who have chosen to participate".

Interestingly, it is the same distribution as for the question "Death sentence for Nguyen Tuong Van : Where do you stand?"

The execution should go ahead - 33%
He should be shown mercy - 67%

Did you all watch 24 Hours? The character "Jack Bower" (or whatever) was always torturing people one way or another to stop terrorist attacks.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Why haven't the board of AWB been arrested yet, put into orange jumpsuits and sent to Silverwater for supporting terrorism?

Not that's something I would like to see.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

For what it's worth I can't see how the individual punters would be acting "recklessly" under the scenario of the IPO here - they have to be "aware of a substantial risk" and, "having regard to the circumstances known to him or her, it is unjustifiable to take the risk" (cl 103.2 in Schedule 3).

This is one of the problems with the rush imposed on people wanting to make submissions - they make silly mistakes (I think I might be guilty of that myself in relation to successive preventative detention orders, it's hard to tell). That and people miss some doozies because they're too focussed on preventative detention, control orders and sedition.

Take Schedule 6, "Power to obtain information and documents", for example. Clause 3ZQO (p104 of the Bill) provides for warrants for "[other] serious offences", ie. not related to terrorism. What the hell is that doing in a terrorism bill? This is legislation by stealth.

Other examples include the expanded definition of a terrorist organisation to include any that praise terrorist acts (not clear if this includes indirect praise via praising a struggle in general, in which case it would include the anti-apartheid movement and the colonists in the USA War of Independence, to name just two examples) and the tripling of the length of ASIO warrants from 28 to 90 days (they can always get another one, this just promotes sloppiness).

Oh, and the fact that if you have a preventative detention order on you, they can also impose a "prohibited contact order" on top of it, NOT TELL YOU ABOUT IT, and then charge you for breaking it (Schedule 4, cl 105.28(3)).

I'm still waiting for an analysis of this Bill (from someone who demonstrates that they have read it) that defends it. Just one. No?

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Kerr Neilson makes valid points that are no doubt correct in the letter of the legislation.

It's also a bit unreasonable to expect that the finance industry would be held accountable in this way, so I would expect some form of exemption to be put in place for financial invetsors acting in good faith or through a "firewall" intermediary like a Master Trust. Mind you, there would then be an onus on a Financial Planner to understand their client's objectives and insure there was no potential terrorism angle therein. "Know Your Client"!!

If FSR don't get 'em, then this will!

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

I've always said it - John Howard is an economic vandal who will create huge problems for us because of his rigid ideology. The laws he is now trying to force upon us will create chaos as we haven't seen for decades.

It was really brought home to me how expensive civil disruption can be when I met up with a former Sydney hotel manager who had retired and invested his savings in downtown LA property many years ago. If one remembers the terrible riots that erupted there around '92 after the Rodney King beating episode and the simmering racial tension amongst the poor and black - my friend's entire savings were wiped out within a few days as prices plunged. It took years and billions of government dollars to return the affected areas of LA to normal but my friend never recovered.

The test of a great leader is how he can unite people and steer them through difficult times while keeping a country stable. Howard and Costello really have coasted along without too much social disruption after being handed a good economy by Labor. Now that he is imposing the ideas that have been simmering inside all those years - ideas that will radically send us backward and wipe out about 80 years of building an enviable industrial relations system that has served Australians well, we are in for tough times. We can't afford this man.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Ross, I don't mean to be narky here, but it continually amazes me that because I am a proponent of free market economics that people assume I am a therefore Howard devotee. I'm simply not, for pretty much the same reasons Queen Margo isn't!

On top of that, Howard's for big expensive government and sports a social agenda I find alien. I pitch in to forums like this to demonstrate the possibility that one doesn't have to settle for a package deal from either the left or the right - get it?

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Hey David, I think you've seen the light mate. JWH can be " a bit unreasonable" occasionally can't he?

Marilyn, there's a reason they haven't been charged. There's no proof of any crime as yet and we all know nobody gets put behind bars without charge in Australia don't we? Besides which orange jumpsuits would be suitable for lemmings jumping off cliffs, but it does clash with their colour scheme.

By the by, anyone noticed JWH's latest mantra re the harsh legislation he's ramming through? His response is "Nothing's changed. It's all there in existing legislation, we're just updating it". Quite reasonably too JW, couldn't possibly disagree with that.

On the Brisbane terror scare today I heard there was something going on so I turned on the local talk back to get some info. Only to hear the first batch of callers accusing Premier Beattie of creating a false emergency. Apart from the announcer swearing and cutting them off (he should have talked them through it first instead of resorting to hang ups and abuse)this would seem to be where many Australian's thinking is at or headed.

Even I didn't make that leap and it sickens me that our leaders have cried wolf so often that when a real danger may emerge the cynical will pretend it isn't happening.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

I must share this particularly for the benefit of South Australian webdiarists. She Who Must Be Obeyed's Mother comes from a small town called Paradise in the Ozarks (er, Adelaide Hills). We live in a small concrete box above Fleet Base. Some of the less well-shod hill dwellers still in Adelaide picked up a story from local Radio and asked SWMBO's Mother when we were getting our parachutes. Apparently, Adelaide radio carried a story that to protect the population of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne (I kid you not) all flat dwellers who live above the 9th floor are being issued with parachutes by the Federal Government in case of terrorist attack.

They topped this (now how do you top that - wait for it) by deciding not to watch the John Martin's Christmas pageant in the Rundle St Mall because of the terrorist threat. I can see the headlines now: Muslim Santa kills 63, hundreds injured - exclusive by R. Murdoch and agencies. It won't be long before they're throwing the homosexuals into the River again.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

The point Neilson is making is very important for anyone who either does or plans to rely on superannuation. Countries with poor human rights records go down the gurgler financially!

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Marilyn, I'm sorry but those comments were less than enlightened. I would ask you, how many bombs have been made of plant food? Answer: hundreds, death toll running to thousands or maybe tens of thousands. Ask yourself this: Why would private citizens otherwise be buying stocks of train alarm detonators? Cos' they're naughty schoolboys who want to frighten people by sticking noisy things on train tracks? Perhaps cos' they want to use the explosive contents or capabilities of these devices for some other purpose?

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Hey David, my comment was directed at any JWH supporters, not you in particular as I have no idea what your political leanings are. It was simply an irresistible line I'm afraid. No offence intended mate.

As it happens I dislike both major parties and regretably acknowledge that one or the other will attain power at each coming election.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

One of the so-called big time terrorists is claimed to have 165 of these things that look like they couldn't blow the skin off a bloody custard.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Marian Wilkinson reports today that citric acid was one of the main "chemicals" captured - I wonder how many bombs have ever been made with lemon and orange juice?

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Marylin, I think you'll find that Vitamin C is otherwise known as Ascorbic Acid.

So, given that, what do you suppose the alleged plotters might have been planning to do with Citric Acid? You might find some clues in this. Biochemical processes and drug production are two non-food options.

And, other than nefarious things, what would be your hypotheses as to what ordinary citizens might be wanting to do with the detonators in question?

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Maybe lack of Vitamin C has killed tens of thousands of people David, but not very often have people been arrested for buying it. That is all citric acid is - vitamin C that people swallow by the bucket when they have colds.

I guess the other organics you are talking about are organophosphates but they aren't exactly naturally occuring are they?

Citric acid is in everything.

As for the railway alarms, they couldn't hurt anyone any more than bloody fireworks.

If the list of stuff these people were found with is all they have Ken Moroney and his 400 brave cops should be heartily embarrassed.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

After reading the recent SMH unscientific poll revealing that one third of the respondents favoured torture, it seemed timely to brush up on the Spanish Inquisition. No good news there I’m afraid. The tyranny stretched for just 387 years. The scheming and notorious inquisitor, Tomas Torqemada, lived to be 78. If we go by history, there may be no quick fix to the present attack on Australian civil iberties.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Graeme Finn, I must defer to Andy Christy in this case, who is beating me up well and good on this topic in another thread. I would urge caution as he seems very disposed towards the "backyard chemist" hypothesis - which may indeed be proven some day.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Marylyn, you may be falling into the trap of having been fed so many lies that when a scrap of credible evidence is proffered you naturally assume that it is all bunkum. I get the same urge.

Acids of any type can be highly reactive when mixed with other types of chemicals. The acetone peroxide that was mentioned during some news reports was of importance because being a peroxide means that it has extra oxygen atoms that can made to go BOOM. Every fire needs oxygen. Also the percussion caps could be used as an igniter for a larger explosion.

This is not to say we are not being fed a large dose of non-nitrate fertiliser but it is not past the capabilities of anyone with a reasonable amount of research to make something go dangerously bang.

You provide much needed input into many subjects that pertain to bureacracy and the misguided side of human nature. but school chemistry was changed by the internet let alone what is taught in dangerous sects. I would, on this thread, like to hear more from David Eastwood because this is more his field as far as I can tell.

The orange jumpsuit did suck big time.

Sorry for the spray.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Citric and ascorbic acid are the same naturally occuring substances in citrus fruit - we eat the bloody stuff every day.

Petrol in a bottle with a rag can cause an explosion but so what, the so-called "terr'ists" didn't have any.

Peroxide bleaches hair.

Somewhere in maximum security prison tonight is a 24 year old schizophrenic boy who said he wanted to die so therefore he is a "terr'ist", in the meantime bloody Rumsfeld is coming to Adelaide so the moron cops shut down the city on us.

Talk about stupid - 500 cops to protect Rummy when no-one gives too much of a stuff about him. I guess those star force cops could have some more practice popping red ballons though.

People go camping, they shoot a tree - big deal, how does that make them terrorists?

Did you notice that the people who actually committed a genuine crime of assault walked into court in Melbourne this morning and got bail. So maybe, possibly, might, could belong to something or other and do nothing is worse than bashing a journo - guess there is something in that with some of the grubs we call journos today.

Let's all have a bex and a good lie down - then go and ask the Iraqi and Afghan people how they felt about being bombed to bits with our help.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

David Eastwood I was asking you to put on your free market economics hat not your chem-kitchen chefs gear. Unadulterated free market is an area that I have been loathe to understand, but increasingly feel is essensial to investigate.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

After my criticism without input..

In the first point in the cover letter I agreed with the basic points. As I see them.

1. If people have less rights then not only would they be less likely to be carrying a wallet but also it would promote a lack of trust. Without taking people on the trust of their signature, be it on a cheque or a contract, then commerce would grind to a halt, and even we lefties have more sense that that.

2.How the 'f' could anyone work out how to apply the rules. Most people would take their bat and ball and go home. But I suspect many of the intrepid will hope that it is such a technological and informational miasma that it will be business as usual.

The post script bit went something like don't stick crackers into things that might turn out to be ants nests and be seen to be doing, as well as ..something or other, the justice scenario.

I will have to re-read part B again before comment on that.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Gittins articles typically plays around with statistics. Does he perhaps understand the low risk of terrorism compared with others like alchohol problems is due to the Govt heavy pro-active actions to prevent it from happening? Does he understand that not doing much does not necessarily prevent a problem (as evidenced by Chamberlain inaction against Hitler) and only postpones the threats and the effective way it to counter and crush it? He may or may not have a valid point, but simplifying the statistics is not helpful in the debate.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

I like to read Gittins because he usually translates businessesque into something understandable.

I am having a hard time fathoming how the government expects to be able to enforce these laws and I find it suprising that the IR bill was sent to every top flight corporate law company in the country (at vast expense) yet they have not seemed to have run this legislation past even one.

The government is already hamstrung in a taxation sense by the use of shelf companies and off-shore bank accounts. If money is transferred to a Swiss bank account, how can they find out who the ultimate end user will be?

It strikes me as catch-all legislation where once again the only safeguard is to trust the government not to misuse its powers. As it reads now it could be an offense to buy a packet of Tally-Ho papers because Osama bin Laden has investments in Arabic gum.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Graeme Finn, I'll mull over that. Meantime, here's a link to a fantastic article by a favourite Economic Rationalist commentator of mine, Ross Gittins. Magic!

Margo: Yep, a beauty. I particularly liked his summary of the factors in play, stuff you won't get from most in the mainstream media these days:

"FORGIVE me if I'm not shaking in my shoes over the risk of terrorism on our shores. There is a risk, of course, but it's being greatly exaggerated. My scepticism comes after 30 years in journalism, watching such scares from close quarters. In that time I've learnt three things: how easy it is to scare the pants off a public looking for bad news stories to spice up humdrum lives; how many interest groups stand to benefit by manipulating the public's emotions; and how much more we'd be able to do to reduce risks to life and limb if only we'd assess those risks in a more cool-headed way...

* Starting with governments, our long-known tendency to unite against an external threat has made terrorism a windfall gain. Most haven't resisted the temptation to play up the threat rather than calm us down. Modern politicians are so focused on public perceptions, and the need to use the media to manage those perceptions, that they are more concerned with being seen to respond to the public's media-incited worries than with fixing the problem. Another motive is for governments to establish an alibi... So the fact Liberal and Labor governments agree on the need for further draconian legislation is no guarantee there really is a need. So much emotion has been whipped up over terrorism that oppositions are afraid to oppose. They live in fear of recriminations should the unlikely happen.

* Then there are the police and the security agencies. If the pollies are always running to them, asking if they'd like more powers - fewer constraints on their freedom arising from tiresome concerns for civil liberties - why wouldn't they keep saying yes? These institutions have done nicely from the terrorism fear campaign. The spooks' budgets have been doubled, for instance. So when the pollies want a public demonstration that all the new powers and extra spending are justified, why wouldn't these public employees co-operate?

* Next, the media. Their motives are narrowly and amorally commercial. The punters love a good scaring, and we're happy to oblige - which makes us easy meat for the political spin doctors...

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Interesting that some are accused of hysterics with the mention of the name Hitler or use of the word Fascism in connection to aggression against Iraq/US special rendition of "suspects/AbuGaraib/anti terror legislation" et al.

Never seems to stop those accusers running the thoroughly exhausted old Hitler appeasement line at any opportunity. Why is that?

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

The low risk of an attack could be due to heavy policing and counter terror activities. So having more laws would only lower the risk further. Doing nothing would not help as evidenced by Neville Chamberlain's inaction against Hitler, counter and proactive action is necessary against terrorism.
As for your question 'Did not one of the alleged terrorists say they were motivated by Australia's involvement in Iraq?'. No civilised nation or reasonable person would pay attention to what these lunatics say. Howard is doing his best to protect the interests of the nation.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Grey Hyne, I agree that there's risk of a terror attack in Australia. Apart from that your logic escapes me.

I personally feel that because the risk of a 'terror attack' is low, there is no need for the new legislation which goes way to far, considering what you have admitted to be the low risk of a terror attack.

Even if such an attack did occur, I would not consider it sufficient to destroy our democracy or freedom by enacting such laws.

The idea that we are 'safer' because of Howards actions is laughable. Only a fool would posit that the invasion of Iraq has lessened the threat to Australia.

Did not one of the alleged terrorists say they were motivated by Australia's involvement in Iraq?

Howard is a despicable human being. As others have said he is a divider. IMHO I believe he does not have the interest of the Australian public at heart, only his neo-con friends in the Whitehouse.

His abuse of parliamentary procedures is an attack on our democracy, as are his new anti-dissent laws, and anti-worker reforms.

Then we have Abbott and Nelson pushing their Christian agenda similar to the fundamentalists in the US who want to undermine secularism over there.

And they tell us it is the Muslims who hate our freedom.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Greg Hynes
Sort of embarrassing having to read your comments..
What's this about? Weaving the inappropriateness of Chamberlain's hands off approach to Hitler's invasion of Poland. You're right it was inept.
But what's that got to do with lessening the terror threat.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

As part of my Dental Health policy, Greg Hynes, I have to assess which water supplies are fluoridated. It would assist if you could let me know which city you live in so that I can work out what else you might be getting because, whatever it is, we need to get it out of the general supply quickly.

I'm only a lawyer and we deal with the questionable commodity we call evidence. We have the quaint old-fashioned belief that the best way to assess the truth of what is said is to listen to it being said.

You seem to come to a different conclusion.
"No civilised nation or reasonable person would pay attention to what these lunatics say."
It is a novel approach. I think we'll just ignore it.
As to Alan Curran, I may have missed it - which mosque in Adelaide was blown up?

It's all in the water you know folks.

re: Terror laws will damage public trust, ferment civil disorde

Marilyn Shepherd,” 500 cops to protect Rummy when no-one gives too much of a stuff about him”.
You did, you turned up to demonstrate.
Did you see the news tonight? 80 Iraqis killed in a Mosque by a suicide bomber. Another peace loving Muslim having a day out.
Is this what you want in Adelaide ?.
I think you need something a little stronger than Bex and a good lie down.

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