National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010

Anti-terrorism laws have now been altered in Australia with some expansions of police powers and conditions that limit free speech. There has been little attention paid to these changes within the Australian media – the equal rights for gay marriage parliamentary debate has taken precedence.

“The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 seeks to achieve an appropriate balance between the Government’s responsibility to protect Australia, its people and its interests and instilling confidence that our national security and counter-terrorism laws will be exercised in a just and accountable way,” Mr McClelland said.

The legislation has been the subject of extensive public consultation and contains significant amendments, including:

* new powers for police to enter a premises without a warrant in emergency circumstances relating to a terrorism offence where there is material that may pose a risk to the health or safety of the public;
* extending the time available for police to re-enter a premises under a search warrant from one hour to 12 hours in emergency circumstances;
* establishing a maximum seven day limit on the detention period that may be disregarded when a person has been arrested for a terrorism offence;
* including a specific right of appeal for both the prosecution and the defendant against a bail decision relating to terrorism and serious national security offences;
* expanding the ‘urging violence’ offence so that it applies to individuals as well as groups who incite violence on the basis of race, religion, nationality, national or ethnic origin or political opinion;
* extending the expiration period of regulations proscribing a terrorist organisation from two to three years;
* amending the National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004 so that national security and counter-terrorism court proceedings may be expedited;
* establishing a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement to extend parliamentary oversight to both the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission; and
* extending the role of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) to inquire into an intelligence or security matter relating to any Commonwealth Department or agency.

There is still no independent National Security Monitor established.

The Australian Council for Civil Liberties president, Terry O’Gorman, says Australia should have followed Britain’s lead five years ago in appointing someone to oversee the application of counter-terrorism laws.