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Anti Terrorism Laws In Australia: Drawbacks And Benefits

1820 words - 7 pages

Since the tragedies of the World Trade Centre in the United States on September 11th 2001 and, more pertinently for Australians, the Bali bombings of 2002 where 89 Australian tourists lost their lives in an attack on two night clubs in Kuta, international terrorism and its impact has become a major issue in Australian society. Prior to the 9/11 atrocities, terrorism was a vague threat rather than a hard reality. Indeed, prior to 2002, Australia did not even have laws dealing specifically with acts of terrorism. Post Bali, a series of Bills were introduced into, and passed by, federal parliament. This essay analyses the debate surrounding these laws: are they a just and appropriate response or do they seriously threaten the fundamental civil liberties we all take for granted? Do they, as the Commonwealth Attorney-General claim, "both enhance our national security and protect our civil liberties" or are they a "disproportionate legal response to the threat Australia is currently facing from international terrorism." In short, what should be the appropriate balance between rescinding traditional civil liberties and protecting our nation and citizens from the evil of terrorism?It is completely natural that, in response to terrorist bombings - in particular the Kuta attacks which took so many Australian lives - and graphic scenes of death and distress, our fears will leads us to do all we can to protect ourselves and our families. In an era punctuated by terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and in Bali, Madrid, London, Mumbai and elsewhere , news laws were certainly needed in Australia to deal with terrorism. The then Prime Minister of Australia "responded strongly to the international threats thrown up by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks". His government introduced a series of new laws intent on attacking the potential threat of terrorist attacks on Australian soil . Arguably, such laws were necessary to signal that we as a nation reject terrorism, and to ensure that our police and other agencies have the powers they need to protect communities. Furthermore, with our commitment to the UN, it was our legal obligation to follow the United Nations Security Council's mandate which determined governments "shall take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts." But what is terrorism and what are the 'necessary steps' to prevent it?Both Australia and Canada "based their definition of terrorist activities on that found in the British Terrorism Act 2000." In that legislation terrorism is regarded as an attempt to influence the government, intimidate the public or advance a political, religious or ideological cause. Clearly, Australia, as a liberal democracy, must stand fast and adopt measures aimed at preventing harm to innocent people. But, confronting terrorism is not as straightforward as it might appear. In practice, the Australian response to terrorism raised vitally important questions of law and policy. For...

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