“Hyperactivity around security legislation is unprecedented,” Professor Jude McCulloch told a public forum in Melbourne on August 21.
"Between 2001 and 2007 when Howard was defeated, the parliament passed 44 anti-terror laws – one every seven weeks.
“Many legal experts have withdrawn from talking about this because of the difficulty of remaining an expert in this field. The basis of these laws is the politics of fear. The neoliberal government has nothing to offer on education, welfare and health. If a problem can be militarised, it will be militarised."
About 150 attended the forum, organised by the Greens, to discuss the new anti-terror laws being introduced by the federal government.
The forum also heard from Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Ghaith Krayem. He said: “If Nelson Mandela were alive today, he would be jailed under our anti-terror laws. This is driven by the budget to distract the community. The ALP do not have spine to stand by their principles. It is a race to the bottom to see who is most right wing on these issues.”
Criminal defence lawyer Rob Stary also addressed the forum. Stary has defended people charged with terror offences, including Australian Jack Thomas who was imprisoned and later acquitted of terrorism offences, and three Tamils living in Australia who were charged with raising money for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.
He said there was no need for the new laws. "One aspect of the new laws is making permanent laws relating to preventative detention and control orders. Preventative detention was designed in 2002 to identify imminent risk to the country or any terrorist attack that may take place within this country.
“We said at the time there was no demonstrated need for that legislation. It has never been activated. The law had a 10-year sunset clause. They are now intending to make this a permanent law. There was no demonstrated need in 2002 and there is no demonstrated need to make that a permanent law.”
Stary said two people have been subject to control orders. One was Thomas, who was described as an “Islamic convert” and used as a scapegoat to deter others from converting to Islam.
“Part of his control order was that he not associate with 300 identified people,” Stary said. “Thirteen of those people were dead; one of them was Osama bin Laden. Others were in Guantanamo Bay. The other person was David Hicks and his prosecution has now been completely discredited.
“Where is the demonstrated need [for] laws of that nature?”
Stary said the independent monitor of national security legislation had retired — and not been replaced. He said it seems the government plans to let the position lapse.
This means no critical oversight for who can be persecuted under the laws.
“What are the international hot spots?” Stary asked. “What are the areas we are not going to permit our citizens go to and then charged with an offence where the onus of proof will be that they have to show that they were there for a legitimate purpose?
“If you are charged under the anti-terror legislation, the presumption of bail is removed. Until you establish that you are there for a legitimate purpose, you will be remanded in custody. There is no doubt that there will be grave injustices if that law comes into effect.
“We need to be careful about the haste with which these laws are coming. I'm not a member of this 'Team Australia'. I reject this. My father was a post-war, non-English speaking immigrant to this country. I welcome people who are refugees to this country.