NSW Labor passes new controversial knife laws

June 7, 2024
Image: Aboriginal Legal Service/Facebook

The Aboriginal Legal Service has described NSW Labor’s new knife laws, passed on June 6, as “another setback to Closing the Gap”.

The controversial knife “wanding” laws are modeled on Queensland’s “Jack’s Law”. They allow police to use handheld scanners — or electronic metal-detecting “wands” — to stop and scan individuals without a warrant at shopping centre precincts, sporting venues and public transport stations.

Labor was warned that new powers for police would disproportionately impact First Nations people.

Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) said: “We know that giving police additional powers to stop and search will lead to Aboriginal people being disproportionately and unfairly targeted. Whenever police are given discretion, we see this same pattern play out.

The “wanding” powers, unprecedented in NSW, give NSW Police extraordinary powers to stop and search people in public places with a metal detector, without needing a reason.

She said the new powers are a new threat to civil liberties.

Warner said everyone is devastated by the knife attacks and deaths “but the new laws would not have prevented those incidents.

“What they will do is force more Aboriginal people and other marginalised groups into contact with police.”

The knife wanding laws come after Labor passed a new controversial bail law, which the ALS and other legal bodies advised against.

One of the new laws requires courts to apply a new bail test, making it more difficult for children accused of certain offences to get bail.

A new “performance crime” law, passed on March 22, allows the courts to impose an additional penalty of two years for a person who shares their offences on social media.

Warner said these laws are being passed as NSW has “just hit new records … for Aboriginal people in prison.”

She said Labor should be “working in partnership with us” for a better approach “not introducing legislation with no evidence base and that flies in the face of Closing the Gap”.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.