"...people to be detained without evidence..."ASIO.

Matthew X profrv at nex.net.au
Thu May 6 21:53:25 PDT 1999

Tough stand on ASIO powers
By Brendan Nicholson,
Political Correspondent
August 18 2002
The Federal Government has rejected attempts to water down key elements of 
its new anti-terrorism legislation and has insisted that the Australian 
Security Intelligence Organisation have the power to detain and interrogate 
children as young as 14.

It also wants intelligence officers to be present during discussions 
between detainees and their lawyers.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, the Australian Secret 
Intelligence Service and the Defence Signals Directorate, which examined 
the terrorism bill, the ASIO Legislation Amendment, recommended that the 
agency should not be able to detain people under 18.
The Sunday Age has learnt that the government has also rejected a call for 
a sunset clause that the committee wanted as a safeguard. The clause would 
have rendered the legislation invalid after three years.
The tough stand comes as the government attempts to defuse opposition 
demands to justify Australian involvement in any attack by the United 
States on Iraq.
Yesterday, Prime Minister John Howard made public his response to a letter 
from Opposition Leader Simon Crean asking him to give parliament, during 
the coming two-week sitting, details of Iraq's weapons programs and to 
provide evidence of any links between Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda 
terrorist network.
Mr Howard said in his reply that a full statement during the next fortnight 
would be premature because it would encourage the debate in Australia to 
run ahead of the debate in the US.
Mr Howard said he had already indicated that there would be a full 
parliamentary debate before any military commitment to action against Iraq, 
but the question remained hypothetical at this stage because the US had not 
requested assistance and had not decided to commit American forces.
Labor could ask for information during question time on any sitting day, he 
Greens senator Bob Brown has already indicated that he will call this week 
for a Senate inquiry into the implications of a war with Iraq.
The controversial ASIO legislation is expected to be debated during the new 
session of parliament beginning tomorrow.
Attorney-General Daryl Williams said the government had accepted the joint 
committee's recommendations on the legislation in broad terms and was now 
in consultation with the Opposition.

If passed by parliament, the bill would change the rights of every 
Australian, allowing for people to be detained without evidence that they 
had done anything wrong.

Under the legislation, ASIO would be allowed to obtain a warrant to detain 
someone, with the consent of the attorney-general, if there were 
"substantial grounds for believing that the warrant will substantially 
assist the collection of intelligence that is important in relation to a 
terrorist offence".
The joint committee reviewing the legislation said it had been concerned 
that children as young as 12 could be detained, strip-searched, questioned 
and held incommunicado for up to 48 hours or longer, if a subsequent 
warrant was sought.
Under the government's counter-proposals, 14-year-olds could be detained 
and questioned. The child would be entitled to have a parent present, but 
contact would be supervised by an ASIO officer.
Detainees would have access to a lawyer after 48 hours in custody, but an 
ASIO officer would be present during all discussions. The lawyers would be 
vetted by ASIO beforehand and would face up to two years' jail if they 
revealed details of cases to an unauthorised person.
It is believed that, in its response to the committee's report, the 
government will agree to limit detention by ASIO to seven days unless 
charges are laid. That compares with the eight hours the police now have to 
charge someone or let them go.
Law Council of Australia president Tony Abbott said he was concerned about 
the legislation. "(People) want to be able to hear what the lawyer says in 
confidence and they want to be able to say what they want to say to the 
lawyer in confidence," he said.
He said he was concerned about allowing the detention of children as young 
as 14. "You have to make a very strong case to be able to detain and 
interrogate children."

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