"...people to be detained without evidence..."ASIO.
profrv at nex.net.au
Thu May 6 21:53:25 PDT 1999
Tough stand on ASIO powers
By Brendan Nicholson,
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
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
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
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