Speak no evil: laws to gag support for suicide bombers
By Tom Allard and Mike Seccombe
August 31, 2005
Groups that support suicide bombings would be outlawed and security authorities given expanded powers to detain terrorism suspects and demand information under proposed laws.
They have strong support in senior Government ranks and are likely to be endorsed at next month's counter-terrorism meeting of state and federal leaders.
The meeting will be held amid heightened anxiety about terrorism. A new Herald Poll shows that 70 per cent of Australians believe a terrorist attack is likely here within the next two years, four percentage points higher than in a similar poll in March last year.
Only 25 per cent believed an attack on Australian soil was extremely unlikely, very likely or unlikely (down three points).
The Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, said yesterday that the Government was looking at expanding the definition of a terrorist group, so that it went beyond the current "fostering, planning and/or executing a terrorist act".
The laws are expected to enable the Government to outlaw an organisation or person for supporting - even in principle - suicide bombings and other acts of violence around the world.
"The precise form of words you might use or what conduct you are seeking to include is a matter for which we have not concluded our deliberations," Mr Ruddock told ABC Radio. "But we have said that it is an issue that we think is appropriate for us to consider."
Senior government sources also told the Herald that the Australian Federal Police's powers were likely to be increased. It would be granted the right to serve a "notice to produce" to any organisation to provide information about a terrorism suspect or group. This would empower the police to go directly to an organisation such as a bank or telephone company to get information without needing a magistrate's approval.
However, such "notice to produce" could be executed only if there were solid grounds for suspicion and would be similar to present powers of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. It could not be used to search a private residence.
The federal police might get "more flexibility" to detain terrorist suspects or restrict their movements, a senior Government source told the Herald.
The scope of reform at the leaders' meeting - convened in the aftermath of the London bombings - will be wide.
Other counter-terrorism measures are expected to include enhanced transport security, increased surveillance by closed-circuit TV and a doubling of the waiting time, to four years, to get Australian citizenship.
This latest Herald Poll, conducted last weekend by ACNielsen, shows that despite Government claims that it is prosecuting the Iraq war and tightening domestic security to protect the nation from terrorism, people are more afraid than ever of attack.