Australia is to impose draconian counter-terrorism laws after Prime Minister John Howard won unanimous support from state premiers Tuesday, September 27, for the laws dubbed unfair by Muslims.
Trying to justify the new laws, Queensland state premier Peter Beattie told a news conference, “In many sense the laws that we have agreed to today are draconian laws, but they are necessary laws to protect Australians,” Reuters reported.
Describing the legislation as “unusual laws because we live in unusual circumstances”, Howard said the London bombings in July had brought home the “chilling reality” that “terrorist attacks” could be staged by a country’s own citizens, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“We are worried there are people in our country who might just do this,” Howard told a news conference after a meeting with the Council of Australian Governments.
The laws include tighter checks on citizenship applicants, jail terms for inciting violence, detention of suspects without charge for up to two weeks, and curtailing suspects’ movements and contacts for up to a year.
They also will provide police with greater stop, search and question powers. But they will be reviewed after five years and include a 10-year “sunset clause”, after which they would have to be dropped, altered or renewed, Howard said.
A prominent moderate Islamic leader, Keyser Trad of the Islamic Friendship Association, immediately condemned the laws and said they targeted Muslims. “They have the potential of creating a fascist state and have the potential to divide society dramatically,” he told AFP.
“I am quite frightened by these laws,” he said, suggesting that they could be used against people who criticized government policy such as the deployment of troops to Iraq.