Australia proposes new anti-terror laws

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The proposed legislation includes an increase in the number of security cameras, penalties for leaving bags unattended at airports, electronic tags and restraining orders on suspects and tougher jail terms for inciting violence. Greater powers will be given to police and spy agencies to deal with terror suspects, and the length of time before permanent residents may apply for citizenship will increase from two to three years.

The Australian government has received criticism over its new proposed anti-terror laws, claiming they are encouraging a transition into a police state. Critics say that the laws are draconian, too open to abuse, and may restrict the Australian 'way of life'.

The government has responded by saying that the laws are necessary to ensure security due to the rising terrorist threat to Australia. It is also considering sunset clauses for some laws, to counter claims that the laws may be abused after the terror threat has ebbed.

There has been concern from the Muslim community that the laws are unfairly biased against Muslims. The government denied this. The Prime Minister John Howard said all Australians, including Muslims, should have nothing to fear if they are law-abiding citizens. "These laws are not directed at Islamic people, they are directed at people who might be contemplating terrorist deeds," Mr Howard said.

There will be a meeting of State and Federal leaders, to determine the finer details of the new legislation, later this month.