Sun, Oct 16, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Australia accused of trying to rush new terror laws

`INDECENT HASTE' Avoiding public debate, the government is trying to push through laws that would give police more powers, a legal expert said

AFP , SYDNEY

The Australian government was accused yesterday of rushing through anti-terror laws that allow police to use lethal force if they believe an attack is imminent.

Law Council of Australia president John North said the government was attempting to prevent the legal fallout experienced by British anti-terrorism police who shot dead Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in a London subway station last July after mistaking him for a suicide bomber.

North said that under current laws police could only shoot to kill if they believed they were directly threatened, but draft legislation leaked on Friday also allowed for lethal force if it could protect the life of another person.

"Under this, there seems to be enough room to maneuver and it seems to be directly pointed at the London situation where the person was shot," he said.

North said the government was not conducting proper consultation over the proposed laws, which he said threatened basic Australian freedoms.

"The government is acting with indecent haste to bring in these laws," he told public radio.

The laws are due to be introduced to parliament on Oct. 31 and the government has given a Senate inquiry a week to scrutinize their contents.

It had kept details of the proposed legislation confidential but Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister John Stanhope published them on Friday, saying he wanted them to be properly debated by the public.

The leaked draft law includes seven-year jail terms for sedition, described as "promoting feelings of ill-will or hostility between groups" that threaten public order or "urging a person to assist the enemy."

It also includes life sentences for anyone who finances a terrorist organization and allows police to lock up terrorist suspects for two weeks without charge. Anyone who tells their family they are being held under the anti-terror laws can be jailed for five years.

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