“Federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) president John Von Doussa says the proposed counter-terrorism laws are the first step towards a police state.
He says the Federal Government cannot be trusted.
The ACT’s Legislative Assembly this afternoon hosted a forum for leading human rights commentators.
Mr Von Doussa says the legislation gives the executive extraordinary powers to detain people without charge, but there are no means by which the application of those powers can be checked or appealed.
‘The defining characteristic of a police state is that the police exercise power on behalf of the executive and the conduct of the police cannot be effectively challenged and regrettably that is exactly what these laws are proposing,’ he said.
Mr Von Doussa says the judicial review of control and detention orders is illusionary.
‘The executive power is not in any realistic sense subject to review on the merits,’ Mr Van Doussa said.
He says the Government is seeking to enact extraordinary powers to deprive people of their liberty while asking to be trusted not to abuse that authority.
‘The difficulty of that approach is as experience has shown not only in places like South Africa but here in Australia is that reality turns out otherwise,’ he said.
‘Revelation of the Palmer report demonstrates how abuses of power can occur where there is no acceptable and realistic way that people can question what is happening to them.’
ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, who triggered public debate on the new laws two weeks ago when he published the draft legislation on the Internet, attended the summit.
He says he is still assessing the latest version of the laws, but Mr Von Doussa’s comments should sound alarm bells.
‘That he regards this as the first step on the march to a police state in Australia is, I think, the most worrying commentary I’ve heard on this legislation since it was released,’ Mr Stanhope said.
Mr Stanhope says he will be contacting state and territory leaders to push for improved safeguards.”