Thursday, November 03, 2005

How the New York Times views Howard's Anti-Terror Bill

I have reproduced the whole article since otherwise you would need a password to read the New York Times:
'November 3, 2005
Australia to Present Strict Antiterrorism Statute

SYDNEY, Australia, Nov. 2 - Prime Minister John Howard went on television Wednesday afternoon to warn of a potential terrorist attack, just as he was preparing to introduce legislation to give the police and intelligence agencies broad powers to detain and monitor terrorism suspects.

"The government has received specific intelligence and police information this week that gives cause for serious concern about a potential terrorist threat," he said.

Mr. Howard gave no details, and the government did not raise the threat level, which stands at "medium," the second lowest of four levels. "Medium" means an attack "could occur," while the next level, "high," means an attack is "likely."

Mr. Howard called for Parliament to amend existing counterterrorism laws to make it easier to conduct raids on suspected terrorist organizations, even before it takes up the broader bill.

The antiterrorism bill, which even some backers have described as draconian, contains the most sweeping changes to the security apparatus since World War II.

Public debate has been limited because the government did not publish the bill. The chief executive of the Australian Capitol Territory, Jon Stanhope, published it on his Web site three weeks ago, saying he thought broader public discussion was needed. Mr. Howard, leader of the center-right Liberal Party, reacted by refusing to provide Mr. Stanhope, of the Labor Party, any further drafts.

Based on that draft, the proposed law would permit the police to use preventive detention for up to 14 days, during which time the detained person would be allowed to let only one family member know of the detention. It would be a crime for the family member to tell anyone else - even for a father to tell the detainee's mother, for instance.

The definition of sedition would be expanded to include statements that "urge disaffection" toward the government, or that promote "ill will or hostility" among groups.

Mr. Howard is expected to introduce the bill on Thursday. Approval is expected within days. Mr. Howard's party controls both houses of the Parliament, and the leader of the Labor Party, Kim Beazley, has said he supports such a law.

Mr. Howard's government began drafting the measures after the London subway bombings in July. Those drove home the need to be concerned about "home-grown terrorists," he has said.

Australia has not experienced a major terrorist attack, but the bombings of nightclubs in Bali in October 2002 killed 88 Australians and had an impact similar to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. There was also a suicide attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in September 2004, and last month, more bombings in Bali, which killed and wounded several Australians.

Al Qaeda leaders have declared that Australia is a target because of its support for the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jemaah Islamiyah, Al Qaeda's onetime affiliate in Southeast Asia and the organization responsible for the first Bali attacks and the suicide bombing of the embassy, had a division whose responsibility was Australia.

But that cell has been largely put out of business because of arrests of major leaders, said Sidney Jones, who has studied and written extensively about Jemaah Islamiyah for the International Crisis Group.

Australia has a small Muslim population, 300,000 in a country of 22 million, most of them well integrated into Australian culture.'


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