The following is a timeline which outlines the progressive additions to Anti-Terror Laws introduced over the last 13 years by the Australian Government, targeted specifically towards the Muslim community.
Australia’s first package of anti-terror laws are introduced following the 9/11 attacks. The bills include the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002, which inserts a list of “terrorism offences” into the Criminal Code and also includes “a regime for the Attorney-General to proscribe (ban) an organisation that has a specified terrorist connection.”
Most of the earlier draconian terrorism related bills pass through parliament.
Bali bombings take place.
On 23 October 2002 the Criminal Code Amendment (Terrorist Organisations) Bill 2002 is passed the day it is tabled in Parliament. The bill is intended to “enable the speedier proscription of terrorist organisations”.
According to the Code it is an offence to even “recklessly” provide support or funds to a “terrorist organisation” with a maximum prison sentence of up to 15 years.
The ASIO Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002, which was withdrawn in December 2002, is reintroduced with amendments, and passes through parliament in June 2003. ASIO is given the ability to “coercively question and detain a non-suspect citizen” under a “Special Powers Regime”.
Further powers are granted to ASIO through the ASIO Legislation Amendment Act 2003 enhancing its ability to question and detain individuals in order to gather intelligence regarding a “terrorism offence”.
Madrid bombings take place.
The Anti-Terrorism Act 2004 introduces a number of amendments to existing laws, including the Criminal Code, “to strengthen the counter-terrorism legislation relating to membership of terrorist organisations and the offence of receiving training from a terrorist organisation.”
The Anti-Terrorism Act (No. 3) 2004 gives ASIO powers to “demand the surrender of Australian and foreign passports in certain circumstances.”
The Surveillance Devices Act 2004 empowers police officers “to use listening devices, optical surveillance devices, tracking devices and data surveillance devices” and allows police to “exercise the necessary powers to install, maintain and retrieve surveillance devices without a warrant in some circumstances.”
London bombings take place.
Prime Minister John Howard announces a number of proposals to strengthen existing laws. The proposals include the introduction of control orders, preventative detention and new stop, question and search powers.
ASIO report to Parliament warns “attacks in Australia are feasible and could occur without warning.” Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 amends the Criminal Code to clarify that “it is not necessary to identify a particular terrorist act upon proving the offence.”
Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 allows up to 12 months of control orders and 14 days of preventative detention for terror suspects. It also allows for the banning of organisations for “inciting” terrorism and creates offences related to “urging hostility towards various groups.”
Telecommunications Amendment Act 2006 introduces number of laws related to interception of telecommunications, including interception of communications of a person known to communicate with a “person of interest”.
The Counter-Terrorism White Paper 2010 is released. It describes the “common set of beliefs” of terrorist networks. Among them is the belief that Muslim rulers are corrupt and the solution is the removal of Western interference and establishment of an Islamic system of governance.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says that “terrorism has become a persistent and permanent feature of Australia’s security environment.”
National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 passes parliament further tightening the anti-terror laws. Police are given extensive search and seize powers enabling them to enter premises without warrant in emergency situations related to terrorism offences.
Australia’s terror alert level is raised to high although authorities are unaware of a “specific” plot or target.
The 1st of three “tranches” of new laws, National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, passes both houses on 1st October. The laws grant unprecedented powers to ASIO – immunity from prosecution, powers to impersonate, use of force in executing a warrant, no warrant necessary in using surveillance devices, and the explicit allowance to add, modify and deleting files from computers.
The 2nd set of new laws pass through both houses on 30 October making it easier to prosecute Australian citizens engaged in “terrorist activities” or “hostile activity” overseas. Some major changes introduced in expanding the definition of terrorism, the new offence of ‘advocating terrorism’, to suspend a person’s passport for 14 days, criminalising travel to a designated area, etc. It also allows for the cancelling of welfare payments for persons involved in terrorism and collection of biometrics at customs.
A 3rd set of laws, The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 passes both houses on 2nd Dec 2014. Amongst the changes: expanding the grounds upon which a control order can be requested and issued and the reduction of information required to be provided to the Attorney-General when seeking consent to request an interim control order.
The 4th set of laws, Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015, pass parliament on 26th March. Under these, telecommunication companies are required to retain phone and internet usage data of customers for 2 years and allow security agencies to access the records.
The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 is introduced on 24th June “to provide explicit powers for the cessation of Australian citizenship in specified circumstances where a dual citizen engages in terrorism-related conduct.” The bill explains that “Australian citizenship involves a commitment to this country, its people and its democratic rights and privileges”. The minister will also declare those organisations that are opposed to Australia or Australia’s values, democratic beliefs, rights and liberties.
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