The Guardian 9 March, 2005
Make your voice heard
Some of the laws are presently under review by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and the DSD (Defence Signals Directorate). The Committee has asked for submissions by March 24, 2005.
It is important that as many organisations (trade union, community, ethnic, church, peace, environmental, and others) and individuals as possible make a submission. There is little time left. You do not need to write a great deal and there are no "formalities" that have to be adhered to: expressing your concerns in writing (even if handwritten) will do. The site www.civilrightsnetwork.org has a pro forma submission which can be used to help you out.
The Committee will be making recommendations to Parliament on how the laws should be changed.
Below are some suggestions as to what you might take up in a submission:
Repeal the laws. Laws were already adequate
The new laws undermine democratic rights
Innocent people could easily be caught up in the system — just as Cornelia Rau was under the equally horrendous system of immigration laws and practices. Who knows on what basis the Minister adds people or organisations to the Consolidated List. Is it at the request of foreign governments?
There is no accountability to the public
Freedom of speech is eroded because it inhibits people from verbally supporting organisations. It frightens journalists, who don't want to write about ASIO and national security matters in general, for fear of accidentally breaking the law.
Freedom of association is eroded on the most subjective grounds where people cannot be sure if they can associate with someone — the concentration on Muslim individuals and organisations gives this a particularly nasty overtone
Freedom of political expression is eroded
ASIO questioning laws reverse the long-held presumption of innocence. What happens when some one does not answer an ASIO question because they do not know the answer? How can you prove you do not know it?
If you have had any personal experiences of the impact of the laws then you might like to write about those.
The University of Technology Sydney Community Law Centre (UTSCLC) has produced an information kit on the laws, Be Informed: ASIO and Anti-Terrorism Laws.
The kit is written in simple, easy to understand English (not legalese!). It provides an excellent summary of the laws and explains how to make a submission. It also is a very useful guide to your rights in particular situations and includes information on where you can seek advice, how to make a complaint about ASIO or the AFP and details of activist groups.
The primary researcher for the kit was Dale Mills who is a volunteer at the Community Law Centre and an activist with the Civil Rights Network in Sydney.
Much of the material used in this special centre-page spread has been taken from the kit with the kind permission of the University of Technology, Sydney Community Law Centre (UTSCLC).
Readers are advised before taking any action in relation to these laws that they should seek legal advice. While utmost care has been taken in preparing this material, its accuracy cannot be guaranteed and the laws are subject to change.
For more information visit:
Civil Rights Network: http://www.civilrightsnetwork.org
Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN): http://www.amcran.org