Foreign fighter laws cut freedom of movement and undermine presumption of innocence, says Liberty Victoria

Liberty Victoria has joined civil liberties organisations throughout Australia in criticising national security laws being rushed through federal parliament in the Counter Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014.
These new laws risk crippling Australians’ rights and freedom of movement.
Liberty Victoria made a joint submission with civil liberties groups from several states to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which is reviewing this complex array of provisions. The groups also provided oral evidence to the committee.
The civil liberties groups join other organisations such as the Australian Human Rights Commission in highlighting the lack of time for proper debate and discussion of the Bill, given its dramatic impact on human rights. They have called for an extension of the review process.
Liberty Victoria and its interstate counterparts were given only one week’s notice to prepare a response to the 164-page Bill, with the parliamentary committee due to report in a fortnight.
Liberty Victoria and its interstate counterparts have the following concerns with the legislation:

  • The renewal of extraordinary ASIO powers, stop and search powers, preventative detention for people not accused of any crime, and control orders, for a further 10 years. These were due to expire in 2015 or 2016 under existing sunset provisions and experts, including the government’s Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, recommended that they not be renewed.
  • The creation of “no go zones”, making it a criminal offence to travel to any place declared by the Foreign Minister as such, subject to a traveller having to provide evidence that the trip complied with listed legitimate purposes.
  • The dramatic broadening of the scope of existing offences of travelling to a foreign country to engage in a hostile activity. The definition of “hostile activity” has been expanded to include “subverting society” and a range of other new activities.
  • The power to cancel welfare payments on security grounds, without even having to give the affected person any reasons.

 “We are very concerned about the creation of ‘no go zones’,” said Liberty Victoria President, Jane Dixon QC. “If there is a need to limit freedom of travel in the context of terrorism, any limitation should require a connection to terrorist activity. Criminalising travel per se is an extraordinary departure from Australia’s liberal democratic values.
“The government has not shown justification for the range of offences now proposed to attract life imprisonment which is a grave concern,” said Ms Dixon.
For further comment please contact Liberty Victoria President, Jane Dixon QC, or Immediate Past President, Prof Spencer Zifcak.