Is NZ next for Aussie style Anti-Terror laws?

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As Australia looks set to ram through a suite of new anti-terrorism laws, it is worth considering if the New Zealand government will shortly attempt to do the same.

The Abbott government in Australia is looking to pass a law that would:

  • broaden the listing criteria for terrorist organisations,
  • lower the threshold for arrest without warrant for terrorism offences,
  • extend police and intelligence agencies’ powers to stop, question and detain suspects, and
  • make it easier for the Australian federal police to seek control orders on people returning from fighting abroad.

Additionally, the foreign affairs minister would be able to designate an area where terrorist organisations were conducting hostile activities, such as parts of Iraq and Syria, and it would become an offence to travel to those areas ‘unless there is a legitimate purpose’.

The Australian intelligence organisations have entered a phase of extreme heightened paranoia about the estimated 150 Australian citizens and permanent residents who have gone to fight in the Middle East.

The just retired independent national security legislation monitor, Bret Walker, is gravely concerned that, “we will end up or could end up with something being an offence constituted by simply having gone to a place where terrorism is in train, somewhere as large as Syria or Iraq, both big territories, with many innocent people doing many innocent things and many innocent people doing many wonderful things, humanitarian assistance.”

Here in Aotearoa, the Security Intelligence Service has been leaning heavily on the Muslim community for years and the drone murder of Daryl Jones earlier this year has intensified their interest in the so-called ‘radicalisation’ of people at the Al Noor Christchurch Mosque.

Meanwhile, prime minister John Key and Labour leader David Cunliffe agree that Kiwis leaving to join the conflict in Syria pose a potential threat to New Zealand.

The Lebanese Muslim community in Australia is fighting back against these proposed law changes. They are unwilling to be silent while they are targeted and profiled for their religion and ethnicity.

In New Zealand, many within the Muslim community are extremely afraid to speak out.

We have witnessed the tremendous fall-out and harm caused by the one and only use of New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act: the 2007 Urewera raids. At that time, the Solicitor-General described it as ‘unnecessarily complex, unworkable and almost impossible to apply in a domestic situation.’ Nevertheless, the current National government shelved a planned law commission review of the TSA, and so it stands as is.

The terrorism committed in New Zealand, then, has been at the hands of the state in carrying out that operation deemed ‘unlawful, unreasonable and unjustified’ by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

The government has not indicated any particular desire to legislate similarly to our mates over the ditch are doing, but given the vast new powers of surveillance accorded to the GCSB, perhaps they are at present, unnecessary.

We may be soon primed to accepting more anti-terrorism laws - and the concomitant funding for them; we should be very vigilant and ready to fight against any such plans.

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