Terrorism has a very long history, and is widely practised. Broadly, the term is applied to an act that is (a) violent, (b) targeted at civilians, (c) intended to create public fear, (d) intended to assist in achieving some political aim, and (e) conducted by an organisation other than a legally constituted government.
The attacks by Al-Qaeda on New York and Washington DC on 11 September 2001 utilised the fuel of fully-laden aircraft and the design deficiencies of a pair of very tall buildings to achieve a spectacular impact. This provided national security extremists in the USA, the UK, Australia and some other countries with a hell-sent opportunity to seek parliamentary approval for a wide range of liberty-constraining measures. Few of the measures were supported by rational analysis or argument; they were simply asserted to be necessary to combat terrorism. Parliaments in many countries succumbed. Islamic militants sustained the invitation to the free world to over-react, with major attacks in Bali in 2002, in Madrid in 2004, in London in 2005, and in Mumbai in 2006 and 2008. A number of attacks have been thwarted, in several western countries.
The situation in Australia has to be seen against the backdrop of the trivial number of instances of attempts at domestic terrorism. See, for example, the Wikipedia article on ‘Terrorism in Australia’. “To date, not a single person has been killed in a terrorist attack on Australian soil in the post-9/11 era. Around 100 Australians have died in terrorist attacks overseas, most of them in the Bali bombings of October 2002. A calculation of annual fatality risks for the period of 1970-2007 reveals that the risk of getting killed in a terrorist attack in Australia is 1 in 33,300,000. Even with the Bali bombings included, the fatality risk stands at 1 in 7,100,000. By comparison, the risk of getting killed in a traffic accident amounts to 1 in 15,000” (CLA 2010).
This page provides resources to assist in identifying the large number of items of legislation at Australian federal level, and further statutes in the States and Territories. These were passed in a wave of knee-jerk reactions by Parliamentarians most of whom (Democrats and Greens aside) were too spineless and/or lazy to ask questions about:
- just how each of the hundreds of measures would actually assist in protecting the public against terrorism
- what alternative measures were available that had less impact on civil liberties, and
- what control and amelioration features were included in the proposals.
This resource depends very heavily on a Terrorism Law resource developed by a Law Librarian in the Australian Parliamentary Library, Roy Jordan, and maintained by him until the end of 2007. The page is here, and a mirror extracted on 3 May 2010 is here.
There had never been any perceived need to have specific terrorism laws before September 2001. A wide range of acts concerning violence, and preparations to commit acts of violence, had long since been criminalised. The clear policy of civil liberties and privacy organisations is that such laws should be kept under review to ensure both that they are sufficient to address the public safety challenges of the time, and that they are justified, appropriate and not excessive, subject to controls and accompanied by measures to ameliorate any unavoidable negative impacts.
Legislation relevant to terrorism that was in force as at 11 September 2001 is catalogued in APHL.
2001-07 – The Howard Regime
There were a great many Bills introduced during 2001-07. CHECK: With few? almost no? exceptions, they were adopted enthusiastically by the Labor Opposition, with little critical consideration, and few amendments.
Here are chronologies of measures announced and Bills and Regulations tabled during the period from 11 September 2001 until the end of the Howard Government in late 2007:
The 9 court cases during the period are outlined here. Of those, precisely 3 were major, all were capable of being prosecuted without recourse to the terrorism legislation, and none appeared (from the limited information publicly available) to justify any of the legislation.
The primary federal legislation as at the end of 2007 is listed here.
The primary State and Territory legislation at the end of 2007 is listed here.
2008-10 – The Rudd Regime
The reasonable expectation when the Howard Government lost the November 2007 election was that both the efflux of time and [CHECK:] the undertakings in the Rudd platform would ensure that the Rudd Government would be far more effective at resisting the desires of the national security extremists, and that it would progressively (although perhaps not suddenly) wind back at least the worst excesses of the Howard era. [Note that the ALP’s 2007 Platform has been deleted from its site, and archival on the Wayback Machine appears to have been suppressed. I’ve yet to find a mirror.]
The Parliamentary Information web-site was changed during 2009, and the service has become a complete dog’s breakfast. It appears to be impossible to quickly find Bills and Bill Digests, and to establish whether the Bill was ever passed.
The following is necessarily tentative, but it appears that, during the period 2008-10:
- no laws have been rescinded
- no laws have expired due to sunset clauses
- no laws have been amended to overcome any of the unjustified violations of civil liberties
- private members’ Bills have been ignored by the Government
- 1 Bill has been passed into law
The following appear to be the Bills relating to terrorism during 2008-10:
- Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Laws Bill 2008. (Private Members’ Bill, in two versions, by Liberal Senators Judith Troeth and Gary Humphries, based on a UK Bill. Amended by the Greens, reviewed and supported by the Legal & Constitutional Committee, ignored by the Government)
- Financial Transaction Reports Amendment (Transitional Arrangements) Bill 2008 – Bill Digest – Government Bill, but never passed?
- Law and Justice Legislation Amendment (Identity Crimes and Other Measures) Bill 2008 – Government Bill, but never passed?
- Anti-Terrorism Laws Reform Bill 2009 (Private Member’s Bill, by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, ignored by the Government, to amend the: Criminal Code Act 1995 to: insert a new definition of ‘terrorist act’; remove the offences of ‘reckless possession of a thing’, sedition, and associating with a terrorist organisation; amend the reference to ‘fostering the doing of’ a terrorist act in the definition of ‘terrorist organisation’; provide for terrorist organisations to be prescribed in regulations; and amend the ‘supporting’ offence; …)
- Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious and Organised Crime) Bill 2009 – Bill Digest (September), including unexplained wealth provisions and enhanced police powers relating to controlled operations, assumed identities and witness identity protection, increased access to telecommunications interception for criminal organisation offences, etc. – Government Bill, but never passed?
- Assisting the Victims of International Terrorism Bill 2009 (Private Member’s Bill, by the Leader of the Opposition, ignored by the Government)
- Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010 – Government Bill, passed March 2010
- National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 – Bill Digest – Government Bill, but not passed?