New laws threaten detainees’ rights

Nauroze Anees has spent five years unlawfully detained in Australia’s onshore detention facilities. He is vocal about the human rights violations suffered by detainees, using his phone to document incidents. Proposed new laws will mean mobile phones can be removed from detainees, leaving them vulnerable to further injustices. I spoke to Nauroze about the legislation.

Images and audio taken from video footage by Nauroze Anees @ForLovenFreedom
Music: “Je suis un Phoenix” by Bluemillenium is licensed under CC BY NC 3.0 2020

Rights and the totalitarian creep

Under the cover of COVID-19, the Home Affairs Department is slipping a raft of legislation into parliament, in what appears to be an attempt to sneak new laws through while the nation counts coronavirus clusters.

Image source: Cathy Wilcox

There’s an assumption, as an Australian, of rights, freedom and a protection from injustice.

Yet the lucky country does not have a Bill of Rights, with provision for some limited human rights found in the Constitution instead.

Through legislation those rights can and have been further impeded. In fact, legal advocates decry some new laws akin to that of totalitarian rule.

Right now, the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) are restricted to questioning people aged at least 16-years-old and minors must have a lawyer present.

Under Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment Bill 2020, children as young as 14 could be subjected to questioning.

This alongside the NSW Police’s rampant misuse of strip searches on children as young as 10 years of age paints a disturbing picture for youth in Australia.

“As a lawyer, one hears and reads stories about colleagues in authoritarian states where such powers are given to and used by security agencies, but one never expected it in democratic Australia.” 

Barrister and lecturer Greg Barnes

Anyone under questioning could be deprived of the right to choose their own lawyer, instead a “suitable” one will be chosen on their behalf.

In some cases, ASIO could deny them a lawyer or have their lawyer removed mid questioning.

Such decisions could be based on hearsay evidence.

Warrants could be granted verbally, leaving no trail for accountability.

Placing tracking devices on cars or personal belongings will only require a verbal approval from an ASIO officer, further reducing opportunity for scrutiny. 

In The Sydney Morning Herald Barrister and lecturer Greg Barnes writes about the continual introduction of such legislation as an attack on the rule of law. 

“As a lawyer, one hears and reads stories about colleagues in authoritarian states where such powers are given to and used by security agencies, but one never expected it in democratic Australia,” he said.  

This law is the latest in a barrage of what was described by an expert as “hyper-legislation”.

Australia has introduced 82 new counter terrorism laws since 2001, that’s one every 6.7 weeks.

One particularly unconstitutional law for Temporary Exclusion Orders (TEO) passed in July 2019 allows the Home Affairs Minister to prevent an Australian citizen abroad from re-entering Australia, even if they were not involved in any wrongdoing. 

A TEO lasts for two years but multiple orders can be applied to one person, extending to many years. 

Designed to prevent citizens from fighting in foreign wars, the Law Council President Arthur Moses SC said it is a slippery slope to excluding people based on grounds such as religion or geography. 

“[…] laws at risk of constitutional challenge pose an unnecessary risk to national security,” he said. 

“Australians must be confident that their safety and the work of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies is protected by laws and powers that are strong, proportional and without legal ambiguity.”

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