Our Fundamental Freedoms

6 Jun

THE GUARDIAN PUBLISHED THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE ON 6TH OF JUNE 2015:

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jun/06/gillian-triggs-slams-scores-of-laws-threatening-fundamental-freedoms

Gillian Triggs slams ‘scores of laws’ threatening fundamental freedoms

Human rights commissioner delivers forceful warning over counter-terrorism legislation and attacks on rule of law by parliaments across Australia

Gillian Triggs: ‘Australian parliaments have passed scores of laws that infringe our democratic freedoms of speech, association and movement, the right to a fair trial and the prohibition on arbitrary detention.’
Gillian Triggs: ‘Australian parliaments have passed scores of laws that infringe our democratic freedoms of speech, association and movement, the right to a fair trial and the prohibition on arbitrary detention.’

Last modified on Friday 5 June 2015 10.03

Australian parliaments have passed “scores of laws” that threaten fundamental rights and freedoms, Professor Gillian Triggs has said, pointedly warning MPs to uphold the rule of law as they prepare to debate extraordinary ministerial powers to revoke citizenship.

In a forceful speech, the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission argued parliaments had failed to protect democratic rights and many politicians were “breathtakingly inconsistent” in supporting the rule of law.

And she warned that counter-terrorism laws introduced with “unseemly haste” were likely to have a chilling effect on free speech and privacy.

Triggs’s intervention comes amid intense debate about executive overreach as the government prepares laws to give the immigration minister the power to strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they are suspected of involvement in terrorism.

The speech is likely to inflame Triggs’s already strained relationship with the Abbott government, which has previously said it had lost confidence in the Human Rights Commission chief over her handling of an inquiry into children in immigration detention.

Triggs referred to the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – which she said had “symbolic power” – as she raised concerns that the supremacy of the law over the executive government was “under threat in Australia’s contemporary democracy”.

“Over the last 15 years or so, the major political parties have agreed with each other to pass laws that threaten some of the most fundamental rights and freedoms that we have inherited from our common law tradition,” she told an audience at the Human Rights Law Centre in Melbourne on Friday evening.

These laws undermine democracy, especially in granting powers to the executive that aren’t subject to judicial scrutiny
“For, over the last decade, particularly since the attack in 2001 on the twin towers in America, Australian parliaments have passed scores of laws that infringe our democratic freedoms of speech, association and movement, the right to a fair trial and the prohibition on arbitrary detention.

“These new laws undermine a healthy, robust democracy, especially if they grant discretionary powers to the executive government that are not subject to judicial scrutiny.”

Triggs said the expansion of ministerial powers represented a “growing threat to democracy” and she cited numerous examples of executive overreach including:

Powers to detain indefinitely various classes of individuals, including refugees and asylum seekers, those with infectious diseases, those subject to mandatory admission to drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities and the mentally ill;
The holding of four Indigenous men with intellectual and cognitive disabilities for years in a maximum security prison in the Northern Territory even though “each complainant had been found unfit to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity”;
The indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees including children because of adverse security assessments “without meaningful access to legal advice or judicial review”;
The reduction of freedom of association from Queensland’s “anti-bikie” laws;
Constraints on judicial power to assess individual circumstances due to “a spate of mandatory sentencing laws”.
Triggs also spoke at length about the significant expansion of counter-terrorism powers in Australia on the grounds of community safety, arguing the strength of the rule of law was “more truly tested when security is threatened than in times of peace”.

“To the extent that Australia is threatened by terrorism, the need to protect our traditional liberties and freedoms assumes an even greater urgency,” she said.

“Many laws introduced with unseemly haste before Christmas in the name of national security go well beyond what might be deemed to necessary, creating a chilling effect on freedom of speech and the press and breaching the right to privacy.”

A detention centre on Nauru. Triggs also used the speech to criticise the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees because of adverse security assessments from Asio, without any course of meaningful appeal.
A detention centre on Nauru. Triggs also used the speech to criticise the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees because of adverse security assessments from Asio, without any course of meaningful appeal.
Referring to the data retention laws passed with bipartisan support in March, Triggs said it was curious that a “journalist information warrant” was required to access the call logs of a reporter but such a warrant was not needed for agencies to look at other citizens’ metadata.

“As the metadata will be collected in respect of most of the 23 million Australians, and those involved in terrorism or paedophilia are very few, it might be said that the act employs a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” she said.

Triggs also raised concerns that accused persons would face an evidentiary burden to defend themselves against a 10-year prison sentence for entering “declared areas” listed by the foreign affairs minister under the Foreign Fighters Act.

She said the same act introduced a new offence of advocating terrorism, “an imprecise crime whose scope may cover, for example, opposing the Assad regime in Syria or supporting Palestinian efforts to gain statehood”.

Other national security laws passed last year created an offence punishable by up to 10 years in jail for disclosing information about a “special intelligence operation”, which was likely to “have a chilling effect on legitimate public debate about security operations”, Triggs said.

“The overreach of executive power is clear in the yet-to-be defined proposal that those accused of being jihadists fighting against Australian interests will be stripped of their citizenship if they are potentially dual nationals,” she said.

“This proposal strikes at the heart of Australia as a largely migrant nation. Not only may this idea violate Australia’s international obligation not to render a person stateless, but also the decision may be at the discretion of a minister, without recourse to judicial processes.

“This proposal is not new. It follows a bill introduced last year to give the minister discretion to revoke citizenship for fraud or misrepresentation, or where the minister is ‘satisfied’ that a person is not of good character, all without trial or conviction. The debate, it seems, is between the subjective suspicions of a minister, versus an evidence-based determination by a judge according to established rule of law.”

Gillian Triggs accused of ‘slur’ by linking Bali Nine deaths to asylum seeker policy

The Coalition has faced criticism from legal experts over its citizenship proposals, ahead of the introduction of a bill during the next sitting of parliament that would allow the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, to target dual nationals.

The government deferred a decision on a related proposal to allow the minister to also revoke the citizenship of sole nationals who might be able to apply for citizenship elsewhere, following a cabinet backlash.

The prime minister, Tony Abbott, said the government subscribed to the “very clear principle” that “anyone who raises a gun or a knife to an Australian because of who we are has utterly forfeited any right to be considered one of us”.

But the criteria and procedure for such ministerial determinations remains unclear because the legislation is yet to be released.

Dutton suggested on Friday that affected persons could apply for a judicial review on limited grounds.

Asked whether the review would apply only to the process rather than the substance of the claims against the person, Dutton said: “It relates to that part of the decision, you’re right, and the government’s not going to have the court second-guessing ministerial decisions.”

Before she delivered her speech on Friday about the need for parliaments to “meet their obligations as a check on executive government”, Triggs was strongly criticised by Dutton for earlier comments about “the consequences” of turning asylum-seeker boats back towards Indonesia.

She was reported by the Australian newspaper to have said: “Is it any wonder that Indonesia will not engage with us on other issues that we care about, like the death penalty?”

Triggs’s office said she was reflecting on the death penalty in the region broadly, rather than specific cases, but Dutton said it was an “outrageous slur” to link the death of two of the Bali Nine drug smugglers to Australia’s asylum seeker policy.

7 Responses to “Our Fundamental Freedoms”

  1. auntyuta June 6, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Triggs said:

    “This proposal is not new. It follows a bill introduced last year to give the minister
    discretion to revoke citizenship for fraud or misrepresentation, or where the minister is ‘satisfied’ that a person is not of good character, all without trial or conviction. The debate, it seems, is between the subjective suspicions of a minister, versus an evidence-based determination by a judge according to established rule of law.”

    ” . . . . where the minister is ‘satisfied that a person is not of good character, all without trial or conviction.”

    Does this mean that the subjective suspicions of a minister are sufficient to revoke citizenship? No evidence-based determination by a judge according to established rule of law needed? Does that mean there won’t be or is no more rule of law in this country?

  2. aussieian2011 June 6, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    The opinion of Gillian Triggs is that civil liberties are being trampled on, in terrors name, and that this is only the beginning, more Draconian laws are being planned. All this in regards to denying citizenship to dual nations as proposed by the Government.
    Well bring on those Draconian laws. Australia is tired of people who feel their Civil liberty and rights are being violated.
    Law courts are stifling this country, we have a revolving door system, Murderers who feel their sentences too long, Paedophiles who feel injustice, Rapist on bail, Pseudo terrorists who feel misaligned, all going through the revolving doors of our courts, court cases continuous, and paid by the Tax payers, and then we have Child abusers and underage offenders, names suppressed by courts, all because people think their personal rights have been violated, or will be violated
    Who represents these people who drain the Taxpayers money ?, High rolling lawyers who are in it for financial gain, not for humanity reasons, all because we have laws that have allowed for the revolving doors of self-righteousness, to override state laws.
    Terrorism is a real threat to Australia, and now needs Draconian laws that override judicial laws.
    It is commendable that Federal Parliament is now heeding the call of the nation, in regards to the handling of terrorists, maybe they will take it one step further, maybe all immediate families of Australian born terrorists serving overseas, should be deported to country of origin, this will demonstrate to all would be terrorists, that they are placing their very families at risk
    Parents who serve in Terrorist pursuit, be returned to Australia, and face the full brunt of the law, their Australian born children, not be placed under a social welfare system, but be interred in an Australian Re-education facility.
    The crimes of Sedition and Treason, when enforced, would remove all Hate Preachers.
    Close the Judicial doors to all appeals.
    Maybe society will learn that State law is enacted to protect the security and well being of all Australians, and overrides the bleeding hearts of those who feel their rights surpass the needs of Australia.

    • auntyuta June 6, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

      Ian, you say: “Law courts are stifling this country . . . . ”
      Well, the way our politicians are going, maybe soon we won’t need any more law courts. All the money saved can go into our fight against terrorism. And we better not dare to criticize our government in any way or we might eventually end up in some kind of jail for an indefinite period. All this for the good of team Australia. After all, we all just want to have ‘the good life’, right?

      • aussieian2011 June 7, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

        At this stage Uta, the law courts are demonstrating nothing but slaps on the wrist, the parents of a child holding up decapitated heads, do not need the judicial courts to explain and pardon their reasons, too many Australians do not see the germ of Islam infiltrating society and the world, similar to 39/45 war, certain people did not see the rise of a germ that ended up causing Genocide, the world needs to be aware of the visible presence of the AntiChrist that is now spreading its tentacles, law courts wont help anyone once the law courts only recognize one law, Sharia Law, cheers.

      • aussieian2011 June 8, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

        Maybe the law courts and red tape is what is making it easier for terrorism Uta, everybody coming into Australia seems to have massive access to lawyers to plead their cases, the bottom line is they are using Australian courts based on Humanitarian grounds to access this country, while most of them are nothing more than financial refugees.

  3. stuartbramhall June 7, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Back in 2002, I was strongly entertaining the possibility of emigrating to Australia. Am I ever glad I chose New Zealand instead. It looks to me like Australia has surpassed the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand in the dangerous march towards fascism. That’s really quite an achievement.

    • auntyuta June 7, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

      Indeed, Stuart. It looks like this is what the majority of voters want. I try not to be scared! 🙂

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