11 October 2017

The Australian Bar Association (ABA) urges the Federal government to reconsider proposed changes to counter-terrorism laws which would allow for children as young as 10 years of age to be detained for up to 14 days without charge.

The Federal government announced the proposed new pre-charge detention regime last week.

ABA President Noel Hutley SC said that whilst Australia needs robust counter-terrorism laws to protect against the threat of terrorism, the proposed changes are unjustified and go too far.

“In the absence of any demonstrated need for longer periods of detention without charge than already exist, the proposed changes are unjustified and represent an over-reach by government.”

Mr Hutley said it was vital the government heed the words of Federal Attorney-General George Brandis QC, who, in a recent speech (9 October 2017), cautioned governments not to make the mistake of diminishing fundamental freedoms whilst attempting to protect people from threats such as terrorism.

In his speech Mr Brandis said: “In protecting our people from terrorism, for instance, we must be careful to ensure that our legislative and policing response is at all times consistent with our values and obedient to the rule of law, even if, on occasions, that may constrain what our law enforcement authorities can do. That is the price we pay for being democracies.”

Mr Hutley said: “The ABA firmly believes in the rule of law and urges the Government to maintain an appropriate balance between the undeniable need to keep the community safe with the protection of fundamental legal rights.”

Mr Hutley said if the government proposes to proceed with further changes it should provide greater detail as to them, including the level of judicial oversight and consult with the legal profession.


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