Various State governments have signalled their intentions to introduce and strengthen terrorism offences and related police powers, ahead of this Thursday’s (October 5) Council of Australian Governments ("COAG") meeting. The special meeting of COAG was called in June this year in order to consider a nationally consistent approach to bail and parole of terror suspects, following questions which were raised about a gunman responsible for an attack in Brighton, who was on parole at the time. According to The Guardian Australia, the COAG agenda includes discussions on the proposed parole regime, the Turnbull government’s strategy for protecting crowded places from terror attacks, enhanced aviation security measures, and a national security incidents emergency alert system.
News outlets are reporting that the Turnbull Government will argue for the introduction of new federal laws to allow individuals suspected of terrorist activity to be held without charge for up to 14 days. According to SBS News, the proposal would also “double the initial investigation period from four to eight hours before a person has to be released, or an extension is sought.”
The Turnbull Government will reportedly also ask the states and territories to consider introducing new criminal offences for possessing material that could be used in preparation for a terrorist act, and to strengthen laws around terrorism hoaxes.
The Victorian Government announced in September that it would be strengthening legal protections for police who use pre-emptive lethal force (so-called “shoot to kill” powers), in order to give officers “greater confidence”. Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton told ABC News that:
“In this day and age there's a need to act very quickly and seconds count. We're more likely than ever to have to shoot first…
We can’t allow any uncertainty to creep in. We’re coming up against better armed and equipped offenders all the time.”
According to the ABC News, the Victorian Government also plans to extend the initial period they can hold a suspected person from two days until four days, and will allow police to question people being held in preventative detention. The Victorian Government also plans to introduce a presumption against bail and parole for anyone charged with terror related offences, or who has demonstrated support for a terrorist group.
WA Premier Mark McGowan announced yesterday that WA will be amending the Terrorism (Extraordinary Powers) Act 2005 to introduce reforms to “give police clear legal protections if they are required to use pre-emptive force when responding to a terrorist incident.”
Police Minister Michelle Roberts said in a media release:
“No-one wants to see a repeat of terrible events like those at the Lindt Café and this Government is committed to giving our police every tool they need to respond to terrorist incidents.
These new measures will provide confidence to police where pre-emptive force may be required to save hostages in a potential terrorism incident.
They also ensure our police have sufficient legal protection when acting in good faith and in the course of their duties to protect others.”
The NSW Government today announced that NSW would be toughening its terrorism laws by making it harder for terrorist-related offenders to get parole. Attorney-General Mark Speakman told SBS News at a press conference today:
“We've tightened parole laws to make it clear that the offender will not get parole unless the parole authority is satisfied that they won't be involved in terrorist acts or inciting terrorist acts…
In this age, where the threat of terrorism is real, we have to find an appropriate balance between civil liberties on the one hand and protecting the community on the other.”
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