On December 7, the Australian parliament passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2005. According to Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, the new legislation places ‘Australia in a strong position to prevent new and emerging threats and to stop terrorists carrying out their intended acts’.1 Most controversially, the law introduces new sedition offences. But it also grants additional powers to the security services, most notably the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Of interest to me here are the provisions allowing the police to restrict the liberty of people who have neither been charged with an offence nor detained for questioning. The AFP may now apply to a court for control orders which could require a person to wear a tracking device, place them under house arrest, bar them from working in certain professions, or prohibit their use of the telephone or the Internet. A control order could be issued for twelve months at a time and would be renewable. Anybody contravening such an order risks a five-year jail sentence. The new law also provides a preventative detention régime. In conjunction with complementary state and territory legislation, the law allows the authorities to detain suspects for up to two weeks at a time.
After a group of small ‘l’ liberals in government ranks were able to extract some amendments, the legislation had bipartisan support in the House of Representatives but was opposed by Democrats and Greens in the Senate. Outside parliament, retired politicians and judges, journalists, artists, numerous legal experts, law societies – including the lawyers’ peak body, the Law Council of Australia – and human rights organisations strongly criticised the bill. In parliament, the government used its numbers to curtail debate and limit scrutiny by a Senate committee. Public debate was comparatively brief, and petered out quickly once the bill had been passed.