Don’t axe oversight of invasive police and ASIO counter-terrorism powers – HRLC submission

It is essential that Australia retain robust oversight of the extraordinary powers granted to police and ASIO under Australia’s counter-terrorism laws, the Human Rights Law Centre has told the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

The Australian Government has introduced a bill to abolish the Independent National Security Monitor, an office that assesses whether counter-terrorism laws remain necessary, reasonable and proportionate to the threat of terrorism.  The Monitor also assesses the human rights compliance of Australia’s counter-terror laws. The Government plans to abolish the Monitor on its next “repeal day”.

The HRLC's director of advocacy and research, Emily Howie, said the National Security Legislation Monitor provides an essential check on the extraordinary powers granted to government agencies under Australia’s counter-terrorism laws.

"Oversight is necessary because counter-terrorism laws have potentially very serious consequences for the human rights of people against whom the laws are used. For example, ASIO can secretly detain people for questioning without charge and without access to a lawyer. The Monitor has described these powers as “drastic interference with personal liberty and freedom," said Ms Howie.

“The Monitor ensures that Australians can be protected from the threat of terrorism, but also be protected from abuse of police and ASIO counter-terrorism powers,” said Ms Howie. 

Over the last four years the National Security Legislation monitor’s reports have been thorough, considered, expert and judicious. They offer concrete recommendations for amendment of counter terrorism laws to ensure that they are necessary, reasonable and proportionate. 

“The National Security Legislation Monitor is a fully informed, expert independent reviewer. There is no other body to perform this task that is sufficiently expert, independent of government and that has access to government information,” said Ms Howie

“Instead of abolishing the NSL monitor, the Government should support the ongoing work of the monitor’s office and leverage the considerable work done to date by implementing his recommendations,” said Ms Howie.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s submissions is available here.