Government must allow further scrutiny of Foreign Fighters Bill: 40 organisations urge

A broad coalition of Australia’s leading academics, media, human rights, legal and migrant organisations today called on the Australian Government to delay the passage of its proposed anti-terror laws to allow more comprehensive scrutiny of the legislation.

In a joint statement coordinated by the Human Rights Law Centre and Amnesty International Australia and delivered to Attorney-General George Brandis, the 40-plus organisations highlighted major concerns with the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014, which the Government is currently attempting to rush through Parliament. The diverse range of groups and individuals rejected the Government’s claim that the Bill is compatible with Australia’s human rights obligations.

The Human Rights Law Centre's Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, said the Bill was lacking in human rights protections.

“When protecting Australia’s citizens from possible threats posed by groups such as the Islamic State, the Government should uphold the values and democratic traditions it’s trying to defend. It needs to ensure that any protection measures are consistent with international human rights standards,” said Ms Howie.

Professor George Williams, AO, University of New South Wales, said the Government had not demonstrated why it was so necessary to pass the Bill without allowing proper time for MPs and the public to debate the new laws.

“Given some aspects of the Bill are not associated with addressing the threat posed by foreign fighters, and can therefore not be deemed urgent, the Government needs to fully explain why all of these changes are necessary,” Professor Williams said.

Amnesty International Australia Senior Legal Affairs spokesperson Katie Wood said the Government had allowed just eight business days for the public to comment on the proposed laws.

“We are calling for comprehensive public consultation to be carried out on the necessity of the laws and to ensure they comply with Australia’s domestic and international human rights obligations,” Ms Wood said.

All submissions on the Foreign Fighters Bill, including those from the Human Rights Law Centre, Amnesty International Australia and other signatories to the joint statement, can be viewed here.

A copy of the joint statement is available here.


Media contacts:
Human Rights Law Centre - Emily Howie 0421 370 997
Amnesty International Australia - Mark Worley (02) 8396 7622
Professor George Williams - 0414 241 593