On 19 March 2012, the Federal Government tabled in Parliament the first annual report of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor on the operation of Australia’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation. The Independent Monitor, Bret Walker SC, was appointed under the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010 (Cth) and is empowered to review and report on Australia’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation, including its compliance with Australia’s international human rights obligations. The Independent Monitor’s first report very usefully outlines the principles for assessing whether Australia’s counter-terrorism laws are effective and remain appropriate and also identifies areas where the Independent Monitor will focus his work for 2012. In outlining the principles in assessing whether Australia’s counter-terrorism laws remain appropriate, the report contains an important discussion of Australia’s international human rights and security obligations.
While the Independent Monitor’s initial report does not make any specific recommendations, the report raises a number of issues and specific concerns, which will form the focus of his work in 2012. These issues include:
- whether Australia’s counter-terrorism laws remain proportionate to any threat of terrorism;
- whether some laws which confer “extraordinary powers”, such as allowing authorities to detain suspects for up to a week without charge, remain necessary at all;
- given that many of the “emergency” laws were introduced immediately after the 11 September terrorist attacks, the need to ensure that such laws undergo greater scrutiny to determine if they remain appropriate;
- whether Australia’s counter-terrorism laws are being used for matters unrelated to terrorism and national security; and
- the disproportionate impact that the operation of counter-terrorism laws may have on particular communities, including concerns in relation to the threat of laws being used rather than their actual use.
The report is available at: http://www.dpmc.gov.au/publications/INSLM/index.cfm.