Monday, February 04, 2008

Police Association Warns Against Fast Introduction Of Harsher Ant-Terror Laws

Many in the Australian media are still picking their jaws back up off the ground following a speech by Mick Keelty, the commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, which many in the media claimed was a barely disguised call for a ban to be imposed that would block news media from reporting on terrorism cases.

Mick Keelty

Call me old fashioned, but I don't believe anyone accused of, or charged with, a crime can receive a fair trial if the matter is tested in the court of public opinion before being appropriately tested in a court of law.

It will always be a challenge to get the equilibrium just right, but let's not forget that it is these freedoms that we want to enjoy and protect for the whole community.

(At times when) I find myself not in complete agreement with the conclusions reached by some members of the press, I try to remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said: "Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."

Now the chief executive of the Australian Federal Police Association has issued a warning of his own - that Australian citizens, police and politicians enough time to get their heads around the harsh changes to freedom and liberty in Australia imposed by the former Howard government before new, and more extreme anti-terror laws are introduced :

Echoing the fears of civil libertarians across Australia, AFPA chief executive officer Jim Torr warned against the rapid adoption of new counter-terrorist powers.

"We are of the view that the counter-terrorism legislation is so wide ranging as it stands, and so new to policing and concepts of policing, that any further changes to it should proceed with caution."

Mr Torr warned that the counter-terrorism legislation already introduced in Australia needed digesting before anything new was added.

"It involves concepts that are alien to decades and decades of policing, that is, taking a person into custody without immediately taking them before a magistrate or a bail court or a judge," he said.

"And that is new to policing; it's entirely new."