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Ruddock defends tough terror laws -

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Ruddock defends tough terror laws

Samantha Hawley reported this story on Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:46:00

ELEANOR HALL: The politician who introduced some of Australia's toughest anti-terrorism laws has
again defended his government's handling of the controversial case of Dr Mohamed Haneef.

Philip Ruddock was the attorney-general who introduced the 2005 anti-terrorism laws and he says he
welcomes the Federal Government's plan to review the legislation.

But Mr Ruddock has expressed concern about a plan to reduce the number of days that police can
detain a suspect without charge.

In Canberra Samantha Hawley reports.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland thinks eight years since the
September 11 terrorist attacks and seven years since the Bali bombings, it's time Australia's
counter-terrorism laws were changed.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: In some areas we're hardening the laws. In other areas we're moderating,
introducing safeguards.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: He's issued a 400-page discussion paper outlining a new direction to fight
terrorism.

Under the proposal the Government wants police to have the power to search premises without a
warrant. There will also be a new terrorism hoax offence where an offender could be sent to jail if
they give the impression an attack is imminent.

The definition of a terrorist attack will also be expanded to include acts of psychological harm in
addition to physical injury.

The Federal Opposition's George Brandis says the current laws are already working.

GEORGE BRANDIS: Proof of that lies, is in the pudding; the fact that there hasn't been a terrorist
episode in Australia since and there has been effective law enforcement under the existing laws as
evidenced as recently as last week with the apprehension of the terrorism group in, or the alleged
terrorism group in Melbourne.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: But the man responsible for implementing a significant amount of Australia's
anti-terrorism regime says the laws were always meant to be reviewed.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well I also described them when in office as an unfinished canvas.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Mr Ruddock sees most of the Government's proposals as a toughening rather than
softening of the existing laws and that's something he welcomes. But he is concerned about a plan
to cap the amount of time police can detain a suspect without charge at eight days.

That's addresses concern over the case of Mohamed Haneef who was detained in 2007 for 12 days
without charge.

Mr Ruddock says the complexity of the cases means police often need additional time.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: If you're having to deal with agencies abroad and you have to get information from
them, particularly if they involved computer records, it can be a question of having to pursue
questioning which can't necessarily occur immediately.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: So do you think that the laws over the period since 2001 that your government
brought in have done the job that they set out to do?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well look it's very hard to put in place measurable, if I could put it that way,
assessments. But we have not had on Australia's shore the sorts of tragedies that we saw in London
or Madrid.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The Mohamed Haneef affair would show that the laws that you introduced were
certainly not fool-proof.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, I think what they showed was the laws that we introduced had within them
provisions to ensure that people were able to test allegations made about them.

I mean if you look at the way in which the issue was dealt with it seems to me the checks and
balances within the system were in fact working.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the former federal attorney-general Philip Ruddock ending that report by
Samantha Hawley.