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Premiers do not support ACT Chief Minister's putting on the internet the proposed anti-terrorism laws.

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Monday 17 October 2005

Premiers do not support ACT Chief Minister's putting on the internet the proposed anti-terrorism laws


MARK COLVIN: If the Labor ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, was hoping the Labor state premiers would support his decision to publish the draft anti-terror laws today, he's been sorely disappointed.  


Mr Stanhope angered the Federal Government by putting the laws on his website last Friday. 


Since then, he's ignored calls from the Federal Government to remove them from the Internet. 


But the premiers, who, like Mr Stanhope, signed up to supporting the new anti-terror laws before the Federal Government had drafted them, have disagreed with his actions. 


Louise Yaxley reports. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Jon Stanhope insists he was right to put the laws into the public domain a few days after the Prime Minister sent them to him in confidence last week. 


The draft he's published shows that people could be jailed for seven years for sedition, that they can be subject to control orders for 12 months, and held without charge for up to two weeks.  


Mr Stanhope says he has a right to consult the public about such serious laws.  


JON STANHOPE: I don't accept for a minute in relation to a legislation process such as this, namely where the Commonwealth is relying on referred powers from the states and territories, that the Commonwealth can stand up and insist that this is its legislation, that only the Commonwealth will consult, and that the legislation will be prepared and approved and agreed to on terms that the Commonwealth sets.  


These are referred powers. The Commonwealth cannot make this legislation without the agreement of the states and the territories, and that's the point. The Commonwealth might have its processes - I see the Federal Attorney-General insisting that, you know, it was going through the process, he'd referred it to his backbench committee, he'd referred it to his… referred to it, was dealing with it through his party processes - well I have processes too.  


I can't sign off on this legislation without taking it to my party room, and without submitting it to my Cabinet.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: But state premiers who also received draft copies last week disagree. 


All the state and territory leaders agreed to the broad outline of the laws at a Council of Australian Governments meeting, and have all have received copies of the draft.  


But other leaders like Victoria's Steve Bracks disagree with Jon Stanhope's decision to put the draft on the Internet. 


STEVE BRACKS: Well I wouldn't have done that. I think it's important to respect the sovereignty of Cabinet, that is, if something is in a draft form for consideration you're Government should consider it, and should consider it, and therefore have its own position on that matter and make that clear. And that's exactly what we will do. We do that for every piece of legislation.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: Queensland's Peter Beattie wasn't happy to find that the draft didn't include something he'd negotiated - the public interest monitor - but expects that to be rectified. And he's also distanced himself from Jon Stanhope. 


PETER BEATTIE: No, it's something I would have done. But look, I support his right to do it.  


The Prime Minister's indicated today that there's been changing in the drafting. We will work with the Prime Minister to come up with sensible anti-terrorism laws.  


And I want to make it clear, provided the laws reflect the agreement reached in Canberra at the Council of Australian Governments and it includes the public interest monitor, from Queensland's point of view, we will sign up.  


We're not interested in having a fight with the Prime Minister. We will work with the Prime Minister, but we shouldn't be afraid of a public debate, which I am not.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Prime Minister criticises Mr Stanhope's actions because he says the draft bills have already changed. 


New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma says that's correct. 


MORRIS IEMMA: There are two drafts of the bill already, and this is being worked on, it's to be finalised. And there have been… there have been changes already.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: While the state Labor leaders don't back Jon Stanhope's action, he did win praise from the Law Council and many other interest groups, because he gave them their first chance to see the detail of the proposed laws and two extra weeks to consider it. 


And he has more support from the Federal Labor leader, Kim Beazley, who says the Federal Government is rushing the laws through. 


KIM BEAZLEY: He didn't list any national secrets. That’s the first point I'd make about that.  


The second point I’d make about it; he obviously believes that what he has done encourages debate and discussion. And so it should.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: Kim Beazley wants a much more detailed Senate inquiry than the extremely short hearing that's to be held on the anti-terror laws. He says having the information about how these new laws would work available for the public to debate is a healthy thing. 


KIM BEAZLEY: I don't know whatever… what agreement Mr Stanhope may have had with Mr Howard on these matters, and that's a matter for them. But is it a good thing that the public has an opportunity to discuss these laws? Well obviously. We live in a democracy; we need an opportunity to discuss these laws.  


MARK COLVIN: Kim Beazley ending Louise Yaxley's report.