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Prime Minister is confident state and territory leaders will agree to new anti-terrorism laws.

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Monday 17 October 2005

Prime Minister is confident state and territory leaders will agree to new anti-terrorism laws


TONY EASTLEY: The ACT's Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, is turning up the heat on the Federal Government over its planned anti-terror laws, saying he may yet refuse to sign off on parts of the legislation. 


He's vowing to write to other State and Territory leaders to raise concerns that the laws are being rushed through without proper scrutiny or consultation.  


But the Federal Government says it's confident of getting everyone to sign off on the laws when they're introduced at the end of the month. 


Nick McKenzie reports from Canberra.  


NICK MCKENZIE: As the Government was yesterday unveiling its plans to double the number of ASIO agents over the next five years, it was also batting away concerns about its terrorism laws, sparked after the ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope put them online on Friday. 


The Prime Minster John Howard has denied the Government's trying to sneak through the legislation under the cover of last month's COAG meeting. 


JOHN HOWARD: The version that appeared on the website I'm told is not the current state of the legislation; there has already been changes. As to the final shape of it, it will reflect what we agreed. 


NICK MCKENZIE: Under the sweeping new laws, people could be jailed for up to seven years for supporting insurgents in countries like Iraq, while the Australian Federal Police will be able to detain people thought to be involved in or have knowledge of a terrorist act. 


The Attorney-General Philip Ruddock dismisses the concerns of Labor and the minor parties that the laws wont be subject to sufficient parliamentary scrutiny. And he says he expects no significant resistance from State and Territory leaders before the draft legislation is introduced at the end of October. 


PHILIP RUDDOCK: What we will be seeking is to conclude the discussions with the States and Territories in the course of the next fortnight. 


NICK MCKENZIE: Why risk the perception though that you might be rushing through these very important laws? 


PHILIP RUDDOCK: It's not a question of rushing, it's a question of ensuring that matters that we have had advice from competent authorities need to be addressed, in which there has been agreement between the Commonwealth and States, proceed as expeditiously as possible. And that doesn't mean to say you're rushing it. 


NICK MCKENZIE: But the ACT's Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, disagrees. 


JON STANHOPE: Law of this significance made in that degree of haste, can't be good law. The Prime Minister's defence of this legislation is very much well, look, the Premiers and the Chief Ministers agreed to this at COAG, it must be alright. And I have to say that I'm not at all amused at being used in that way. 


NICK MCKENZIE: Mr Stanhope says he plans on writing to other State and Territory leaders to raise his concerns and will seek advice from his own government, the community and legal groups before agreeing to support the changes.  


JON STANHOPE: I find it just simply unacceptable for anybody to suggest that I should put my signature on this draft bill, send it back to the Prime Minister and say yes Prime Minister, I agree to this bill. I haven't consulted with the people at the ACT. I haven't taken any expert external advice on the provisions of the bill, but I'm prepared to sign off on it.  


You know, that's just an extraordinary suggestion and it's clear to me that the Prime Minister doesn't want debate. He doesn't want to have to respond to the critics. He doesn't want to have to explain some of the detail. He simply is intent on crashing through this legislation, with its fundamental implications for civil liberties and human rights, without the need to go through a process of consultation.  


TONY EASTLEY: ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, speaking there with Nick McKenzie.