This comment looks at the capacity of the Australian Constitution to protect the civil liberties of a small number of citizens and would be citizens whose lives have been forever changed by recent acts of terror and the legislative and executive actions taken by the Commonwealth in response to those terrorist acts. These legal changes have included the creation of specific "terrorism" offences, the legislative proscription of two foreign organisations and, most notably, a significant expansion of ASIO's investigative powers.1 Whilst the Constitution contains a number of provisions and principles protective of civil liberties, in most instances they cannot resist government action expressly aimed at curtailing or infringing individual rights and freedoms. To this end, steps ought to be taken to strengthen existing institutions and mechanisms capable of providing meaningful civil rights scrutiny of government legislation. The comment begins with an examination of the close historical and legal parallels that exist between the present day and the Cold War era and suggests how the High Court might interpret the defence power should a terrorist attack occur on Australian soil. It concludes with a proposed reform. The reform involves vesting Ch III courts with the power to measure Commonwealth laws against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights when determining a legal controversy. This may operate to secure better legislative outcomes from a civil liberties perspective without compromising the supremacy of Parliament.
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