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Back to the future : the war on terror and its impact on civil liberties

journal contribution
posted on 2004-01-01, 00:00 authored by Dan MeagherDan Meagher
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.

History

Journal

Public law review

Volume

15

Issue

3

Pagination

177 - 182

Publisher

Lawbook Co.

Location

Rozelle, N.S.W.

ISSN

1034-3024

Language

eng

Notes

Article located at citation : (2004) 15 PLR 169

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2004, Lawbook Co.

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