The anti-terror amendments introduced in such haste to the
parliament yesterday have a smell of Tampa about them. You may remember
how Howard introduced “emergency” legislation on August 29th, 2001, to
head off the threat posed by the arrival of the Tampa with Afghan,
Iraqi and Iranian asylum seekers aboard.

I was the sole MP in the House to oppose these laws, in defiance of the
majority of Australians who had swallowed the PM’s line (reinforced by
the likes of Peter Reith) that these people represented a threat to
Australia, indeed as Reith suggested, they could be potential
terrorists.

Fast forward to yesterday and again a law was introduced with much
fanfare and in haste to meet “specific information about a terrorist
attack.” As one commentator says today, Howard “used a megaphone to give
suspected terrorists notice of raids.” There’ll no doubt be an arrest
or two in the days ahead. There has to be, doesn’t there? But those
arrests could have been made under existing laws passed by parliament
in 2003.

The provisions rushed through the House yesterday, and the Senate
today, do not deal with specific terrorist threats. If they are meant
to cover preparations for “a” terrorist act, rather than “the” act
itself, then such planning is already covered under those 2003 laws. A
week ago the anti-terror laws were set to be introduced and passed in a
day, such was the “urgency.” Now we hear there’s to be a two-week
inquiry into the balance of the bills. The urgency has evaporated.

Last night Tony Blair’s government survived by just one vote on its
anti-terror legislation despite Labour’s whopping majority (Labour
members crossed the floor-horror!). John Howard seems to conceding some
ground to the overwhelming judicial and legal advice that our proposed
laws are anti-justice and anti-civil rights. But that doesn’t stop him
running a security red herring across the stage, especially when his IR
bills are so much on the nose.

CRIKEY: Peter Andren voted for the changes yesterday, but he told
Lateline he had “serious suspicion these amendments are far more about
politics than policing. I won’t oppose, but I am deeply sceptical of
the motives.” Peter Andren’s office also referred us to this article by Andrew Lynch from the University of NSW, in
today’s SMH.