Who has Mr Rudd’s Attorney-General, Robert McClelland been talking to? Where did he get the wacky and dangerous idea that he needs to further strengthen Australia’s already sweeping and inherently unfair anti-terror laws?

Mr McClelland told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute last night that he wants to introduce a law to make it an offence to attempt to induce others to commit acts of political violence.

One of those he has spoken with, he admitted, was “Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for National Security, Professor Jayakumar, on enhancing social cohesion and resilience in order to lessen the appeal of extremist ideology.”

Gee, that would have been informative given that Singapore’s legal system and security apparatus is one of the most repressive and undemocratic in our region and you can be an “extremist ideologue” in Singapore simply by opposing the government.

Mr McClelland seems also to have been spooked by ASIO. His speech notes that he wants to enhance ASIO’s capacity to “identify and engage with extremists, understand extremism, and counter extremist activities.” But this is the same ASIO that was castigated by Justice Michael Adams in the New South Wales Supreme Court in 2007 for its treatment of a young Muslim man in Sydney’s west, Izhar Ul-Haque.

Having collared him while he was on his way home one evening, ASIO officers, despite having no authority to do so, gave Mr Ul-Haque the distinct impression that he had to cooperate with them and answer their questions. If he did not, he reasonably assumed they might beat him up or take him to another sinister location.

Then the ASIO officers took him back to his home, kept him in his parents’ bedroom and proceeded to interview him again until 3.45 the next morning. None of which impressed Justice Adams who observed, “To my mind, to conduct an extensive interview with the accused, keeping him incommunicado under colour of the warrant, was a gross breach of the powers given to the officers under the warrant.”

This is the organization that Mr McClelland wants to engage with the community.

The proposal to make it an offence to attempt to induce others to commit acts of politically motivated violence is disturbing on a number of fronts. Firstly, the existing anti-terror laws define a terrorist organization so broadly, and any activities associated with it, that people who talk and think about politically motivated violence without doing anything more, can be prosecuted. This has happened in both the UK, Canada and Australia. Young Muslim men who have been associating with radical leaders have found themselves facing the courts and are now in some cases in jail.

But what is most disturbing about Mr McClelland’s ill conceived proposal is that it could be used against environmental groups, unions or any other cause — perhaps that is the Singapore’s influence coming through!

Individuals and groups that are involved in violent clashes with the police at building sites, in street marches or in environmentally sensitive areas could find themselves labelled as terrorists. And what does it mean to induce someone? If I give someone a book on radical freedom fighter movements in South America and it inspires that person to commit an act of violence, is it seriously being suggested I am committing a criminal offence?

And of course Mr McClelland wants to beef up already scary anti-terror laws and ASIO and police powers without pushing harder for a charter of rights. He has said little or nothing about that, and insiders say he won’t be cutting anything up until after the 2010 election.

Greg Barns appeared for one of the accused in the Melbourne terrorism trial in 2008.