Greens Leader Brown described Labor Party’s
support to enable the Howard’s Government’s
controversial ASIO Bill as a ‘historic
sell-out’. Both the Australian Democrats and the
Greens opposed the bill, but without Labor they
did not have the numbers to stop it becoming law.
Attorney-General Daryl Williams said the agreement
between the Coalition and Labor was a big win for
community safety. But is it?
Lawyers, community and religious organisations had
also opposed the ASIO Bill, arguing on the ground
that it was a serious threat to human rights, with
potential risk of being used to persecute
students, children, teachers and unionists.
The ASIO Bill was first introduced in early 2002,
following the attacks of September 11, to allow
the Australian security agency, ASIO, to hold and
question any person, including children,
incommunicado, effectively indefinitely, without
access to a lawyer. It was part of a major
worldwide crackdown on ‘terrorism’.
The Howard Government's recent amendments to lift
the age from 14 to 16 years old, to limit
interrogation to 24 hours over 7 days, or allow
limited access to a lawyer subjected to ASIO
scrutiny were no consolation. There is a growing
fear the new legislation will only allow ASIO a
legal basis for further harassment, set-up and
jailing of people of the Muslim faith.
According to a representative of, from the Islamic
Council of Victoria (ICV), the new laws will be
used to discriminate against individuals in the
Speaking to ABC’s Rachel Carbonell on ‘The World
Today’ (ABC, 17 June 2018), Goolam Laher
said that as a peak Islamic representative group,
the ICV, was concerned that this piece of
legislation was being introduced at a time when
the Islamic community was being marginalised and
being treated and labelled as terrorist.
Even before the ASIO Bill, Muslims around Australia
have reported increased levels of anti-Arab and
anti-Muslim prejudice, discrimination and
vilification, resulting in fear, isolation and
With fresh media allegations linking Muslims with
‘terrorism’, and the passing of the ASIO Bill,
the ASIO is now on the loose; free to target
Muslims at will, even if they have not broken any
law. ASIO will not be obligated to inform the
arrested persons why they are being detained.
Violent raids, interrogations and surveillance of
those labelled or stereotyped as ‘terrorists’
by ASIO and the Australian Federal Police (AFP),
especially since September 11, had made the
community unsafe, particularly for Muslims.
Under the ASIO Bill,
security agents will be allowed to break into
Muslims’ homes or snatch Muslims from their
workplace for interrogation at any given time for
interrogation for seven days. All of this will be
merely on the basis that Muslims may have crucial
Muslims will be jailed for
up to five years if they refuse to assist security
agents, and they will be denied the right to
lawyer, unless approved by ASIO. And no contact
with family or friends will be permitted during
the seven-day interrogation/detention. Legally
Muslims will have no such rights as the right to
silence and the presumption of innocence.
Even when represented,
Muslims will be restricted both in terms of the
choice and the role of the lawyer. ASIO will be
empowered to limit or even bar the involvement of
the lawyer during interrogation.
A grass-root movement to take up the issue of
Muslim rights is the only viable option. And
Muslims should do that for themselves.
The so-called concessions will not be enough to
safeguard to protect Muslim rights. The peak
Islamic organisations are totally naïve into
thinking that making occasional statements or
expressing their concern would somehow be enough
to safeguard the rights of Muslims of Australia.