Saturday, October 15, 2005Jon Stanhope, the Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister, has posted a confidential draft of the proposed Australian anti-terror bill to his website. Mr Stanhope says he hopes posting draft counter-terrorism laws on his website will open community debate about the issue and has stated that he will not comply with instructions from the Commonwealth to remove the document. The Australian Labor Party is backing his actions.

The main impetus for the action appears to be the short amount of time the Senate committee will have to debate the bill; just one day. In particular the Greens Senator Bob Brown has accused the Government of engineering the circumstances that only allow a one-day inquiry.

“It was an extraordinary premeditated attack on the Senate committee system and effectively made the committee system a farce,” said Senator Brown. Others, including the Australian Law Council, have expressed concerns about the scope of the proposed bill.

Prime Minister John Howard has defended the process, saying “It’s important for the security of Australia, it was unanimously agreed to by me with the eight Labor premiers and chief ministers, and we can’t have any undue delay that the legislation will be exposed for public scrutiny and it will reflect that agreement.”

Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Journalists have also criticised the proposed laws, saying that they will impede press freedom, “severely threaten Australians’ civil liberties and violate international law”.