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Anti-war Protesters May Face 7 Years In Jail Under Australian Patriot Act

Melbourne Herald Sun | October 31 2005

ANTI-war demonstrators could be jailed for seven years under the Federal Government's proposed anti-terror laws, a doctors' body said today.

As the Commonwealth and states negotiate on a final draft of the laws, the Australian Medical Association for the Prevention of War has urged them not to be pressured into supporting the Bill in its present form.

Association vice-president Gillian Deakin said everyone supported strong counter-terrorism laws.

"But we must make sure we are not panicked or bullied into hasty or extreme laws that surrender the basic human rights of all Australians," Dr Deakin said.

"A section of the proposed laws would make it an offence for any Australian to 'urge support' for any organisation that the Australian Defence Force happens to be fighting.

"This means that ... the anti-Iraq war protests could be illegal and all Australians liable for seven-year jail (terms) for expressing opposition to actions of the Australian Defence Force."

Dr Deakin said Australians did not want the country to turn into a police state.

"We call on all state premiers to resist any pressure to support these extreme laws until there has been thorough public and legal scrutiny of them to make sure Australian civil liberties are protected," she said.

Under pressure from the premiers, Mr Howard has already agreed to amend the controversial shoot-to-kill provisions of the Bill.

But other proposals include control orders and preventative detention for up to 14 days without charge.

In an open letter to Mr Howard, Whistleblowers Australia president Jean Lennane said she was concerned the laws would be misused to limit disclosure of information that may be in the public interest.

Ms Lennane called on the Federal Government to ensure there was adequate protection in the legislation for whistleblowers and safeguards against abuse.

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