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On International Human Rights Day, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has called for all political parties to consider opposing the ASIO Bill if proposals ensuring the preservation of basic human rights fail.

The ASIO Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill will come before the Federal Senate today.

Bishop William Morris, Chairman of the ACSJC said, “International Human Rights Day has provided an opportunity for all Australians to celebrate and promote the human rights that underpin the Australian way of life.

“The powers outlined for Federal authorities in the proposed ASIO Legislation would threaten certain liberties – even after considering the recommendations of a recent Senate Committee Report to water down the Government’s Bill.

“Many organisations and legal professionals are concerned that the processes of the criminal justice system will be bypassed as government bodies are given the authority to detain citizens.  It is a concern that citizens could be detained without having committed or being suspected of a criminal offence.  The ASIO Bill would allow the detention of citizens for the purposes of collecting intelligence.

“Changes have been recommended by a Senate Committee that would safeguard children under the age of 18, improve access to legal representation, and insert a sunset clause into the proposed legislation.  Public statements of the Leader of the Opposition supporting these recommendations are encouraging.  However, these changes would still result in legislation that risks undermining civil and political rights.

“The ACSJC is mindful that recent tragic events in Bali and other acts of terrorism have seen increased public debate on issues of national security.  The government has proposed increased powers for ASIO as a means of detecting and preventing possible attacks.  However, it is of great concern that our nation’s response to the perceived threat of terrorism could infringe common standards of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in this way.

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