Tightened terrorism law could be misused by politicians

Green MP Keith Locke is warning that proposed changes to terrorism law that extend the ban on financing to ‘non-designated’ terrorists and expand the definition of such funding could easily be misused by politicians.

Justice Minister Phil Goff has said proposed amendments to the Terrorism Suppression Act that push the prohibition on financing beyond ‘designated’ terrorist groups are necessary because of the “fluidity” of international terrorism and to fulfil UN obligations.

“People and organisations can easily be mislabelled as being ‘terrorists’, as the Zaoui affair has shown,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson.

“According to the Bill’s explanatory note, even paying the rent of an alleged terrorist will be a crime.

“Some politicians wrongly believe that Ahmed Zaoui is a terrorist. If the Government was to agree with them, the Dominican Friars, who are currently hosting Mr Zaoui, could be charged under this amendment and jailed for up to 14 years.

“Under the original wording in the Act, you are only guilty of a crime if your funds are actually used to attempt an act of terror.

“Unfortunately, it is a politician, namely the Prime Minister, who is empowered to designate people as ‘terrorists’ under the Terrorism Suppression Act and, as we have seen in the Zaoui case, political agendas, such as the desire to please other countries, do come into play.

“Politicians are not always involved; under the Act, financial support for ‘non-designated’ terrorists is also illegal. However, the definition of terrorism is so loose it could cover support for liberation movements, like those formerly led by Nelson Mandela and Xanana Gusmao.”

Keith Locke is a member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, which will be reviewing the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 in the coming year.