Anti-terror law change 'fascist'

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Plans to beef up anti-terror laws have been called fascist by ACT's leader as minor parties from the Left and Right joined forces to condemn the changes.

In a rare show of unity on a national security issue, ACT, the Greens and the Maori Party were the only dissenters as Parliament moved toward strengthening the Terrorism Suppression Act despite calls to hold off for the outcome of last week's terror raids.

Opponents say the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill threatens civil liberties because it gives the prime minister too much power to decide who is a terrorist and could be applied to legitimate direct-action protesters.

The bill makes several changes, including removing the need for the High Court to review terrorist entities designated under the act but not on a United Nations list.

The review power will shift to the prime minister, who also decides which non-UN groups are listed, though no such designations have been made.

Though ACT supported the original legislation in 2002, leader Rodney Hide said removing High Court oversight was a step too far.

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"We can't defend our freedoms that we cherish by adopting fascist policies."

Green MP Keith Locke said the bill opened the door to governments using the law to curb legitimate peaceful protest.

The creation of a new offence of committing a terrorism act, punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment, was also unnecessary because existing criminal law could tackle domestic terrorism.

"Why should someone trying to save dolphins or native snails, if they ever happen to turn violent, be subject to more years in jail than a violent gang member with no social conscience?"

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell continued the party's criticism on last week's raids, and said that the bill was a fresh attack on Maori civil liberties.

But Justice Minister Mark Burton said the bill was needed because present law required the High Court to review all terrorist designations every three years.

More than 400 United Nations-listed groups were up for review next month, and it was impossible for the court to assess their status.

The bill will see all the groups stay designated till the UN takes them off its registers.

It passed its second reading by 109-12 just before the House voted to remove the crime of sedition, ironically on the grounds it could be misused to stop legitimate protest.

The Dominion Post