Labor’s terror u-turn puzzles PM

The Prime Minister says Labor’s turnabout on laws letting the Government ban suspected terrorist organisations shows just how politically expedient the party really is.

Labor has been blocking the legislation in the Senate for two years but says it will now vote for the laws.

Mr Howard says, while he congratulates the Opposition on the decision, he is a little puzzled by it.

“What’s happened is Labor said it would never accept the situation where the executive government could proscribe an organisation without explicit parliamentary authority through legislation — that was their position — and they said it was wrong in principle that that power be given to the Attorney-General of the day. They’ve now accepted it.”

The Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, says the legislation will give the Government the power to ban a group without recalling parliament.

“Labor has agreed that we shouldn’t be held hostage to a decision by a court or an administrative appeals tribunal in order to be able to proceed quickly to proscribe a terrorist organisation.”

But the Opposition’s spokesman on homeland security, Robert McClelland, says he feels amendments to the bill now give parliament ultimate say on the bans.

Mr McClelland says the Government must now consult with the leader of the Opposition and state and territory leaders before deciding on a group.

“There’s also built into the process a mechanism for judicial review where any individual affected or organisation affected can apply to the Federal Court of Australia for review of the decision to proscribe an organisation. So, in effect, these safeguards are far more extensive than any comparable jurisdiction in the world.”

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