16 December 2014

Mark Mitchell MP gets it wrong

The MP who chaired the select committee considering the anti-terrorist legislation that was recently rushed through Parliament, Mark Mitchell, says the bill is "100 per cent" justified due to the tragic hostage crisis that occurred in Sydney.
This is misleading. The purpose of the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill was to introduce "measures allowing the monitoring and investigation of foreign terrorist fighters and other violent extremists, and the restriction and disruption of their travel."
We know that the Sydney gunman, Man Haron Monis, was already facing criminal charges in Australia, and was on bail. Hence, he was known to police and had appeared in Court. If the same thing were to happen in New Zealand, therefore, the perpetrator would already be under police surveillance and would be unable to flee the country. So, the controversial measures in the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill (24-hour warrantless surveillance and passport cancellation) would not have been useful in preventing or responding to such an event.
Questions will no doubt be asked in Australia about whether their bail laws are adequate for anticipating such risks.
Furthermore, the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill relied for its definition of "terrorism" on the relevant section of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. A terrorist act is one that is "carried out for the purpose of advancing an ideological, political, or religious cause." One of Man Haron Monis's demands was for an ISIS flag; but now that the gunman is dead, we may never know what his aims actually were. It appears that he was mentally unwell, moreover, which casts doubt on whether he had any clearly thought-out objectives at all. Possibly, more information about the man's intentions will emerge in due course. But, so far, we should not jump to the conclusion that the hostage crisis was "terrorist" rather than just "criminal".
On a pragmatic political note, the Labour Party must be thanking their lucky stars that they supported the new Bill. Public opinion would be against them now if they hadn't. But the average member of the public does not realise that the Bill is irrelevant to the prevention of the kind of hostage crisis that occurred in Sydney.
Finally, I must add that I feel for the victims and their families.


Post a Comment

<< Home