Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Democracy Reprieved?

AM was a treat this morning: the Government's ASIO Bill has been pulled yet again, after Bob Brown raised the question of whether the Bill would enable ASIO to detain witnesses indefinitely by applying for rolling warrants. Brown's proposed amendment - which would require that those helping ASIO with their inquiries be either charged or released at the end of the seven day interrogation - struck me as a sensible one. This has forced the Government back into negotiations with labor, much to the annoyance of Attorney General Daryl "I don't know much about legislation but I know what I like" Williams. Williams now faces the challenge of coming up with workable provisions which prevent ASIO from using the Bill in the way Brown suggests it might.

On the other hand, he could just drop the idea - didn't he tell us that the security services would rather work with their existing powers than be given new powers that they couldn't actually use in practice. Sadly, I haven't been able to track down that quote, but here's a beaut from AM on 11 December last year:

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Finally, the Senate's started amending your ASIO Bill, will you accept the changes that the Senate makes? The minor parties and Labor all say that what they're doing is putting in safeguards that the legal fraternity has been calling for.

DARYL WILLIAMS: Well, what I can say is that the amendments that the Labor Party, the Democrats and the Greens are making to the Bill are converting it from being a Government Bill into being a Labor Party Bill. And the Labor Party is not demonstrating a commitment to protecting the community because they're aligning themselves with the Democrats and the Greens who are going to vote against the Bill.

Elsewhere The Age reports that the Government's proposed changes to media ownership laws may be in doubt. Over at News Limited, they're of a different opinion, reporting that the legislation is only one vote away from being passed. Apparently, all Richard Alston has to do is get Brian Harradine onside. Oddly, a ten minute Google session has turned up nothing on the subject at any of News Limited's individual newspaper sites. Media diversity is wonderful, isn't it?

Update: in lieu of a long post of the entire exchange between Senator Brown and Senator Ellison, you can find it on page 8 of the PDF file of yesterday's Senate Hansard

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