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Criticism of Terrorism Bill secrecy justified

16 May 2002
Criticism of Terrorism Bill secrecy justified

Green MP Keith Locke has backed Professor Jane Kelsey's exposure of an earlier, harsher, version of the anti-terrorism bill currently before Parliament.

"The public's right to know has been seriously abused by the Government and the select committee's treatment of the anti-terrorism bill," said Mr Locke.

"I was accused of breaching parliamentary privilege when I let people know about the nature of what was in effect a whole new bill, and the draconian provisions within it.

"If Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff's original schedule had been met, the public would not have known anything about the worst provisions in the bill until it emerged from the Select Committee and was rushed through second and third readings in the House - perhaps in the space of a week. Mr Goff wanted the bill to be law before last Christmas," he said.

Mr Locke said Professor Kelsey is right that in the earlier secret version of the bill the SIS Director could keep to himself or herself the information on which the 'terrorist' designation was made.

"When I forced the bill out into the open there was huge public interest, and 150 public submissions were received. This public participation improved the content of the bill, but it is still a grave threat to freedom of organisation and the right to protest.

"In another abuse of the parliamentary process, and the public's right to know, the Select Committee refused to allow my Minority Report to be appended to the report back to Parliament," he said.

"This is outrageous. Everyday MPs debate how legislation should be interpreted. Their views should never be suppressed. [The minority report can be seen at www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/other5209.html/]

"Provisions in the bill still allow someone to be designated a terrorist on the basis of 'classified security information' that may never be made available to them in subsequent proceedings. New Zealanders who support liberation movements or certain forms of domestic protest could still be subject to severe penalties under this bill.

"The public should be very worried about this bill and the abuses of parliament process it has suffered," said Mr Locke.


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