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Greens disturbed by new powers for Aus. military

Greens disturbed by new powers for Australian military

10 August 2000

Just over one month out from the Sydney Olympics Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said she was horrified at new legislation which would give the Australian military new and wide ranging new powers to suppress domestic unrest.

The Defence Legislation (Aid to the Civilian Authorities) Bill has been introduced to the Australian House of Representatives and is expected to come before the Senate before the Olympics on September 15 and the protests expected at the World Economic Forum in Melbourne on September 11.

The legislation allows the Prime Minister, with just two other Ministers, to call in the military to deal with domestic disturbances.

Jeanette Fitzsimons said she shared the concerns held by Australian Greens that many legitimate protests and political demonstrations could come under the banner of 'domestic violence'. She said the provision in the Bill which would stop the military being used to "stop or restrict any lawful protest" was inadequate as almost any protest can be deemed unlawful by permission for the protest simply being withdrawn.

"The Greens are especially concerned about this move in light of anticipated legitimate public protest at both the World Economic Forum and the Olympics," said Ms Fitzsimons. "Under this legislation, once deployed, the military would have a huge range of powers not normally available to police.

"The new law allows them to shoot to kill civilians where they believe 'on reasonable grounds' that this is necessary to prevent injury to another person," she said.

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"These powers include the right to search premises without a search warrant and to detain people without arrest," she said. "I am particularly concerned that this legislation is being shepherded in because of fears about protest at looming controversial events but once it is introduced it is there for good."

Ms Fitzsimons said she feared the use of the military could inflame or aggravate small or peaceful demonstrations by ordinary people.

Ms Fitzsimons described the legislation as draconian and said she was looking forward to supporting the Australian Greens' opposition to the bill when she visits Australia next week. See attached media advisory.

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP: 04 470 6661, 025 586 068 Jonathan Hill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 110 1133

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