7th Oct 2017
The Federal Opposition says it is baffled by new laws that could see children as young as 10 detained without charge for a fortnight.
- Terror suspects as young as 10 could be held up to two weeks without charge under new law
- Greens call it “Orwellian”, Law Council calls it “draconian”
- Justice Minister says plan needed because “IS specialises in recruiting children”
The plan to be able to hold suspected terrorists for two weeks without charge was agreed to on Thursday by federal, state and territory leaders.
They announced the agreement after the meeting, emphasising the need to ensure police had the powers they needed to protect Australians from terrorism and adding that it applied to minors.
But the leaders did not detail at the time that it would apply to children from the age of 10.
The Law Council has called it an “extraordinarily draconian” measure, and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said it was the first Labor had heard of the plan.
“It’s an extraordinarily drastic step,” he said.
“The Government’s provided no details at all, but at present, it’s a shocking and drastic step to propose — without charge — the detention of a child of 10 years old.”
Islamic State ‘specialises in recruiting children’
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said last night it was “something that nobody in the Government welcomes”.
“But unfortunately that is the reality of the situation we find ourselves in because [Islamic State] specialises in recruiting children,” he said.
He told RN Drive it could apply to children as young as 10, but that there would be extra safeguards for those under 14 as well as safeguard measures for older minors aged between 14 and 18.
Mr Dreyfus called Mr Keenan’s statement baffling, saying he needed to explain his plans.
But Mr Keenan insisted in an interview last night the laws must apply to young people.
“What about if an 11-year-old was planning to commit a terrorist act and the police didn’t have any power to do anything about it?” he said.
“We can’t have a situation where that is the case, so I am very happy for these laws never to be used.
“I am certainly incredibly happy never to see somebody of that age detained under these powers but if they were planning to commit an act of terror on Australian soil our police do need to have some ability to deal with that.”
Greens senator Nick McKim opposes the plan entirely but is disgusted that 10-year-olds could be detained.
“We should never, in a Western liberal democracy, be locking up children as young as 10 years old for up to two weeks without charge. That is an outrageous proposal,” Senator McKim said.
Law Council President Fiona McLeod called it a most unwelcome development.
“We are talking about detention without charge of children. This is an extraordinarily draconian measure,” she said.
“The line has to be drawn somewhere.”
Senator condemns ‘Orwellian’ changes
Senator McKim called the measures “Orwellian” and accused the Labor and Liberal leaders from all levels of government of “colluding to erode some of the most fundamental rights and liberties in our country”.
He also condemned them for providing few details about the plan.
Senator McKim said many people would draw a distinction between detaining adults without charge for a fortnight and holding children under the same system.
But he argued neither were acceptable to the Greens.
“The thought that anybody in Australia could be detained by police for up to two weeks without charge, which basically means that police or security agencies have not even got enough evidence to lay a charge let alone to guarantee a conviction, is quite outrageous,” he said.
“It is part of an ongoing erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms and rule of law in this country — the things that set us apart from authoritarian regimes like China and North Korea.
“The Government has abjectly failed to make the case and Labor is in zombie lockstep with and sleep-walking us towards a police state — and the Greens won’t have a bar of it.”