While some politicians and groups are continuing to protest about the limits on election campaign spending (the Election Finance Act) - claiming it is an attack on democracy and free speech - they have had nothing to say about the recent 'anti-terrorism' legislation. Yet this legislation represents a serious threat to our civil liberties.

This legislation puts more power in the agencies of the state, which can operate in secret, and reduces the role and effectiveness of the due legal process.

It will be the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister alone. who will decide which individuals and groups gets labelled 'terrorist'. Furthermore the PM will be judge and jury on the matter - he or she will review their own decisions, removing the High Court from the review process.

And the Prime Minister is under no longer under nay obligation to justify the decisions. A lot of information at the disposal of the Prime Minister will be classified and the individual or group concerned will not be able to see it. In other words an individual or group can be classified as 'terrorist' and will not be able to adequately defend themselves against the charge.

The designation may be based on 'classified security information' provided by an agency or government of another country - yet the legislation does not specify any standard of proof - the 'information' may just be politically motivated 'rumour' but it does not have to be verified.

The consequences of such a designation are serious - bank accounts, property and other assets would be frozen without any warning.

The parliamentary select committee that looked at this legislation said that after the Prime Minister makes a terrorist designation then he or she must report it to the Security and Intelligence Committee in parliament. But this is all rhetoric because this committee hardly ever sits. In fact, since 2005, it has only met for a grand total of approximately two and a half hours.

And this designation process is fraught with dangers. What if you support the liberation of Palestine and support Hamas, even though some Hamas members have engage in violent acts. Does that they make you a terrorist? Or what if you support the liberation of Tibet from China rule does that make you terrorist, even though some Tibetan people have been engaged in violent conflict with the Chinese military?

Closer to home, what about if you are involved in a struggle against the mining industry in New Zealand? Or what if you are a Tuhoe or Tuhoe-linked actvist campaigning for certain land rights? What if you are a socialist engaged in an anti-capitalist struggle?

In fact, anyone with an agenda for political change that threatens the status quo, runs the risk of being labelled a 'terrorist.'

The real problem which has been identified by, among others, the Green Party and the New Zealand Law Society, is that serious violent offending is already coved by the Crimes Act. We don't need a set of anti-terrorism laws, where higher penalties can be imposed, simply because there is a political agenda involved. In fact the Law Society has pointed out that having two sets of laws will cause confusion within the legal system.

We saw this late last year with the Tuhoe activists who were arrested under the umbrella of the anti-terrorism laws but ended up facing charges under the Crimes Act.


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