Safe or sorry?

Visiting UK criminal justice academic and terrorism expert Professor Clive Walker says Australia can learn from the UK's experience in implementing anti-terrorism legislation.

Walker inside

Visiting UK criminal justice academic and terrorism expert Professor Clive Walker says Australia can learn from the UK's experience in implementing anti-terrorism legislation.

Speaking at a major international symposium hosted by UNSW this week, Professor Walker, from the School of Law at the University of Leeds, said the UK experience showed that anti-terrorism laws could work both for good and for ill.

He said it was essential that Australian authorities understood that terror laws could be consistent with human rights.

Hosted by the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, the Law and Liberty in the War on Terror symposium is a forum for experts from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States to analyse common trends in the legal responses to terrorism - what is working, what is not and what impact these responses have on our traditional notions of justice and democratic freedoms.

Since 11 September 2001 Australia has undergone a major upheaval in the rush to respond to the terrorist threat and has enacted a host of new anti-terrorism laws. The failed terrorist bombings this week in London and Scotland have raised questions about the efficacy of anti-terrorism legislation, particularly control orders, stop and search powers and the role of intelligence agencies.

Attending the conference over three days this week were leading practitioners, government lawyers, politicians, journalists, judges, and academics, including Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and the Honourable Dr Carmen Lawrence MP.

Professor Walker said in the current climate rigorous anti-terror laws were justified, but he stressed there should be a holistic approach: legislation should form a rational code, not one based on panic; it should not be based on a "war" model; and it should use the language of constitutional rights.

"This symposium will make an important contribution to Australian and international understandings of the legal responses to terrorism after September 11," said Dr Andrew Lynch, Director of the Centre's Terrorism and Law Project.

"Improving our understanding of how law can be used to combat terrorism while still respecting fundamental principles such as the rule of law and the protection of human rights will assist in the development of a better, more coherent framework for national security."