Australia Seeks To Introduce Indefinite Prison Terms For Terrorists


The Australian federal government has pushed for new legislation that seeks to implement indefinite prison terms for terrorists. The proposal initially emerged in late 2015 under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Australian Liberal party who recently won the 2016 Federal election. The legislation could involve the following: annual reporting to Parliament on the number of orders granted, reviews to measure the system, the use of control orders for some terrorists, meaning they might have to wear a tracking device, report regularly to police or be banned from using the internet. The finer details have not yet been confirmed.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as reported by the ABC, has written to state and territory leaders asking them to quickly agree on laws that could keep terrorists in jail if the threat is assessed as serious.

Federal Attorney-General, George Brandis, in response to the issue, stated “I make no apology for the Government taking the view that if a person, having served a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime, shows every indication of a willingness to repeat that crime, to re-offend as soon as they are released, they should remain behind bars.”

The issue was debated during the 2015 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, where State and territory leaders discussed various issues with a number of issues with the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Legislation under post-service prevention orders would see terrorists being detained in prison indefinitely should their reintroduction into the community be perceived as a threat. The Herald Sun reported in December 2015 that the plan would have judges determine the level of threat a convicted terrorist poses at the end of their sentence. If deemed a threat they would be jailed indefinitely until they are perceived as not posing a threat.

Mr. Turnbull, after pushing again for these laws this month, has pointed out the security issues Western countries are increasingly facing and the resulting fear among Western communities. “In the wake of Orlando, Nice and other terrorist incidents — as well as our own experience since September 2014, resulting in the charging of 44 persons — we cannot for a moment be complacent,” Mr. Turnbull said.

Community concerns about terrorism are highlighted in Pauline Hanson’s return to politics. The leader of the One Nation party, Ms. Hanson has called for a Royal Commission into Islam and has asked for our border to be closed to Muslims as they pose a threat. One Nation’s policies have gained more popularity as Australians become concerned with terrorism and the perceived, but incorrect, correlation between terrorism and all Muslims.

Legislation for indefinite periods of detainment raises concerns for the rights of the individual, as jail time is seen to be a time for rehabilitation, for when offenders are released into the community. Concern is also being raised over whether extended jail time will provoke attacks from supporters. What is evident is that the finer details need to be discussed to make sure that while ensuring the protection of Australia, the system is not abused.

Senator Brandis has acknowledged these details by saying that, “These are all fine judgments that have to be taken into account but always subject to getting the right balance between two very, very important considerations — one is community safety and the other is the rights of the individual.”

Annemarie Lewis