Govt hopes for terror laws

Mr Howard wants the Australian states and territories to sign off on the counter-terrorism measures on Tuesday, but they have asked for at least another day to consider them.

The changes are understood to include greater judicial involvement in the issuing of control orders against terror suspects, and the use of state, rather than federal, laws dealing with police shoot-to-kill powers.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, who explained the latest changes to the ruling coalition’s backbench, said Mr Howard had approved some variations to the draft bill.

“They are with the premiers now to see whether or not they reflect in their views the agreements,” Mr Ruddock told reporters.

“I am saying our aspiration is to get that approval by tomorrow (Tuesday) but it does require their goodwill. We have been assured that goodwill is intended.”

Mr Ruddock said he did not believe there were major sticking points.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said federal parliament should sit on Christmas Eve if the states needed more time to properly consider the new laws.

“Let’s spend a bit more time drafting them, and a bit more time considering them, and taking into account all these matters. A bit more public debate is not going to do anyone any harm,” Mr Beattie said.

The premier of New South Wales (NSW) Morris Iemma said he still had concerns about proposed preventative detention orders for terror suspects.

“We are still looking for judicial review in the area of preventative detention – and that’s judicial review on the basis of an application, not just on questions of law,” he said.

Victorian Treasurer John Brumby said his state would not be rushed into the laws.

“I understand that (our) view will be communicated later this week,” Mr Brumby said.

Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon said he was still seeking advice from his solicitor-general and he refused to be “steamrolled” into agreeing to the bill.

West Australian Premier Geoff Gallop said the timeline was
unrealistic.

Coalition backbenchers on Monday voiced concerns with the laws, but are expected to back them when they are considered by the party room on Tuesday.

Paul Neville, an MP from the government’s coalition partner, the National Party, said he was concerned about detained suspects’ lack of access to family members.

“(One thing) that concerns me is the ability of people who have been charged to talk to family and friends and so on. To me that cuts at the essence of our normal legal rights,” he said.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said he would ask his Labor colleagues to back the proposed laws, even if planned Labor safeguards were rejected by the government.

“I’m saying that I stand ready to recommend to caucus in the national interest that they put in place the tough legislation, but I’m also saying this, I need to see the bill,” he told reporters.

“We need tough laws and with tough laws we need strong safeguards.”

But he faces embarrassment with high-profile backbencher Carmen Lawrence threatening to cross the floor on the laws.

“I’m hoping we can persuade our colleagues to amend it and if the government doesn’t accept our amendments then we don’t agree to vote for it,” she told AAP.

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