QLD Committee green lights 'unnecessary' terror laws

A QUEENSLAND parliamentary committee has recommended passing a bill to increase police counter-terror powers despite concerns from lawyers, the Greens and the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties.

The Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee on Tuesday recommended the parliament pass the Counter-Terrorism and Other Legislation Amendment Bill without change.

This is despite submissions from the Greens, the Bar Association of Queensland and civil libertarians who believed parts of the bill were unnecessary.

Among the proposed changes the bill would allow police to declare a terrorist emergency for up to 28 days - twice the current length. The Police Minister or Premier could extend the declaration.

Police would be able to search vehicles they believed had recently left a "declared area" without a warrant and could give police powers to give directions to other government agency employees without first consulting the agency.

The QCCL said existing police powers were adequate because emergency areas could already be declared. It said there was a lack of safeguards in relation to searches and controlling people's movements.

The Bar Association said the power to extend a terrorist emergency should reside with the Supreme Court, not the Premier.

But the Public Safety Business Agency said the proposed changes were warranted.

"The provisions, in the context of an emergency situation, strike an appropriate balance between the rights of the individual and the community as a whole," it said.

The Queensland Greens were among the most vocal critics of the bill and questioned why only legal professionals were excluded from providing police with privileged information.

"We note that legal professionals are exempted from this requirement, but the bill does nothing to protect information obtained via doctor-patient, counsellor-client or journalist-source relationships. The assurance of confidentiality is crucial to all these relationships, and if confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, these professionals will no longer be able to carry out their work effectively," they submitted.

The committee did not recommend any changes and called for the parliament to pass the bill. - ARM NEWSDESK