Muslims to fight new terror laws

Australia's Islamic community has vowed to fight the Abbott Government's terror laws after its religious leaders claimed the controversial measures appeared to be directed at Muslims.

The Australian National Imams Council said it would "vigorously campaign" against measures that would give intelligence and police agencies extraordinary powers to detain, question and prosecute Australians involved in terrorist activities overseas.

One of the contentious proposals is to reverse the onus of proof for those visiting designated terrorist hotspots such as Syria, Iraq and Libya. They would have to prove their motives for travel were innocent.

The Imams council said the proposed changes to the laws would "severely impinge on the rights and freedoms of all Australians and especially those of Muslim faith".

The imams' comments are a blow to Tony Abbott's attempts to soothe concerns in ethnic communities.

He was already under fire after Attorney-General George Brandis' botched explanation of mandatory data retention that forms part of the shake-up of terror laws.

To promote what he called a "Team Australia" approach, the Prime Minister decided to ditch a proposed repeal of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" someone on racial grounds.

But the Lebanese Muslim Association warned against "fearmongering", saying that it would rather continue the debate about 18C than have new laws "which only seem to target the Australian Muslim community".

"Muslims understand only too well the consequences of marginalisation, conflict and the 'war on terror'," the association said.

Former national security legislation monitor Bret Walker said Australia should resist legislating against "essential freedoms" and warned that increasing preventive detention of suspects would be "more trouble than they're worth".

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was not consulted by the National Security Committee before the mandatory data retention plan was announced, yesterday confirmed industry concerns about requirements to store huge amounts of "metadata" for two years.

"If telcos are required to record, store and make accessible new classes of data in large volumes there obviously will be a significant cost and then you have the question of who bears the cost and in what proportions," Mr Turnbull said.

This seemed to contradict Mr Abbott's assurances this week that internet service providers would not have to collect or retain any more metadata than they already did.


The West Australian

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