Publication Details

Rix, M. D. (2006). Star or black hole? Australia and the international transfers of anti-terrorism policy. Australasian Political Studies Association Annual Conference (pp. 1-14). Canberra: APSA.


This paper investigates the role that Australia is playing in the international transfer or diffusion of anti-terrorism policy. It is widely believed that those Western states that actually have been the target of homeland terrorist attacks, in particular the United States and Britain, have led the way in enacting harsh national security and counter-terrorism legislation. It is further assumed that other states have followed the lead of these vanguards in adopting and implementing their own legislative response to terrorist threats to national security. There is some merit in this view. In the wake of the September 11 attacks of 2001 the United States, for example, was quick to act introducing the Patriot Act in 2001 and the Homeland Security Act in 2002. These acts certainly provided a model for other states keen to bolster their own powers to deal decisively with terrorist suspects and national security threats. Nevertheless, Australia’s law makers have hardly been laggards and have actually gone further than their counterparts in the United States and Britain by adopting legislation enabling the detention without charge or trial of individuals who are merely suspected of possessing information relating to a terrorist activity or of planning such an activity. In other words, individuals can be detained even when there is no evidence to charge them with a criminal offence. Thus, Australia may be leading its counterparts in a ‘race to the top’ where ‘the winner’ is the state which has in place the harshest and most far-reaching anti-terrorism legislation. This paper will accordingly consider whether Australia has been a ‘star’ radiating anti-terrorism and national security policy initiatives to other countries or if, on the other hand, it has been more of a ‘black hole’ collecting and adapting such initiatives from its mentors.

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