Publication Details

This paper was originally published as: Rix, M, The Australian National Security State and the Third Sector: Who is Really Protecting Australia's National Security?, 23rd Australasian Law and Society Conference, University of Wollongong, December 13-15, 2006. Conference information available here.


This paper will consider the implications of the Australian Government’s recent national security and anti-terrorism legislation for its relations with Australian citizens and with third sector organisations, like those comprising the community legal sector, that seek to promote and defend citizens’ civil, political and social rights. The series of bills enacted by the Australian Parliament since September 11 2001, the culmination of which has been the Anti-Terrorism (No. 2) 2005 Bill, removes many of the freedoms and rights that Australians have for many years been able to take for granted. The 2005 Bill’s detention and control orders, for example, degrade the importance of the role of formal trials and the production of credible evidence by the prosecution in the administration of justice in Australia. It also includes a newly-defined crime of sedition that empowers the Australian Government and the national security authorities to invoke the sedition provisions when they merely suspect a person of seditious intent to use or threaten the use of force. The 2005 Bill, and the many other national security and anti-terrorism acts, has placed a great burden of responsibility on third sector organisations which seek through their activities to enhance the inclusiveness and cohesiveness of the Australian community. They will increasingly be called upon, particularly by ‘suspect’ groups and individuals, to ameliorate the harmful social and psychological effects of intimidation, victimisation and persecution perpetrated by the authorities in the name of protecting Australia’s national security. At the same time, these organisations will have to deal with a society turned against itself in which differences of language, ethnicity and religion have become a frontier separating the included and protected from the excluded and feared. This paper will consider the impact of these trends and developments on third sector organisations committed to fostering a more tolerant, inclusive and cohesive Australian society. It will focus in particular on the likely implications of the national security legislation for the community legal sector. The sector is characterised by its commitment to the objective of improving access to justice and ensuring equality before the law for all Australian citizens and residents. It thus plays an important but largely unheralded role in protecting Australia’s genuine national security from the potentially corrosive effects of the Government’s national security and anti-terrorism legislation.

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