Badly defined terms a big worry

December 23, 2005

Higher education unions meeting in Melbourne this month expressed concern over anti-terrorism laws in the UK, Canada, Australia and the US

Australia's anti-terror laws could have "unintended consequences" for universities, staff and students, Carolyn Allport, president of the National Tertiary Education Union, told the seminar.

The legislation gives sweeping powers to security agencies and challenges core legal principles: the right to remain silent, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the right to a lawyer and the right to appear before a court within a specified time after being detained.

The union is particularly concerned at the vagueness of many terms in the federal Govern-ment's anti-terrorism legislation, passed this month with highly controversial sedition clauses.

It cited problems that could arise from widening the definition of a terrorist organisation to add a reference to "advocating" a terrorist act, including "praise".

Academics teaching or researching in areas such as terrorism or Islamic studies, or with interests in countries where terrorist organisations exist, were at risk, Dr Allport said.

So are academics and technicians working and teaching in applied sciences, biotechnology, engineering and medicine.

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