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Mark Rix, 'Australia and the War Against Terrorism: Terrorism, National Security and Human Rights', 40-59


Published onApr 01, 2008
Mark Rix, 'Australia and the War Against Terrorism: Terrorism, National Security and Human Rights', 40-59

This article considers whether in the „war against terrorism‟ national security is eroded or strengthened by weakening or removing the human rights of the individuals who constitute the polity. It starts with the view that national security is, at its most fundamental, founded upon the security and liberty of the person from criminal and violent acts, including terrorist attacks. Such attacks, and the individuals and groups who perpetrate them, constitute a grave threat to the peace and security of nations the world over and thus endanger the security and liberty of the individuals who make up their populations. Governments are therefore compelled to use the machinery of the state to protect the nation and the individual from these attacks. However, the paper is based on another, equally important, assumption. This is that the defence of national security requires individuals to be protected from the arbitrary exercise of state power even in situations where the state claims to be acting to protect national security and individual security against grave threats such as terrorist acts. The Rule of Law not only protects individuals from such an exercise of state power by protecting their human rights, in so doing it also protects the peace and security of the nation from excessive and unchecked state power. But what happens when the Rule of Law is overturned by governments declaring that they are protecting national security from the terrorist threat? Who or what is then able to protect the individual and the nation from the state? The paper will take up these important questions by considering the implications of the anti-terrorism legislation that has been introduced in Australia since September 2001. It will also make an assessment of whether Australia‟s national security has been enhanced or damaged by this legislation. Finally, the paper will briefly consider whether in fighting the war against terrorism the Rudd Labor Government, elected to office in November 2007, is likely to depart in any significant measure from the approach of its predecessor, the conservative Coalition Government led by Prime Minister John Howard.

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