Govt urged not to rush counterterrorism Bill

Proposed counterterrorism legislation should be withdrawn until it can be determined whether its benefits would outweigh its harms, a University of Otago professor says.

The Government is seeking to fast-track proposed counter-terrorism legislation in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack at an Auckland supermarket.

There is legislation now before Parliament that would make planning a terrorist attack an offence.

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill was introduced earlier this year as part of the ongoing response to the Christchurch mosque attacks, including a new definition for what constitutes a "terrorist act".

But National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies director Prof Richard Jackson was concerned there was not sufficient evidence the legislation would work.

In his submission on the Bill, he cited a study that found not only was there little scientific knowledge about the effectiveness of most counterterrorism interventions, but there was evidence that some interventions actually increased the likelihood of terrorism.

There were a number of potential social and political costs involved in the proposed legislation, he said.

"A key problem or challenge, particularly for the protection of human rights, within the proposed legislation involves the centrality of intent, which is notoriously difficult to determine objectively. In most cases, unless the suspect articulates a clear intent, it can only be inferred by observers.

"In the current climate where fears of terrorism are high, the subject is politicised, and counterterrorism and security officials are encouraged to use their imagination in detecting potential threats.

" The reliance on imagination by counterterrorism officials can mean that personal and institutional prejudices, as well as political factors, can shape perceptions and evaluations.

"Consequently, such an approach comes with real risks that ordinary people engaging in ordinary activities can fall under the suspicion of over-eager counterterrorism officials."

Then there was the issue of privacy, and concerns around expanding warrantless surveillance.

"Without more rigorous safeguards and oversight, there is a risk that the misuse of surveillance powers could actually harm efforts to counter violent extremism which rely on community trust."

He was also concerned about a lack of safeguards, including measures for evaluating the legislation’s effectiveness.

He strongly recommended the proposed legislation be withdrawn until more research could be done to demonstrate its effectiveness, and that its potential harms would be outweighed by its potential benefits.

If the Government was determined to pass the legislation, he said it should include a sunset clause of no more than three years at which time it should be subject to an independent review to fully investigate whether it remained fit for purpose and what its real-world costs and benefits were.


Monitor 'chatter', electronically. Saving lives is not up for debate.

While I would generally agree that rushed legislation usually turns out to be bad legislation I believe that in this case it is worse to sit on our hands and do nothing while we think about it.
The police need the power to identify and detain individuals who are planning to cause harm to others. If it turns out that it happens to catch others who are, let’s say, planning a coup at the local bowling club and exchanged emails about “putting a bomb under the chairperson”, then so be it. Those rare cases can be sorted out.
Better an angry old age pensioner spends a few days in prison than 7 innocent people are viciously knifed in a supermarket.

I think the problem is really with our immigration laws which prevented him from being deported for over 3 years! The government wanted to deport him ages ago but found it wasn't legally entitled to do so.

Usually, planning a criminal act is against the law.

Totally agree

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