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Australia 'secret police' state

AAP | June 28, 2005
By Danny Rose

FORMER prime minister Malcolm Fraser has criticised the federal Government's anti-terrorism policies, saying they have created a "secret police" and a culture of fear.
Mr Fraser, a former Liberal Party leader, spoke after homes were raided in Sydney and Melbourne yesterday and last week.

Authorities claimed the arrests last week had disrupted the planning of terrorist attacks.

No charges have been laid after the raids – which made headlines across the country – and anti-terrorism laws prevent the families implicated from speaking out.

Mr Fraser told Southern Cross radio today the Government was exercising unique power through the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and ASIO.

"No other country has found it necessary to exert such powers, no European country, and the power is even greater than that that which formally exists in many parts of the US," Mr Fraser said.

Australians were losing fundamental democratic values, he said.

"You can be arrested because ASIO think you know something," Mr Fraser said.

"Your defence is to prove that you don't know it. But how do you prove a negative? And how do you prove you don't know something which you didn't know in the first place?

"I'm against the policy because the policy is truly terrible.

"To legislate for the arrest of somebody who is not suspected of any crime ... that turns ASIO into some sort of secret police."

Mr Fraser did not want to be perceived as criticising Prime Minister John Howard, said the Government was one of a few in the world that were fostering a fear of terrorist attacks – a stance that was difficult to counter by political opponents.

The Government had "frightened the Australian community about the prospect of terrorist attacks, and therefore anyone who oppose those measures is seen to be soft on terrorism", he said.

"The Labor party supported this part of the legislation and I believe they were frightened of an argument with the Government about how firmly they were going to oppose terrorism," Mr Fraser said.

"They weren't prepared to stand up and so you had the major parties all in support and that, to me, makes it all the more a disgrace."

A spokesman for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock later said the powers criticised by Mr Fraser had in fact been introduced by his government.

"As a former prime minister he should know that ASIO doesn't have arrest powers," the spokesman said.

"The powers that have been used yesterday, search warrant powers, ... came into effect under his government.

"Effectively what he's criticising at the moment is the powers that he, himself, and his government gave ASIO.

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