What happened to our civil liberties?

Tomorrow morning the Prime Minister will be talking to Cabinet about changing the law to make it easier to prosecute New Zealanders who work with terrorist groups overseas. Graeme Edgeler on Public Address points out this is unnecessary; the existing law does plenty already to make terrorism illegal.

I don’t know much about the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, so I went and had a read. Turns out we no longer have freedom of association in this country. The Prime Minister can designate any organisation a terrorist organisation, with no stronger burden of proof than “consultation” with the Attorney-General and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. As soon as that’s done, and possibly even before any public notification, it becomes a crime to “participate in” that organisation. According to Graeme Edgeler, “you illegally participate in a terrorist group if you act in a way that enhances its ability to commit or participate in terrorist acts”. So that could include renting a venue to the group, or doing its accounts, or, as he puts it, “making the sandwiches”.

There doesn’t seem to be any real process to appeal such a designation. There’s a procedure for judicial review and another one under which anyone with an “interest” in the group can write to the Prime Minister. I’d bet either of those can take long enough to have quite a nice chilling effect on the group and its supporters. It’s an excellent law for shutting down groups the government doesn’t like, or more accurately, groups the PM doesn’t like, because no one else has any powers in this area, including the rest of the government.

I know I’m slow and late in coming to this, but here they are proposing to extend this terrible law and make it worse. What in the actual fuck happened to our civil liberties?

A few weeks ago journalist Nicky Hager was submitted to an act of intimidation when police raided his property looking for information about his sources. The legality of the raid is totally irrelevant to its effect on society: another chilling effect. Whatever the legal situation around journalists and sources, the practical situation is now dramatically altered. Without needing change the law they can erode our civil liberties.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of association. The retrospective – retrofuckingspectiveGCSB Bill already destroyed our right to freedom from surveillance. God only knows how many other examples I’ve missed. What country are we in here?

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