Save the Children has warned that proposed new Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) powers breach fundamental children’s rights, and should not be pushed through Parliament while the nation’s attention is on the pandemic.
The child rights agency says that the case for extending extraordinary new powers for ASIO to interrogate and detain children as young as 14 has not been made. The ASIO Amendment Bill 2020 should be abandoned or, at a minimum, more robust scrutiny and human rights review is required.
The proposed laws would also give ASIO the power to obtain a warrant for Police to immediately apprehend and search 14 and 15-year-old children, and to use force if necessary.
In its submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), Save the Children has recommended that the Bill and relevant provisions of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 be referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (PJCHR) for comprehensive inquiry and report. This should be in addition to PJCHR’s ordinary processes for examining bills.
“It is really concerning that this Bill, which will have significant repercussions on the fundamental rights of children across Australia, is effectively being pushed through Parliament in the shadows of a pandemic,” Save the Children Australia Deputy CEO Mat Tinkler said.
“There simply isn’t a valid reason provided which justifies the lack of proper scrutiny, including a robust public debate.
“There is also very little evidence provided to justify the extreme measures contained in the Bill; incredibly intrusive measures that impinge upon the fundamental rights of all 14 and 15-year-old children in Australia.
“If successful it will undermine the democratic ideals and way of life that it purports to protect, putting at risk children’s rights in the justice system, including the right to a fair trial. At an absolute minimum, this Bill must be subject to a comprehensive human rights review.”
Save the Children also raised concern over the Bill’s lack of comprehensive safeguards protecting children’s rights. This comes after the PJCIS reviewed ASIO’s questioning powers in 2018 and said that additional ‘essential’ safeguards should be implemented if the minimum age was lowered to 14. It also said the apprehension of minors should not be available.
“The ASIO Amendment Bill doesn’t even include the Committee’s own recommended essential protections for children. That tells us a lot about this Bill. Children need to have their basic rights upheld, whereas this Bill does the opposite,” Mr Tinkler said.
For media inquiries contact Angus Smith on 0488 330 882.