Government in undue rush to change terrorism laws

By Tumamao Harawira

Opponents of the government's attempts to expedite counter-terrorism legislation say minorities, in particular Māori, will be unduly impacted. That's the view of Greens MP Golriz Ghahraman, who is also on the Justice select committee.

"You can't prove that police aren't going after Pākehā for doing things that minorities like Māori and Pacific do. But that's what we've seen happen with counter-terrorism laws."

New counter-terrorism legislation has passed its second reading in Parliament, with both National and Labour supporting the bill. The Māori Party, the Greens, and ACT voted against the bill, saying the bill needs more time for MPs to properly discuss the ramifications of the bill on minorities.

"The aim of this bill is something that we all agree with, which is, that we need to address the rise of radicalisation and violent terror in some way in our laws, and that's been inadequate thus far."

The government is seeking to amend the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, the Search and Surveillance Act 2012, and the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act 2019 by implementing a single broad policy to better prevent and respond to terrorism and associated activities by ensuring designation, offence, and control order provisions apply effectively to conduct that is, or that creates, an unacceptable risk of terrorism and associated activities.

The timeline to pass the bill has been rushed through following the attack of seven people at the Countdown supermarket at LynnMall in West Auckland.

'Too vague'

Crown prosecutors last year attempted to charge the offender, Isis follower Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen, with planning a terrorist attack for the purchase of a knife – under the section 25 planning and preparation provisions of the current law.

But the judge rejected the bid saying the law as it was invited conjecture about the nature of the attack being planned. The judge said equating planning a terrorist act with carrying out an act would have given both acts the same maximum penalty – life.

Ghahraman says, "What I think is really concerning about the bill that the government has put up is that it's too broad, it's too vague and it leaves minorities and in particular Māori really vulnerable to the institutions that it is giving this power to."

"We heard from the NZ Law Society, we heard from the Human Rights Commission, from Amnesty International. These are not radical institutions."

But  Justice Minister Kris Fa'afoi  says in developing this legislation, the government has been careful to consider that any new or expanded offences would not apply disproportionately to Māori.

"All offences have to be linked to an intention to carry out a terrorist act and will need to link to relevant motivation, the intention to impact others by causing serious harmful outcomes. Lawful protest will not be captured in that definition."

Fa'afoi says a further safeguard is that any prosecution would have to be approved by the attorney-general.