Armed police at Countdown LynnMall on September 4. (Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Armed police at Countdown LynnMall on September 4. (Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The BulletinSeptember 22, 2021

A stronger anti-terror law is coming fast

Armed police at Countdown LynnMall on September 4. (Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Armed police at Countdown LynnMall on September 4. (Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Labour and National are united to pass a counter-terrorism bill by next week, despite opposition in parliament and from legal experts who want to take more time, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

A new anti-terror law is speeding through parliament. After the terror attack in New Lynn on September 3, the prime minister pledged that the counter-terrorism bill would be pushed through parliament swiftly. It’s an expansive piece of legislation that makes planning a terrorist act, training for one or providing material support to a terrorist a crime. The bill has created odd bedfellows at parliament, with Labour and National coming together in support. Meanwhile Act, the Greens and Te Paati Māori are united in opposition. The government has promised that the bill will pass by the end of the month.

The government says the bill is needed because of the changing face of terror. RNZ reports that justice minister Kris Faafoi said police and intelligence need new legal authority to catch terrorists before they act. “Across the world, we’ve seen more lone acts or small groups rather than larger organised terrorist groups, and, as we’ve seen, New Zealand is not immune to these events,” he told parliament yesterday before the bill passed its second reading. According to Faafoi, the government couldn’t consult much on the bill because it would have exposed “a national security risk” if terrorists knew of holes in the law.

Opposition to the bill has been significant, especially with the fast timetable. Green MP Teanau Tuiono warned parliament that previous counter-terrorism laws were often turned on Māori and Pacific communities, citing the 2007 Urewera raids as an example of abuse. “The new planning or preparation offence has been characterised by some experts as thought crimes, difficult to define in practice or defend against in legal proceedings,” he said yesterday.

Even National leader Judith Collins, who is working with the Labour benches, admitted to having some reservations. “I understand that there is concern, very deeply held and genuinely held concern, that this is, essentially, criminalising people who plan a criminal offence,” she said. “The problem is that now that there is communication via the internet and other means, and social media, it is very important that we recognise that things are not the same as they were 10, 20, or even 30 years ago.”

What’s the hurry? The prime minister says the law isn’t being rushed, rather it was first proposed in 2018 and slowly worked its way through the government bureaucracy. There’s a chance that parts of the bill could be changed this week, but the Greens and Act have asked for a delay to get the balance right between stopping terrorists and protecting disadvantaged groups. Former Labour candidate Shane Te Pou suggested in the NZ Herald that the bill needs careful public consideration and not a rush after heartbreak and heightened emotion. Andrew Geddis has also written in The Spinoff that the proposed law might not have stopped the Lynn Mall attack, so hit the brakes.

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