[JURIST] The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) [official website] must tighten its anti-terrorism laws to conform with those of other states and territories, Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] said Monday. If the ACT - the federal district that includes Canberra - does not revise the laws, the federal government may invalidate them, Howard said. Nevertheless, ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope [official profile] is refusing to change the laws [ABC report] to apply them to 16- and 17-year-olds and to allow police to more easily take suspects into preventive detention.
The federal government has been at odds with Stanhope on terrorism legislation since last year, when Stanhope rejected proposed federal anti-terrorism legislation and excluded himself from negotiations [JURIST reports] because of concerns that it did not meet international standards [JURIST report] for political and civil rights. The leaders of other states and territories expressed approval of the legislation [JURIST report], and Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock [official profile] found that it complied with rights obligations [JURIST report]. Ruddock, like Howard, has recently threatened to override the ACT laws [ABC report]. Speaking to reporters Monday, Howard said [official transcript]:
Well obviously if you are to have effective laws, they should be the same throughout the whole country. It's no good having one section of the country with a gaping hole and we should have the same laws all over the country. But these laws were supported by [regional leaders] Mr Bracks, Mr Iemma, Mr Beattie, Mr Carpenter, Mr Rann and Mr Lennon, as well as me. He's the bloke who's out of step in the regiment, not the rest of us.Under a provision [text] in the ACT Self-Government Act of 1988, the federal Cabinet may disallow any ACT enactment within six months, subject to override by Parliament [official website]. Last month, the federal government invalidated another ACT law [JURIST report] that would have placed civil unions on equal legal footing with marriage. Australia's ABC News has more.