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The Senate will sit today to pass legislation the Federal Government says could help authorities deal with a specific threat of terrorism.
The Government says the new laws broadening the definition of a terrorist act are urgently needed because of a specific and credible threat of terrorism in the last few days.
It says the legislation will broaden the definition of a terrorist act, enabling people who are plotting an attack to be prosecuted.
But Democrats Leader Senator Lyn Allison and the Greens Senator Bob Brown are among those who are suspicious saying it is a bid to deflect attention from the Government's industrial relations (IR) legislation.
"This has all the hallmarks of John Howard manipulating the Parliament to his own political ends," Senator Brown said.
Labor's Arch Bevis says it is a convenient coincidence, but he is not too worried.
"If it is some ploy or smokescreen that will come out in the wash," he said.
Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says the idea of a conspiracy is fanciful.
"Any idea that this was some form of conspiracy to divert peoples attention from other political issues which is being offered as a view by some is just I think very far fetched," he said.
The Government leader in the Senate, Robert Hill, will today propose that an inquiry into the anti-terrorism laws be extended.
Senator Hill will announce the anti-terrorism inquiry can report back on November 28.
Opposition parties had claimed the probe would last only one day, but Senator Hill denies this.
"Well it was never going to be one day, but my proposal allowed I think it was eight days, but this will allow a longer period," he said.
He says the Government wants to give the Senate the longest possible time - within reason - to examine the bills.
"Well some people might say two years, our attitude is that the legislation is important as part of Australia's protection against potential terrorist activities and that has got be to weighed against the time required for consideration of the details," he said.
"So you have got to find a compromise that achieves both goals and that's what we seek to do."
Democrats Leader Lyn Allison has welcomed the move
"We are pleased the Government will agree to this," she said.
Senator Hill says there is now more time available and he is looking forward to the result of the investigation.
ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope says a key national counter-terrorism body was not informed of the latest terrorism threat.
The Senate is being recalled today to pass what the Federal Government says is urgent legislation to broaden the definition of a terrorist act, enabling people who are plotting an attack to be prosecuted.
The Government says the new laws are needed because of a specific and credible threat of terrorism in the last few days.
Mr Stanhope says the ACT was left out of a telephone hook-up this week in which the matter was discussed by the Prime Minister and state premiers.
He says the National Counter-Terrorism Committee was also not told of the issue.
"The National Counter-Terrorism Committee, which is the committee which essentially represents each of the states on the national infrastructure or arrangements to address terrorism or counter-terrorism issues in Australia, hadn't been notified of the threat and still has not been activated," he said.
"So around Australia, none of counter-terrorism infrastructure has been activated as a result of this announcement."
The Federal Government says on its national security website that "the National Counter-Terrorism Committee is the national coordinating body for counter-terrorism in Australia".
"It is co-chaired by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and a State/Territory senior official and comprises senior representation from relevant Australian Government agencies, premiers' and chief ministers' departments and police services from each jurisdiction," it says.
Mr Stanhope has questioned the nature of the threat, given the two territory governments were not informed.
Originally posted by USAF6933
Why is it so hard to believe that there actually is an immediate terror threat to Australia? How quickly you people forget that in one recently released Al Qaeda tape they directly threaten to attack Australia because they are a staunch US ally. I doubt Howard needed this to pass those laws because I'm sure they would have passed through as soon as possible anyway so they would just be following suit of their biggest allies US and Britain. It has been made perfectly clear in the London and Madrid attacks that AlQaeda not only targets America, but their allies as well. Its easy to read the article and say that PM Howard used this threat for political reasons, but that doesn't mean the terror threat is not genuine.