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Burnside calls Dutton’s new police powers ‘alarming’

Burnside calls Dutton’s new police powers ‘alarming’

Peter Dutton

Prominent barrister and human rights advocate Julian Burnside QC said that it will be a slippery slope “all the way to an Orwellian nightmare” if calls from the Home Affairs Minister to give federal police the power to ask for ID at airports come to fruition.

Speaking at the 3AW studio on Tuesday morning about the need for increased powers for the Australian Federal Police, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton MP said: “There’s certain conditions that need to be met at the moment before police can ask for identification, which is an absurdity and it’s an issue that the police have raised with us.

“We’re addressing an anomaly and a deficiency in the law at the moment.”

Mr Burnside said that it was an “alarming proposal”.

“His attitude reveals a remarkable ignorance of basic legal and social precepts; ignorance which is all the more alarming given that he is arguably the most powerful person in the country,” the barrister said.

The Home Affairs Minister has also announced his intention to invest in face recognition technology, Mr Burnside added, so that photographic images captured — such as on CCTV cameras on streets — can identify individual people and link them to other information held by government agencies.

“The next step, almost certainly, will be compulsory state-issued ID cards. After that, it’s downhill all the way to an Orwellian nightmare,” the barrister argued.

To illustrate his point, Mr Burnside quoted the Sir Zelman Cowen-hosted Boyer Lectures on ABC Radio from 1969, in which Sir Zelman said: “A man without privacy is a man without dignity. The fear that Big Brother is watching and listening threatens the individual no less than the prison bars”.

“He argued for the importance of the right to be left alone,” Mr Burnside said.

“That right is more urgently important now than it was in 1969, and more under threat if Dutton gets his way.”

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