OPINION:

When parties as ideologically disparate as the Greens and Act line up on the same side of an issue, you know there must be something to it.

In this case, both parties have a strong point to make that the Government, supported by the National opposition, should not rush through changes to our counter terrorism laws in response to last Friday’s attack.

Unpopular though it may be to say, it’s important to remember how much went right in the Government’s surveillance and apprehension of Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen.

A dangerous terrorist was identified, monitored and surveilled.

Earnest attempts were made within the law to remove him from the country, while upholding the rule of law and our international obligations. While Samsudeen was in the community, extreme but lawful attempts were made to keep the public safe from him.

He was not able to obtain a gun or a hunting knife, seriously curtailing the harm he could cause.

Attempts to foil this attack seem to have come unstuck on two points.

One was unavoidable: level 4 restrictions made monitoring Samsudeen in the public difficult and potentially impossible. Had Auckland not been in lockdown, police may have been able to tail Samsudeen much more closely and stop him before he caused harm.

The other problem is one for which politicians bear more culpability. Our law lacks an offence of planning or preparing a terrorist act.

From what we know, it appears reasonable to at least argue that had such an offence existed, Samsudeen might have been caught by it. Instead of being in Countdown on Friday, he might have been in jail.

One can understand the haste of our two major parties in plugging this hole; both are responsible for not doing it sooner. The issue was first raised in the last years of the Fifth Labour Government, and raised again during the Fifth National Government. Both governments decided they had more pressing things to do.

This Government began work plugging the gap in August 2018. That work is now before a select committee and will be passed, urgently, by the end of the month.

The Act and Green parties have raised concerns that if the legislation was to be rushed through under urgency, it might replace an unworkable law with another unworkable law – to paraphrase Act leader David Seymour.

Labour and National have reasonable cause for thinking they are not, in fact, passing poor legislation.

The process of getting the bill to select committee has been slow and deliberative. It has been consulted on widely already and there’s a good chance any holes or fishhooks have been identified.

But the use of urgency on such a serious piece of legislation makes something of a mockery of the parts that mitigated the damage of Friday’s attack.

Countries around the world have responded to terrorism by tramping civil liberties and – in the case of the military tribunals used by the US at the Guantanamo Bay – potentially even the rule of law.

New Zealand has done no such thing in trying to stop this terrorist. That is something to be proud of, considering the goal of terrorism is to erode these institutions.

Plugging the Terrorism Suppression Act does raise serious questions about civil liberties in the sense that it is very unusual to make an offence of planning a crime that is not yet carried out. If we are to do that – and most of us, no doubt, will argue that we should – it is such a serious addition to our statute books that it should be done with the utmost care.

Urgently legislating such a complex and serious provision into being could create more problems than it would solve.

There is a place for legislating swiftly. The laws passed on the eve of the first lockdown are a good example.

This law doesn’t fit that bill.The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has implied there are no other imminent attacks; the terror threat level has not changed.

Green co-leader James Shaw suggested that urgent legislation might harm innocent people, without strengthening the law.

“Rushed legislation in response to events runs the risk of increasing harm to innocent people, particularly Māori, migrants, and refugees.

“What we have seen around the world is that governments do not make good decisions when they are driven by fear,” Shaw said.

No one should feel unsafe when they go out to do their shopping, but knee-jerk political reactions risk creating as many problems as they solve.

The Government has not made a strong case for why this legislation should be rushed through by the end of the month, beyond an attempt to balm and understandably upset public.

In doing so, it risks undoing one of its great legacies.

New Zealand is one of the only countries in the world to emerge a stronger and more inclusive society from deadly terrorist attacks and to have responded to a terrorist attack without questionable encroachments on civil liberties (although it must be said our security and intelligence agencies didn’t wait for the excuse of a terrorist attack to lobby for greater powers).

It would be a pity to compromise that legacy for the sake of rushing a justifiably complex law through the Parliament.

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