Democratic Conversations Uncensored

Fifteen Years on: Where to Next for Terrorism Laws

Wed 27 April 2016The Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis / 12.00pm - 2.00pmMembers Dining Room 3, Old Parliament House

In the first IGPA Democratic Conversation for 2016, we are pleased to announce the conversation topic to be, Fifteen Years on: Where to Next for Terrorism Laws?

Our expert panel will discuss proposed changes to the Australian terrorism laws, as propositioned by the recent Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meetings in December 2015 and April 2016. The communique issued after that meeting advised that COAG had agreed to work towards two major changes to counter-terror laws to enable: 

·        Terrorism suspects to be detained for longer periods ahead of charging them (labelled pre-charge detention); and

·        The continued detention of convicted terrorists who are still considered a risk after their prison terms have ended (post-sentence detention).


Fergal Davis is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Parliaments Project in the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law. As of August 2015 he is also a Reader in Public Law at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London. From 2011 to 2014 Fergal was a member of the Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship: Anti-Terror Laws and the Democratic Challenge Project in the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law. Before moving to UNSW he spent over 10 years as a lecturer in the UK. Fergal's research is concerned with the maintenance and protection of civil liberties in times of emergency. In particular his research focuses on the interaction between law and politics. More broadly, he is interested in legal history, jurisprudence, constitutionalism and the rule of law. 

His article 'The Jury as a Political Institution in an Age of Counterterrorism', was awarded the POLITICS Article Prize for 2013.  In awarding the prize the judges noted that: this article makes a significant contribution to contemporary debates on the relation between juries and civil society, challenging traditional perspectives on citizenship and civic duty. It presents a persuasive and well-articulated account of the political nature of jury trials and their relevance to terrorism cases. Davis argues in favour of retaining trial by jury in terrorism cases, by demonstrating the positive impact of juries on a democratic society. 


Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs is the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, with a five year appointment. She was Dean of the Faculty of Law and Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney from 2007-12 and Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law from 2005-7. She is a former Barrister and a Governor of the College of Law.

Professor Triggs has combined an academic career with international commercial legal practice and has advised the Australian and other governments and international organisations on international legal and trade disputes. Her focus at the Commission is on the implementation in Australian law of the human rights treaties to which Australia is a party, and to work with nations in the Asia Pacific region on practical approaches to human rights.

Professor Triggs’ is the author of many books and papers on international law, including International Law, Contemporary Principles and Practices (2nd Ed, 2011)

Dr Helen Watchirs, OAM, was appointed as President and Human Rights Commissioner at the ACT Human Rights Commission on 1 April this year. She previously held the role of Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner from 2004. Her work has focussed on Human Rights Audits of ACT detention facilities, as well as supervising the handling of over 1000 discrimination, vilification and sexual harassment complaints. She has over 30 years experience as a human rights lawyer working for Federal Government agencies, and as an employee/expert to several United Nations agencies, including UNAIDS, WHO, ILO, UNDP and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Dr Watchirs has a PhD in Human Rights Law and Masters in Public Law from the ANU specialising in HIV/AIDS human rights issues. She is a member of the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Advisory Council. At the community level she chaired the ACT Disability Aged and Carer Advocacy Service, and was a legal member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and ANU Ethics Committee.


Karen Middleton (facilitator) is a political journalist in the Canberra Press Gallery covering the Parliament of Australia in Canberra, the national capital of Australia. She was Chief Political Correspondent and Canberra Bureau Chief for SBS Television.

Karen was a seasoned radio and TV commentator, had a weekly radio spot on James O'Loghlin's Evening Show on ABC Radio across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, and on Perth radio 6PR, Sydney radio 2GB and ABC Radio National, and TV appearances on Sunrise on the Seven Network, Meet the Press on the Ten Network, and ABC TV's Insiders. She is a fortnightly commentator on Radio New Zealand and has done commentary and analysis for CNBC and al Jazeera. She has been political correspondent for several newspapers, most recently The West Australian, but also the Melbourne Age and Herald Sun, and as a weekend columnist for the Canberra Times, and is an occasional contributor to the New York Times. On December 18, 2015 it was announced that she would be joining The Saturday Paper in 2016 as Chief Political Correspondent.

About the Event Series

In 2014 the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis partnered with Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House on a unique research project to better understand the changing nature of political engagement in Australia and internationally. The first major outcome was to develop a survey tool and capture data for an ambitious exhibition The Power of 1: Does you voice count? the partnership has subsequently grown to encompass education programs that explore the qualities of Australian Democracy. We have also developed a lecture series which explore the future of democratic governance, of which this lecture is a part. Through our partnership with the Museum of Australian Democracy we aim to make full use of the Museum as a space for disseminating our research findings and developing innovative public engagement programs for debating new forms of democracy.



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