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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK
Australia terror bill in Cup clash
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Australian Prime Minister John Howard
Critics have questioned Mr Howard's choice of timing
Australia's government is under fire after it said controversial new anti-terrorism laws would be introduced to parliament on Melbourne Cup day.

Opposition politicians have said that debating the legislation during Australia's most famous horse race was "an extraordinary abuse of power".

Critics fear the new laws will be rushed through, without proper debate.

But the government has said the laws are so important they must be brought in soon, regardless of sporting events.

The Melbourne Cup is known as the race that stops a nation, and is arguably Australia's most popular sporting occasion.

Large sections of industry and commerce close down for the day.

Opposition politicians have said it is a joke that important anti-terrorism measures will be introduced when much of the country will be concentrating on horse racing rather than national security.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has brushed off suggestions that the timing is cynical.

Tough new laws

The legislation will allow the security agencies to detain suspects for up to two weeks without charge.

There are also plans to impose life sentences on anyone caught funding militant organisations.

The most controversial part of the legislation is a shoot-to-kill provision.

Australian police officers would need only to call on a suspect to surrender, if it was practicable, otherwise lethal force would be permitted.

Civil libertarians and some legal experts have said the laws will violate human rights and possibly Australia's constitution.

The measures were drawn up by the conservative government following the bombings in London in July.

Mr Howard said that these dangerous and threatening times required a strong and comprehensive response.

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