Thursday, September 29, 2005



"Draconian but necessary"

That's Queensland Premier Peter Beattie's judgement of John Howard's proposed new anti-terrorism laws. I'd certainly agree on the former. The package would allow pre-emptive detention without charge for up to two weeks, merely on suspicion of planning a terrorist act. And following in Tony Blair's footsteps, it includes a system of "control orders" allowing suspected terrorists to be subjected to electronic tagging, banned from visiting certain areas or talking to certain people, or even subjected to house arrest for a year. These would be issued in secret proceedings which defendants will not be allowed to contest, on a civil "balance of probabilities" standard. In other words, the government will be able to subject someone to house arrest - effectively imprisonment at their own expense - without ever having their "evidence" tested.

As Peter Cozens points out in the Herald today, this erodes fundamental civil liberties which have "taken centuries to develop at great sacrifice". Things like Habeas Corpus, due process, the right to a fair trial - safeguards which protect all of us from the power of the state and prevent injustices and abuses of power. And for what? "Because of its foreign policy". If the cost of Australia's foreign policy is turning that country into a police state, then I'd suggest that that foreign policy be changed.

As for "necessary", the government has not bothered to argue why these measures are required. All it has done is try and whip up fear of a terrorist attack. But as has been repeatedly pointed out, the similar system in Britain would not have prevented the London bombings, for the simple reason that the bombers were unknown to the police and intelligence services. And they would not assist in the prosecution of terrorists - Australia already has laws against belonging to, funding or supporting terrorist groups, and against murder or conspiracy to murder. All they would do is allow the government to be lazy, to run a dragnet and punish people on the basis of prejudice, paranoia and fear, without ever having to prove their case or hold their "evidence" up to proper scrutiny.

Tim Dunlop is right: this is handing the terrorists a major victory. They've managed to significantly undermine freedom in Australia, without having to use a single bomb. Osama will be pleased...

9 comments:

Look how Australia deals with refugees though. We are talking about a country that hunted the indigenous people for sport, that only gave them the vote in the 1960's. They had a "white Australia" policy.

I think this is just a continuation of that same idea, and I'm not really surprised. I'd say that since most Australian white folks would think that this won't be applied to them, "Bah! Who cares about the civil rights of those shifty muslims".

If I was an Aussie muslim, I'd be getting out of Dodge.

Posted by muerk : 9/29/2005 01:10:00 PM

If I was really paranoid I would think Osama is doing those control freak Governments a favour by enabling them to push through this kind of legislation. How many years of campaigning and fighting will it take to get those civil liberties back? Who will decide when VT (Victory over Terrorism) Day is and how will they determine a victory? I'm far more worried about Johnnie Howard's anti-liberty policies than anything Helengrad could throw at me.

Posted by Uroskin : 9/29/2005 01:39:00 PM

Uroskin: Yeah, but what about Phil Goff? He might be looking at this and getting ideas...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/29/2005 01:40:00 PM

This so called "war on terrorism" is playing right into the hands of those who want to undermine democracy and replace it with an oligarchy, where the people are kept under constant surveillance, with any sign of dissidence from the capitalist agenda ruthlessly punished.
Yes, Islamic fundamentalism is a threat to secular democracy and individual human freedoms. Yes, Al Qaeda has used terror against Western society. But these facts do not give Western rulers the right to terminate democratic freedoms. We're in for a rough time unless we stand up to our rulers and their bureaucrats.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/29/2005 04:11:00 PM

Here's the upside, when the left gains power in Australia they can lock up all the rightists.

Posted by Christiaan : 9/29/2005 06:58:00 PM

You don't have to look far to see where this legislation is aimed. They have already had the test run (Scott Parkin our very own political prisoner, deported). Look out Greenpeace..

What's worse is the dropkicks in opposition have caved in and let themselves be shafted. No wonder their poll results are heading for the grave.
Welcome to the new police state.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/29/2005 09:04:00 PM

There's an even better example of how anti-terrorism laws lead to abuse of civil liberties: in the UK, after 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang was evicted from a conference for heckling Jack Straw's position on Iraq (Wolfgang shouted "nonsense"), police used the new anti-terrorism laws to refuse him readmission to the meeting. Presumably he terrified Jack Straw... (I do note that Blair later apologised, albeit in his usual qualified manner)

Posted by pohanginapete : 9/30/2005 07:52:00 AM

Since this transcends left/right politics, I'm hoping the left remember there are allies amongst the right, eg Libertarians on this.

Posted by Huskynut : 9/30/2005 08:14:00 AM

I'm just glad that the Ahmed Zaoui affair has made any such precipitate attacks on civil liberties here academic.

Craig Y.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/30/2005 09:00:00 AM