Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sedition in Australia V

Six months ago, Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to review Australia's newly passed sedition laws. The ALRC dutifully set to work, and duly produced a report in which they recommended that the "red rag" term of sedition be removed, and the law tightened to remove any suggestion that it could be applied to artists, journalists, or political dissent.

Philip Ruddock has decided to ignore it.

This naturally raises the suspicion that artists, journalists and political opponents are exactly what Ruddock wants to target and intimidate with this law, and that he sees it as a way of forcing people to be wary of criticising the government. As Australia's Shadow Attorney-General noted (with marvellous understatement), "surely in a robust democracy that is not ideal".

The reason I oppose these sorts of laws is because governments have consistently shown that they cannot be trusted with them. That's what the history shows in New Zealand, and its what it shows in Australia as well. Instead, they invite the government to pursue political prosecutions against their enemies, and to engage in public persecution of those deemed "disloyal" as a way of grubbing votes. Unfortunately, Phil Ruddock and the Australian "Liberal" Party seem to see that as a feature rather than a problem.