Friday, May 20, 2016

Raiding the opposition in Australia

A country is having an election. The opposition has been effective in exposing government incompetence, so the government has responded with force, conducting midnight raids of its offices and the homes of its officials.

Russia? Zimbabwe? Malaysia? No - it's happening just across the Tasman in Australia:

The Australian Federal Police have raided Labor Party offices in Melbourne over the alleged leak of documents from the National Broadband Network.

In an explosive development in the middle of a federal election campaign, officers searched the Treasury Place office of former communications minister Stephen Conroy.

Shortly after 11pm, up to ten plain-clothes officers raided a Brunswick house believed to be the home of a Labor staffer.

Two staffers for Labor's communications spokesman Jason Clare, one of whom is a former staffer to Senator Conroy, are believed to be targeted by the raids. One of the staffers is a key operative in Labor Party campaign headquarters.

With all this effort, you'd expect the documents in question to be vital to "national security" or something. But no. They merely "revealed that the NBN roll-out was slower and more expensive under the Coalition than under Labor", personally embarrassing the Prime Minister who had been responsible for it under Tony Abbott. In New Zealand, we consider that to be part of our democracy and the business of holding an elected government to account. But in Australia, accountability is for oppositions, not governments, and holding the government to account is apparently a criminal offence.

This is not behaviour fitting for a modern, democratic state. Australia needs to repeal its authoritarian anti-leaking laws, and let the media and the opposition do their jobs. Instead, by criminalising disclosure, they merely protect incompetence and corruption.