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Two cheers for Malcolm Fraser « Previous | |Next »
October 21, 2005

At long last the ALP state Premiers have found a bit of backbone in saying the Howard Government's new anti-terrorism legislation has gone too far with the proposed shoot to kill powers for the police.


It's only a bit of backbone mind you, given the principle of the Premier's opposition. For instance, Mike Rann, the South Australian Premier, said that he was committed to what he agreed to at COAG but, "I won't commit to things that I haven't seen and I won't commit to things that have been put in that I didn't agree to". There is no mention of needing to defend the principle of the civil liberties of citizens. Rann doesn't care about the latter principle.

The premier's new backbone expresses little more than the management of a damaged image in being taken for a ride by the federal government. John Stanhope, the ACT Chief Minister, is the exception. He opened up the debate by publishing the draft legislation and legal opinion on his website.

Instead of a falling over themselves to prove they are tough on terror, the state premiers should really be using their political power to resist the way the Howard Government is trading-off democratic rights for political and economic security. Instead they've have been gungho about the counter-terrorism legislation to fgiht the enemy within. They are quite happy for the police to be able to detain suspects for up to 14 days without evidence they had committed a crime, even though Australia has not experienced a significant terrorist incident from the "enemy within", nor is there any evidence of such a threat.

Malcolm Fraser is spot on:

In Australia, any of us can be detained merely because authorities believe we might know something that we don't even know we know. The authorities do not have to believe we are guilty of any crime, or are planning any crime, or have consorted with any suspicious persons. How could such a law be drafted by the Government and supported by the Labor opposition?

How indeed. The state premiers are quite happy that citizens can be detained for one week, but then on a new warrant, another and another and another week, and that you are not allowed to contact your family or lawyer.

Fraser highlights another nasty provision:

If a journalist heard that you had been detained and sought to report it, he would go to jail for five years. If a detained person were released and talked to anyone about his or her experiences, subject to prosecution, five years in jail.

As Fraser notes the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the presumption that all people should have access to "due process" in a properly constituted legal system is no longer valid in Australia.

It is constitutional liberalism that is being sidelined by the national security state. The state premiers have accepted Leviathan's claim that it is not possible to fight terrorism and adhere to the basic principles of justice and emocracy.They are blind to the contradiction of their position: Australia must throw basic civil rights overboard to defend those same rights.

Murdoch's Australian has given up any pretence of defending these rights. Its editorial says:

Opponents of the proposed anti-terror legislation should get a grip, because the debate on how to protect Australia against attack is being lost in hyperbole and hysteria.In reality, Australia faces the risk that terrorists, who believe Australia is an enemy of Islam, will kill as many of us as they can. The threat is real and we need laws to detain and watch people who wish us harm. We can enact them now, or run the risk of having to act after a terror bombing in a city street or suburban shopping mall.

The mask of Leviathan is the national security state.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:17 AM | | Comments (0)