The Null Device

Sedition down under

In a rush to stop an "imminent terrorist attack", Australia is about to pass sweeping "anti-terrorism" laws, which include sedition laws that effectively criminalise many forms of protest and dissent, and indeed much art and commentary critical of the state of affairs could fall foul of them:
Gill's visual record of the Eureka Stockade, Tucker's images of evil and Nolan's post-World War II paintings are just some of the works that might have offended the sedition clause in the proposed legislation, says Tamara Winikoff, the executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts.
Playwright David Williamson, yesterday did not mince his words: "It's one of the major functions of art — to look critically at what's going on around you. I think this is the most authoritarian government this country has ever had and it doesn't like voices of dissent.
"You get the feeling that the concept of democracy is not strongly held by this government. It's as if there's only one political line, one opinion. Everything else is attacked with a ferocity unlike anything in our nation's history."
Welcome to Joh Bjelke-Petersen's Queensland, Australians.

And here is an article from those known Comsymps at Indymedia, on how, far from being "un-Australian", sweeping sedition laws and the criminalisation of dissent are fine Australian traditions.

Meanwhile, while the 24-style high drama of the terror laws (will they pass them in time for Jack Bauer to capture the bad guys? Stay tuned.) rages in the front pages, the government's Dickensian industrial relations laws, whose details have just been released, are slipping under the radar.

The apolitical silent majority of Australians, bathed in the nurturing glow of their TVs in their suburban living rooms, is on record as being "relaxed and comfortable" with the changes.

There are 14 comments on "Sedition down under":

Posted by: gjw http://the-fix.org Thu Nov 3 11:44:54 2005

..except I don't think the IR laws _are_ slipping under the rader. A woman in my office was handing around ACTU petition postcards last week. Wherever I go, to my mother-in-law's for dinner, or to my mate's place to smoke some pot and play pool, or talking to my sister on the phone, or my wife talking to her work colleagues, people are talking about, and are not happy with, the IR reforms. If only union membership levels reflected the feelings of the actual workers...

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org Thu Nov 3 12:12:54 2005

The anti-terrorism debate (which, oddly enough, fails to mention the sedition aspect of it) is managing to keep the details of the bill off the front pages of the papers, and could do so until the bill is rubber-stamped through both houses and signed into law.

Posted by: El Bizarro http://bizarro.typepad.com Thu Nov 3 15:17:38 2005

But in any event, it doesn't matter whether it's under the radar or not, this government has an unassailable majority in both houses of parliment and can do whatever it damn well pleases. With a me-too limp-wristed Labor opposition and a compliant media, it shouldn't be to long before they convert this majority into an effective dictatorship. Of course it seems like "everyone you know" is talking about it because of the circles you move in. Out in the suburbs, where the traditional self-imposed censorship of not talking about politics or religion around the barbie, I'm sure that very few people know anything about the "anti-terror" laws or the stripping of their hard fought for rights behind the government propaganda. Let's face it, these pricks have won...

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org Thu Nov 3 17:58:05 2005

One could call this a back-to-basics approach to the Australian national identity. In this case, the basics are the collection of authoritarian prison colonies Australia started off as, stripping off not only all that post-Whitlam liberalism but things like the 8-hour day and the power of trade unions.

I wonder how long until liberally-inclined expatriate Australians are entitled to political refugee status. Then again, Singaporeans aren't, aren't they?

Posted by: gjw http://the-fix.org Fri Nov 4 00:15:33 2005

"it seems like "everyone you know" is talking about it because of the circles you move in."

Well, I know I'm a sample of 1, but at my mate's place, I'm talking about a guy who works on a barge dredging the coastline, a service station attendant, a guy who works in a franchise cafe, and a locksmith. They aren't champagne socialists or ideological unionists. And they cared, and they understood what was going on. One guy said his colleagues wanted to strike over a new EB, but he wanted it to just get accepted as soon as possible so it was in effect before the new laws were passed. Another mate threw a cigarette butt at the screen when one of the ads came on. Warmed my heart, it did.

Posted by: gjw http://the-fix.org Fri Nov 4 00:20:49 2005

Also important to note that should (within the next century) the ALP regain power, these laws are fairly easily reversible. It's not like the GST, where they would have to find some way to replace the income it generates. These are not "money" laws, and they can do what they want with them.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/ Fri Nov 4 00:32:36 2005

Except that there would be massive pressure from business (and possibly international treaty constraints) against adding any further expenses or hindrances (such as restrictions on unfair dismissals or minimum working conditions). Look at how Blair's Britain has kept most of the Thatcherite system. As for the sedition laws, what's not to say that future Labor governments may not, whilst cutting back on prosecuting civil libertarians and environmentalists, find them useful to have on the books.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/ Fri Nov 4 00:33:23 2005

Besides which, how often do governments or other such bodies voluntarily reduce their power?

Posted by: dj http://deej.bah.id.au Fri Nov 4 07:16:02 2005

Certainly agree with you on that last point acb.

If this turns out as bad as it could, this really could make my decision for me whether to go back to Germany with my wife instead of staying here. It's an irony that my parents emigrated here because they thought there were more opportunities here than in Thatcher's Britain.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org Fri Nov 4 10:23:22 2005

I heard that Germany's good, especially Berlin.

You have a British passport, I take it?

Posted by: Ben http:// Sat Nov 5 00:34:06 2005

What I tell all these union idiots running around with petitions, spending millions of their member's funds on TV ads opposing the new laws etc., is that it's a pity they didn't run this campaign before the election when it might have made some difference.

Posted by: dj http://deej.bah.id.au Sat Nov 5 02:29:17 2005

Yes, I have dual British/Australian citizenship. My wife is German and when she finishes her studies we will probably have to move from Adelaide anyway, unless her research kickstarts an industrial application.

Take your point Ben, but don't you think such a campaign would have just been used by Howard to illustrate the 'paranoia' and 'extreme' nature of the unions?

Posted by: El Bizarro http://bizarro.typepad.com Sat Nov 5 17:09:09 2005

I agree with Momus and ACB, just get the fuck out. Australia might need you but it doesn't want you.

Posted by: gjw http://the-fix.org Sun Nov 6 02:07:59 2005

Personally, I'm going to hang around here until the revolution. Unless a nice post-doc position comes up in Montana.

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