The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'sedition'


As of today, it is a crime in Australia to make any statement that inspires discontentment with the monarchy (there goes the Fenian wing of the republican movement), either house of parliament, or any of Australia's allies (looks like Brendan Nelson finally has a stick to use against the "anti-American" teachers he has been griping about). So you'd better lay off the unkind remarks about fat SUV drivers, Australians.

I wonder whether Australia's allies include Singapore, China or Saudi Arabia, and, if so, how much criticism of these states' human rights record or democratic credentials is allowable.

As for claims that the government won't use the sedition laws, the Scott Parkin incident suggests otherwise. A few months ago, they arrested and deported a US anti-globalisation activist who was about to give a workshop on non-violent demonstration. Back then, they would have been unable to act against him had he been an Australian citizen. Now the gloves are off, and all protest or dissent more vigorous than writing polite letters to a newspaper is essentially a crime. Australia is moving closer to being like Singapore, where activism is reserved for those with nothing left to lose, and there are severe disincentives to rocking the boat in any way (see also: "relaxed and comfortable").

The fact that Labor whipped its MPs to vote in favour of the sedition law, even with the Tories not needing their support, is depressing, and doesn't bode well for Australia becoming a liberal democratic society again within the next decade or so. Perhaps the period of liberalism and civil rights of the past 3 or so decades was an anomaly, and in the longer, historical sense, authoritarianism (from the penal-colony days to the first Menzies era of which Howard is so fond) is the Australian norm?

australia authoritarianism dissent politics scott parkin sedition singapore 0


As details get around of the Australian government's sedition laws (which the government has ruled out removing), more and more people are aghast at their implications:

Witnesses said the laws were so wide they could be used to prosecute ACTU secretary Greg Combet for his remarks urging opposition to the new industrial laws, and could be applied to those who had supported resistance movements, including Fretilin in East Timor, and Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.
He predicted police investigations into normal crimes would "morph" into terrorism investigations because the new laws gave police such broad powers to search properties.
One group that is not complaining about the new laws is the Australian Federal Police, who give their word that the laws would be used "judiciously and cautiously". Which presumably means that officers will only ride roughshod over civil rights when the party in question is a pinko/greeno ratbag, suspiciously dark-skinned, has a bad attitude, or is otherwise un-Australian. Welcome to Bjelkeland, Australians.

The new laws could effectively outlaw any form of dissent stronger than writing a politely-worded letter to one's MP. Of course, no-one expects Howard's secret police to round up all refugee-rights campaigners, Greens voters, socialists and trade unionists and send them to gulags in the far north. They won't need to; the real purpose will be the chilling effect achieved after a few troublemakers have been made examples of, when it is known that being too outspoken in the wrong way about our government, our Queen or our allies, associating with the wrong people, or even expressing general discontent in the wrong way, can be dangerous. This will drive those with anything to lose away from political activism, leaving only a hard core of cranks who can be easily ignored, much as in that beacon of meticulously managed civil society, Singapore.

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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.

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