Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


No Right Turn: Sedition in Australia

No Right Turn

Sedition in Australia


http://norightturn.blogspot.com

In the wake of terrorist threats against Melbourne and more bombings in Bali, the Australian government is attempting to pass draconian new anti-terrorism laws. The draft of the legislation had originally been kept secret, but last week it was leaked by ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope, who while approving it, believed that legislation with such an impact on civil liberties should be open to public scrutiny and debate. John Howard seems to regard this as practically treason. But fortunately he'll soon have the tools to combat this sort of betrayal of Australian values, because the legislation would modernise the law relating to sedition.

As with Ne w Zealand, Australia has long had anti-sedition legislation on the books (see sections 24A - 24F of the Australian Crimes

Act 1914), but it had fallen into disuse (though somewhat later than it had in New Zealand). The last prosecution was in 1960, when Department of Native Affairs office Brian Cooper was prosecuted for urging "the natives" of Papua New Guinea to demand independence from Australia. He was convicted, and committed suicide after losing his appeal. The draft legislation [PDF] would repeal the old offence of "uttering seditious words", but replace it with five new ones. It would also double the penalties for sedition, from three years imprisonment to seven, and allow convictions on the basis of "recklessness" rather than requiring specific intent. But most importantly, it would signify an intention on behalf of the government to actually use the legislation and prosecute people for saying things deemed disloyal to Australia or to indirectly incite terrorism. And there's no doubt about who the targets would be...

Fortunately, this is producing something of a backlash in the press and public opinion. There's a particularly good piece by Ben Saul in The Australian which lays out why sedition laws are incompatible with democracy:

There is a danger that criminalising the expression of support for terrorism will drive such beliefs underground. Rather than exposing them to public debate, which allows erroneous or misconceived ideas to be corrected and ventilates their poison, criminalisation risks aggravating the grievances underlying terrorism.

Although some extreme speech may never be rationally countered by other speech, the cut and thrust of public debate remains the best option for combating odious or ignorant ideas. The criminal law is ill-suited to reforming expressions of poor judgment or bad taste.

Every society has the highest public interest in protecting itself and its institutions from violence, but no society should criminalise speech that it finds distasteful when such speech is remote from the practice of terrorist violence by others.

A robust and mature democracy should be expected to absorb unpalatable ideas without prosecuting them.

Unfortunately, unlike other western democracies, Australia has only weak protections for freedom of speech. Which is precisely why they need a formal bill of rights...

Finally, there is one curious aspect of the proposed law which ought to concern even those of us in New Zealand. The section on sedition includes this clause:

80.4 Extended geographical jurisdiction for offences

Section 15.4 (extended geographical jurisdiction - category D) applies to an offence against this Division

According to the Australian Criminal Code, this means that the offence applies

(a) whether or not the conduct constituting the alleged offence occurs in Australia; and
(b) whether or not a result of the conduct constituting the alleged offence occurs in Australia.

This is quite deliberate; the Australian Criminal Code provides for other forms of extended geographical jurisdiction of lesser reach, providing defences where neither the person nor the victim is an Australian or the crime does not impact on Australian territory. But this is the true "universal jurisdiction" clause, used for war crimes. And it's being used here not just to cover sedition, but also treason. This is utterly unprecedented. To the extent that either sedition or treason are crimes, they are crimes of disloyalty, predicated on some obligation to be loyal to the Australian government. What Howard is saying is that everyone in the world has a duty to be loyal to and not criticise Australia, on pain of imprisonment. As a non-Australian, I'm not too impressed by this.

ENDS


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Ramzy Baroud: Gaza’s Resistance Will Not Be Crushed

On the 13th day of Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, stories of entire families collectively pulverized, women and children keenly targeted by Israeli soldiers saturate the media. Until now, 430 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and ... More>>

ALSO:

Ian Anderson: Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic? The Labour Party And MANA

Early in July this year, Labour Party leader David Cunliffe made headlines by apologising for being a man. Stoked by capitalist media sensation, Prime Minister John Key responded that “not all men” abuse women. More>>

Shobha Shukla: Break The Silos: Drug Use, HIV, HCV, TB, Laws And Funding

Viet Nam is one of the countries in the world that has made remarkable progress over the last decade in not only making harm reduction and HIV services available and accessible for people who use drugs but also reforming laws for supportive health ... More>>

ALSO:

Fiona Gordon: Illegal Wildlife Trading: The Global Response

At the closing session of the inaugural United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi last month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “We need to act decisively to change humanity’s relationship with our planet.” More>>

Faisal Al-Asaad: Gaza: McCully’s Calls For Restraint On Both Sides Is Side-Taking Itself

Since June 12th, the world’s attention has been squarely focused on the events unfolding in the West Bank, Gaza and the occupied territories. The disappearance of three Israeli youths who were later found dead prompted a flurry of condemnations ... More>>

ALSO:

Tania Billingsley: Demand For Accountability On Sexual Assault

Since my assault I feel that people have been assuming that my idea of justice is to have Rizalman found guilty in a New Zealand court. While it is an important part of justice being done, my main reason for wanting this is not for my own sense of ... More>>

Leslie Bravery: Hold The Perpetrator To Account, Not The Victim!

In a 4 July 2014 statement to Scoop Independent News, on the violent deaths of four young people in the Israeli Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully made the following comments: 'The recent killing ... More>>

ALSO:

Santon Tekege: Investigative Report Into Oil Palm In Nabire Regency, Papua

Several companies’ plans to invest in the oil palm sector in Nabire have met with local opposition. People from the Yerisiam and Wate ethnic groups have staged several peaceful actions in Nabire against one of these companies, PT Nabire Baru1. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
TEDxAuckland
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news