Sunday, October 16, 2005

The abominable snowjob

(1) A person commits an offence if:
(a) the person intentionally:
(i) makes funds available to another person (whether
directly or indirectly); or
(ii) collects funds for, or on behalf of, another person
(whether directly or indirectly); and
(b) the first-mentioned person is reckless as to whether the other
person will use the funds to facilitate or engage in a terrorist
Penalty: Imprisonment for life.
A couple of weeks ago, the Premiers of the Australian States & the Chief Ministers of the two Territories, all of whom are Labor, held a meeting with the conservative Prime Minister, John Howard, to discuss the new anti-terror laws that the P.M. was going to introduce.

It was a meeting of great depth, that lasted for all of two hours before ending for publicity shots. It was a boys' meeting - apologies to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory for lumping her in - of the "my anti-terror laws are bigger than your anti-terror laws" variety.

No-one saw the draft legislation - the P.M. only outlined it - but they all agreed that though the new legislation would be draconian, inherently anti-Muslim, & trod on just about everybody's civil rights, it was "necessary".

Last week the P.M. forwarded to the attendees the draft legislation, marked several times on the first few pages as "DRAFT-IN-CONFIDENCE. This draft is supplied in confidence and should be given appropriate protection."

The Senate is the house of review. It was informed at exactly 4.30 p.m. last Thursday that the legislation was to be introduced into the Lower House soon, & that the Senate report back within three weeks. However, Thursday was the last day of sitting for two weeks, &, under House rules, the Senate cannot vote on any issue on anything introduced on or after 4.30 p.m. on the last day of sitting until the next sitting day. Which is, in this case, October 31. One week at maximum to debate it, to call in outside experts to explain the full ramifications of it. No-one had seen the bill to be introduced, so how the hell could anyone prepare for any serious discussion. It would be kept under wraps for at least two weeks.

But conscience sometimes has a way of bringing things into the light of day. The Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, the area around Canberra, has obviously had second thoughts about his earlier agreement, & promptly posted the draft to his official website. (It's a long PDF, but if anyone wants to read it it's available here.) His reason for doing so was that the legislation was so prohibitive, that there needed to be genuine discussion & debate in the community at large, because there wasn't going to be any allowed in the Parliament.

There are all sorts of provisions for detention without the need to reveal the reasons for detention; it's an offence to let on to anyone that you've been detained; the use of force by Federal Police is frowned upon, but, if an officer feels their life is threatened, then action can be taken of the variety that saw English police shoot dead an innocent Brazilian "bomb suspect".

I took part in the anti-Vietnam War protests just under forty years ago. If this legislation is brought in, & there is no doubt that it will be, I would have serious concerns about taking part in a similar sort of protest today.

1 comment:

Robert said...

geez, Australia is becoming a very scary place...destroying all my romantic illusions