Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What is wrong with sedition law: "SEDITION laws are at best silly and at worst a catch-all clause for governments who want to bury dissent.... The silliness of sedition laws cannot be overstated: unlike murder legislation, on which there is wide and ancestral unity, all attempts to define and prosecute sedition become absurd with time.... To bring the sovereign into contempt or hatred is also listed as a crime, and on that basis the royal children should all be doing time. The impossibility of defining sedition in a liberal democratic society is shown up by Ruddock's defence of the proposals. Ruddock says they are 'designed to protect the community from those who would abuse our democratic values and threaten our harmonious and tolerant society'.

"Does that include people who threaten our harmonious society by whipping up ethnic, sectional hysteria for political benefit? Does that include those who lie about the behaviour of unfortunate minorities to sow a sense of fear? If I were attorney-general, and these provisions were law, I'd certainly have my eye on you, Phil, and your proven, recidivist tendencies 'to abuse our democratic values and threaten our harmonious and tolerant society'."

"Minister, if you do not intend further repression, may I ask you this? Why did agents claiming to be from the Attorney-General's Department visit the filmmaker Carmel Travers, who had on her computer a manuscript from whistle-blower Andrew Wilkie, and smash the hard drives of her two computers with hammers, a process they referred to as "cleansing"? Four other Australians, including Robert Manne, were similarly dealt with.

"The victims were warned it was an offence to tell anyone what had happened, even their partners, a form of bullying which, being accustomed to the traditions of free speech, they ultimately ignored. Most absurdly of all, Wilkie's manuscript, Axis of Deceit, had already been published."

That was Thomas Kenneally writing, and other artists in this Herald article also make effective points against the sedition laws.

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