The Guardian 9 March, 2005

Why such laws?

Why does the Australian government resort to such laws? Why are the police, military and ASIO and individual government ministers given far-reaching powers that overturn fundamental democratic rights. The laws include such travesties of justice as:

  • denial of the right to remain silent

  • loss of right to representation of own choice

  • reversal of onus of proof

  • guilt by association

  • guilt without committal of a crime

  • absence of open and accountable processes

  • detention and search without warrant

  • bypassing judicial processes

  • unlimited detention through renewals of detention

  • use of secret evidence than can not be seen by the defence

    Is terrorism the main target?

    The governments of the US, Canada, Britain, other European states, Philippines and elsewhere have also introduced laws severely restricting democratic rights.

    These same governments are pursuing similar economic rationalist policies: privatisation of water, electricity, health, education and social security; deregulation of the financial sector; trade liberalisation; militarisation; anti-union legislation; and other International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies.

    The result of these policies can be seen around the world in the growing inequalities within and between countries; the impoverishment of millions of people who are denied the most basic human rights of food, shelter, health services, education and jobs. Even in the most industrialised wealthy countries the gaps have widened between rich and poor, public services are deteriorating and social unrest on the rise.

    Millions of people around the world have organised and protested against these policies, against environmental destruction, against war, and against corporate globalisation.

    Governments, such as in Australia, and the big corporations whose interests they serve, know that as their policies bite deeper and more people are thrown onto the scrap heap, the public resistance will only become stronger. They are putting in place the measures and powers they require to suppress dissent and opposition.

    The "war on terror" is being used by politicians and other reactionary forces to foster racism, hatred, intolerance and fear, with Muslim, Arab, Turkish and other minority groups the main targets. The NSW and federal governments in particular have used the racist card as a divisive mechanism to divert attention from their policies and lay the blame for social and economic problems on particular groups in society.

    The appalling treatment given to asylum seekers in Baxter, Nauru and the other concentration camps is an example of what lies ahead for others in the community. The government has turned a blind eye to torture, and has denied the asylum seeker prisoners in detention their fundamental human rights. Children and adults have been locked up in hell holes for years, with no charges laid, no court hearings and the abandonment of international law.

    The ASIO and terror laws and the practices being used in the detention centres are the forerunner of what the government has in mind for those who stand in its way.

    There are more bills to come and no longer a Senate capable of blocking or even amending them. In addition the government has plans to introduce some form of ID card, which would contain considerable personal data, facial recognition and DNA in digital form.

    If we fail to defeat these laws and fail to gain the release of the prisoners in those camps and bring an end to such practices, then the government will feel free to pass more laws, to incarcerate more people. It will have absolute power in the Senate and House of Representatives from July1.

    The inquiry into the laws is one small way in which you can take some action. Another is to raise the issue where ever you can, inform as many people as possible. And don't forget to lobby government ministers and your local politicians.

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