Australian Anti-Terror Laws Target Muslims, Media & Free Speech
By Gideon Polya
15 November, 2005
Within several weeks Australia, one of the world’s oldest liberal democracies, is expected to become a Police State through enactment of draconian, human rights-violating Anti-Terror Laws. Driven by political and media hysteria, Australia will shortly pass draconian extensions of existing Anti-Terrorist Laws that already violate international norms of freedom of speech and “due process”. Already anyone can be detained for a week without charge (with revolving door detention renewable on release) and anyone faces 5 YEARS IN PRISON for revealing that a person has been detained without charge. However the New Anti-Terrorism Laws carry similarly draconian penalties under Preventative Detention, Control Orders, Donations, Document Seizure and Sedition clauses.
Australia has produced some great and fearless expatriate journalists including Wilfrid Burchett (who covered the Korean War and the Cold War from the “other” side), Philip Knightly (doyen of current British Commonwealth and English-language war correspondents and journalists) and the erudite, humane and polemical John Pilger (war correspondent, author and trenchant critic of the consequences of Anglo-American global militarism). Would they have been imprisoned for “telling the truth” under the “sedition” sections of the New Australian Anti-Terror Laws?
If the Court accepts that in telling the truth about a war in which Australia is engaged, a journalist (writer, academic, or indeed anyone) “urges another person to engage in conduct” and “intends the conduct to assist, by any means whatever” “an organisation or country” “at war” or “in armed hostilities” against Australia, then the defendant is subject to 7 YEARS IN PRISON. Further, the same penalty is incurred if the Judge feels the defendant intended through statements about the Sovereign, Government, their advisers or “a person responsible for the government of another country” to prejudice safety or defence, assist national enemies, cause violence, create public disorder or cause a public disturbance.
Philip Knightly is a highly respected journalist because he believes in reporting the truth – and reporting in explicit, unambiguous terms (for his comments on spin and mendacity in reportage see: http://www.newint.org/issue115/mendacity.htm ). In his book “The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam - Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth-maker”, Knightly quotes former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, to Manchester Guardian editor C.P. Scott, in 1914: "If the public knew the truth, the war would end tomorrow. But they don't know and they can't know." However the New Anti-Terrorism Laws hang a Sword of Damocles over those telling the truth about wars.
John Pilger is forthright in his condemnation of the horrendous consequences of war. However the Media Watch program team of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) (Australia’s public broadcaster) recently obtained a senior barrister’s opinion on whether he would have violated the new “sedition” laws by his specific comments on ABC Television about the right of occupied people to defend themselves against illegal invaders. The senior barrister (a Queen’s Counsel) indicated that John Pilger, Australia’s most famous journalist and a courageous humanitarian, would be found guilty under these laws which carry a penalty of 7 YEARS IN PRISON (see: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s1489465.htm ).
Australian corporate mainstream media have a culture of entrenched lying by omission and commission and consequently IGNORE the FACTS that NO Australians have died from terrorist attacks within Australia for 27 years but that since 2001 in Australia there have been appallingly numerous avoidable deaths, namely 80,000 (from tobacco), 24,000 (indigenous Australians), 14,000 (alcohol) and 2,000 opioid-related deaths from passive US Coalition (including Australian) restoration of the Taliban-destroyed Afghan opium trade (now 87% world share).
The Australian corporate mainstream media also resolutely IGNORE Australia's complicity in the carnage involved in the US Coalition War on Terror - the post-invasion avoidable mortality (excess mortality) and under-5 infant mortality in the Occupied Iraqi and Afghan Territories total 2.1 million and 1.7 million, respectively, in gross violation of the Geneva Conventions that demand supply of life-preserving requisites to conquered civilians by the Occupying Powers (this appalling avoidable mortality constituting gross "passive genocide" because annual per capita medical expenditure in these US-occupied countries is less than 1% of that in metropolitan USA).
Despite Australian media hysteria about the "terrorism threat", NO politicians, Security, public servants, academics, journalists or writers (except for me) have offered any quantitative estimate of the ACTUAL threat. The "annual Australian probability of death" is about 0.0001% (from “Muslim” terrorist attack), 0.001% (from a family member or acquaintance), 0.01% (from a car accident) and 0.1% (from tobacco smoking-related causes). Rather than deal (in order of decreasing seriousness) with deadly tobacco smoking, globally-devastating cars and horrendous domestic violence, Australia is entrenching Police State Anti-Terror Laws that grossly violate fundamental human rights and which are selectively directed at one of the least of Australia’s avoidable mortality threats.
EXISTING Australian Anti-Terror Laws prescribe the following terms of imprisonment: 1 YEAR (for failing to hand over your passport "immediately"); 3 YEARS (for talking on 2 occasions with a member of a Ministerially-proscribed (Muslim) "terrorist organization"; 5 YEARS (for anyone reporting the detention without trial of anyone; for not providing information or documents and for not being able to prove that you did not possess the same (a Kafkaesque scientific impossibility)); 10 YEARS (for membership of a group deemed to be a "terrorist organization by the Minister); 25 YEARS (for being a leader of a group deemed to be a terrorist group).
PROPOSED (and shortly to be enacted) Australian Anti-Terrorism Laws ALSO prescribe Control Orders (e.g. home detention, no Internet, no telephone, no work, limited communication, must wear a tracking device, "counselling and education" and 5 YEARS imprisonment for any contravention of this detention without trial); Preventative Detention (e.g. for 14 days, strip search, fingerprinting, necessary force applied, location in remand centres for dangerous criminals and 5 YEARS for anyone disclosing such detention without trial); Document seizure (notwithstanding privilege, incrimination or professional confidentiality; 2 YEARS for disclosure of this disclosure notice); Financing "terrorism" (LIFE IMPRISONMENT e.g. for a Muslim innocently making a donation to a charity actually "deemed" to be "terrorist-linked"); Sedition offences (potentially covering any comment critical of the Australian, UK or US governments, their racism, warmongering and war crimes; anyone is liable to arrest anytime even without warrant - however this warrant must be procured "within a reasonable time"; 7 YEARS imprisonment).
Amnesty International, the Australian Law Council, Civil Liberties groups, senior judges and the Australian chapter of the International Commission of Jurists have roundly condemned these laws - laws that, unfortunately, have popular and bipartisan support because of media lying and racist hysteria. A major Civil Liberties lawyer has stated that these laws will make Australia a Police State.
Amnesty International has condemned these laws, drawing special attention to the following section of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law that provides a EUPHEMISM for "preventative detention without trial for 14 days": "To avoid doubt, a person does not contravene [the non-disclosure law, penalty 5 YEARS] merely by letting another person know that the detainee is safe but is not able to be contacted for the time being".
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) (Australian section) [see: http://www.icj-aust.org.au/?no=33 ] has provided a detailed condemnation of these draconian Australian Anti-Terror Laws, including the following key analysis:
“Many of these proposals represent serious departure from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to which Australia is a party. The IPCCR is appended to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986, which has the responsibility to monitor Australian’s compliance with the Covenant. Further, the Commonwealth of Australian and some States and Territories have incorporated the ICCPR into their Evidence Acts applicable in Australian courts. Whilst the UN may not have enforcement powers to force Australia to comply with treaties it has adopted, as a matter of fundamental principle and international law, Australia’s laws should comply with international human rights standards we have signed on to. Under the ICCPR, Australia is only entitled to derogate from civil and political rights after it has declared a state of emergency in accordance with Article 4.”
In 1901, newly independent racist White Australia, having largely exterminated the indigenous aboriginal population (from 1 million in 1788 to about 0.1 million in 1900), wanted to introduce explicit "White Australia" legislation but was dissuaded by Great Britain (which did not want the Japanese offended, nor the hundreds of millions of non-European, mainly Indian, subjects of the British Empire). The solution was to bring in the 1901 Immigration Act that did not actually mention RACE but allowed the racism to be effected in secret by Ministerial and other executive discretion (and, when necessary, by application a fraudulent "dictation test in any modern European language" to weed out non-European applicants who did not realize that Australia had an un-written White Australia Policy).
The White Australia Policy" ceased after passage of anti-racism legislation by the Whitlam Labor Government in 1973. However by the 1990s a "secret" New White Australian Policy had resumed business through racial profiling and discrimination against listed, "high risk" (typically non-European) countries. The Anti-Terror Laws do not specify Muslims or Arabs (although ALL 18 of the presently proscribed organizations are Muslim and have Arabic names) - BUT they will clearly be administered in a racist, bigoted and discriminatory fashion.
Thus it is OK for Australian Jews to serve in the Israeli army in the illegally-occupied West Bank or to give donations (small to huge) to support illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands - but Australian Muslims or Arabs will face 10-25 YEARS IN PRISON for association with Arab insurgent organizations and LIFE IMPRISONMENT for unwittingly allowing their charitable donations to proceed to a set of (all Muslim) organizations proscribed by the right-wing, racist Australian Federal Government.
Australia is one of the worlds' oldest continuous liberal democracies - in the 19th century it lead the world in relation to democracy, one man one vote, female suffrage, free education, public hospitals, public universities, trade unions and humane working conditions (although aboriginal Australians were only formally "counted" as Australians after a referendum in 1967, around about the time of cessation of a dreadful racist policy of forced removal from their mothers of tens of thousands of aboriginal children, now known collectively as the Stolen Generation). However, when these new Anti-Terrorism Laws are in place before Christmas 2005, racist White Australia will have become a proto-Nazi Police State.
In these last few weeks of qualified Australian liberty, a Senate Inquiry has been able to receive submissions about this legislation that will eliminate “free speech” and “no detention without charge” principles presently enshrined in British and American Law and won from autocratic rulers over the 8 centuries since Magna Carta (1215). For details of the legislation and of over 100 submissions to this Inquiry see: http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/terrorism/index.htm .
Submissions include those from Muslims (specifically alarmed over the clear targeting of Muslims by these laws), lawyers and civil rights groups (over detention without trial and other legal abuses), pacifists and anti-war groups (draconian penalties for anti-war activism), business (dangers to business, confidence, investment, trust and profits) and investment returns), academics (threats to freedom of speech, association and due process) and indeed from many “ordinary citizens” alarmed by the existing and proposed Police State laws (my submission is #112).
In the last analysis, we depend for rational discourse on common understanding of what words mean and the universal language of the universe, namely mathematics. George Orwell in 1984 summarized frightening totalitarian un-reason by Big Brother’s messages: War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, Slavery is Freedom and 2 plus 2 does not equal 4. These terrifying messages are echoed in the Australian Anti-Terror Laws which are actually “terrorist acts” themselves by any reasonable interpretation of arithmetic and the English language.
Thus “terrorism” is defined by The Shorter Oxford Dictionary as "furtherance of views through coercive intimidation". "Terrorists" "intimidate" by causing "intense fear", typically by killing people. The draconian penalties and outrageous opportunities for partisan executive interpretation of the Anti-Terrorism legislation will certainly intimidate. To the extent that it will highly intimidate and hence severely constrain opposition to Australia’s continuing participation in current US Coalition wars, the present Bill will promote these wars and hence the intimidatory, continuing mass mortality in US-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan e.g. 1,100 under-5 year old infant deaths DAILY [according to UNICEF; see: http://www.unicef.org/ ] and a post-invasion avoidable mortality and under-5 infant mortality now totalling 2.1 million and 1.7 million, respectively, in gross contravention of the 1949 Geneva Conventions for the protection of civilians in occupied countries [see: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/92.htm and http://members.optusnet.com.au/~gpolya/links.html].
Those supporting the installation of the Australian Anti-Terrorism Laws are accordingly clearly “terrorists” themselves under any reasonable interpretation of the English language. The Leader of the Labor Opposition, Kim Beazley, had good reason in the circumstances to describe those evil people responsible for the 7/7/05 London bombing atrocities as “subhuman filth who must be captured and eliminated.” How then should we describe those responsible through high technology war for vastly worse avoidable mortality consequences? Those responsible for mass murder, such as the leaders of the US Coalition, should be exposed, arraigned, tried and punished by the International Criminal Court.
Decent people should certainly consider their personal ETHICS in any business or personal dealings with people from those countries involved in criminal mass murder. More specifically, Australian Universities depend financially on grossly-exploited, fee-paying, Overseas Students (typically from South, South East and East Asia) – but the Australian Anti-Terrorism Laws will soon force professors, lecturers, tutors and indeed ALL teachers to LIE by omission or commission to all their students under threat of 7 YEARS PRISON for Police State-interpreted “sedition”.
Dr Gideon Polya
Melbourne, Victoria, 3085, Australia
e-mail: [email protected]
Credentials: Dr Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 4 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003), and is currently finishing a book on global mortality - numerous articles on this matter can be found by a simple Google search for "Gideon Polya" or consulting his website: http://members.optusnet.com.au/~gpolya/links.html