A Pandora’s box of possible abuses

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We sponsor terror: ex-judge

By Fergus Shiel
March 21, 2006

Australia was among the Western powers to have financially backed terrorist regimes, and its tough new sedition laws leant towards autocracy, former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld said last night.

In an address on the war on terror and civil liberties at the University of Western Sydney, Mr Einfeld said there was plenty of evidence that sponsors of state terrorism, such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Peru and Guatemala had been backed and financed by Western powers, including Australia.

Mr Einfeld said: “What very few people know or understand, even though the evidence is plain and plentiful, is that many of these countries have been backed and financed by the US and other Western powers, including Australia, whose own very personal contribution to terrorist regimes via the Australian Wheat Board is now believed by every taxi driver in the country to have been known to and at least facility-approved by our Government.

“Apparently political transparency is a democratic ideal to which we only pay lip service these days.

“What makes this brazen corruption all the worse is the incapacity of these powers to apologise . . . Instead we, the Australian public, are treated to wanton attacks on the cultural framework of our fellow citizens – both Muslim and Christian.”

Mr Einfeld said the Cronulla riots were the result of a veil of misinformation and apathy, wrought by the cultural polarisation that had infected the world since September 11.

He said terrorism was an age-old phenomenon that was to be condemned in all its guises, and that too often went unpunished.

At the same time, he said, we have to ask how far we can allow ourselves to be led away from fundamental liberal and democratic tenets in the name of the fight against terrorism.

The anti-terrorism bill – in particular its anti-sedition laws – was, “a Pandora’s box of possible abuses if used incorrectly”.

He added: “This is the hallmark of a society leaning towards an autocratic framework, one in which nationalism, homogeneity and a warped and misinformed concept of ‘the other’ are thrown together into a heady and volatile cocktail.”

I remember a time when the Australian federal government was representative of the Australian electorate and worked for us. How has it become a body that attacks its people and passes legislation that opens up avenues of massive abuse of its citizens?

Of course the legislation that was rammed through parliament late last year is full of horrifying potential powers. The Attorney-General acknowledged that at the time. But did they take a moment to allow parliament to properly examine the bill and recommend amendments? No. In fact, they did everything they could to minimise the opportunity for MPs to peruse the proposed ligislation, so as to prevent it from any scrutiny before it was passed on party lines.

The lunacy of the A-G’s suggestion that the details be examined and adjusted after the bill was passed was let to stand by members of the government. Since the vote, there hasn’t been another peep from the government looking to review it before it becomes law later this year. I wonder how many Queen’s Counsels and Senior Counsels and other upstanding members of the community will need to follow the lead of Justice Marcus Einfeld before this severe impingement of human rights is amended. I wonder if it will be enough to stop this insult to human decency in a free society to come into law. Probably not, if I’m any judge of the actions of the Howard government.

  • March 21, 2006