Censoring our collective right to criticise the government
Sitting in front of a blank computer screen is confronting, but strangely quite liberating.
There is a glimmer of anticipation, of unknown opportunity. There is a sense of freedom – now that is a strange coincidence. It is actually a sudden, unexpected challenge to my freedom that crowds my thoughts.
Who would have thought that in 2009, I would be sitting at my desk in the Australian Parliament, earnestly searching the internet for quotations about censorship?
I consider myself to be middle of the road conservative. I have never been spurred on to researching censorship issues in response to a risque arthouse movie – nor have I rushed to write a letter to the editor on the Passion of Christ – veterinarians are by necessity, quite broadminded.
But enough is enough. The buck stops right here!
This is Australia 2009 and as of a fortnight ago, as a Senator representing the State of Western Australia, my right to comment on flawed, reckless or irresponsible Government policy is threatened. I cannot accept that.
The redoubtable sage Wikipedia tells me that in wartime, explicit censorship is carried out with the intent of preventing the release of information that might be useful to an enemy.
But the Rudd government has just imposed explicit censorship on Parliamentarians. In response to an enquiry or request from a school student, a citizen or the media, I can no longer post a letter which is critical of any decision or policy of the current Government.
So what am I now? The enemy?
My key role in opposition is to scrutinise Government policy and performance and communicate with my electorate.
This censorship is designed to curtail the first and prevent the second if it highlights government inadequacy.
I have not been long in Parliament and I love it. But I did not leave a successful career in business to submit my letters and, yes, Christmas cards, to bureaucrats in the Dept of Finance for their approval.
(Perhaps I should put the members of the Parliamentary Entitlements Advisory Committee bureaucrats on my Christmas card list? That might provide them with some welcome relief from the prospective hundreds – no thousands - of Christmas cards spewing out of electoral offices, coming their way in the next 8 weeks).
I am sure they are fine people and have no real interest in reading my mail……
As a taxpayer, I would rather they were at their desk doing what they are paid to do, and that is manage the nation’s economy. Heaven knows, under this government, it needs all the help it can get.
Like WW1 officers, the Finance ‘thought police’ now go through our letters with a black marker and cross out any words like ‘incompetent’, ‘disastrous’, ‘disgraceful’, ‘reckless’, ‘inept’ or ‘flawed’. In fact, there are not many words left to describe the performance of this Rudd Government.
I wonder if ‘illegal’, ‘Indonesia’ or ‘border security’ will be on the naughty list next week?
Now, Hansard is the official, public record of the Parliament.
I can make a speech in the Senate and the record goes on to the parliamentary website for all to see. However, if I want to include a printed copy of the same Hansard record in a newsletter, that is where the trouble begins.
Hansard in this form, will not pass the censors’ black pen if it contains criticism of this Government.
This nonsense extends even further.
I can I can email it, hand deliver it, fax or sky-write this public record and be critical of government policy ; but I can’t have it printed externally in a newsletter or use my allowance to post it to you or members of the Western Australian community.
It was French revolutionary Voltaire who said:
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Well, it is time to storm those barricades again.
Can you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men… ?
Ah! I see it is morning tea time – shall I eat cake???
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