As Australians, we can breathe a sigh of relief, link arms and celebrate the “implied right to political communication”.
This is our version of free speech, a fundamental value of democracy. So what if it’s a little foggy, subject to wide interpretation, and not officially safeguarded in the Constitution. I’ll have you know the word “implied” is as good as gold – take it from me.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary its core verb “imply” means to “comprise as a necessary logical consequence …To express indirectly; to insinuate, hint at.”
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No. Anyone who would suggest so is a dill. And possibly also a lawyer.
Not since the freedom rides through America’s Deep South in the 1960s has there been such an emotionally-charged call for basic freedoms. Except in this case the call for freedom has been mounted by organisations which have links to drug crime, gun-running, extortion, assault, murder, not to mention a steadfast refusal to cooperate with the police, even if it’s one of their own members who has been bashed or maimed.
Organisations which, when it comes to civil liberties, are more likely to be depriving others of their liberties – such as the liberty to board a plane with your kids without seeing someone beaten to death with a bollard at the airport in broad daylight, or to spend the afternoon shopping at a Gold Coast mall without being shot in the crossfire of a bikie war.
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Today’s weasel word award goes to the term ‘non-lethal’, frequently used to describe Tasers. It’s especially weaselly when the term is being bandied about so soon after a man has died. NSW police Tasered a man in Sydney over the weekend, alleging he resisted arrest. He died at the scene.
It may not have been the Taser whodunnit. Just like Tasers might not have directly caused hundreds of other deaths associated with their use.
Those cases could just be the results of a perfect storm, of someone high on adrenalin, with a faulty heart, and the delivery of 50,000 volts designed to make their muscles spasm were just another contributing factor. But that doesn’t make the phrase ‘non lethal’ any less oleaginous, disingenuous, and inaccurate.
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At a guess you could probably assume that none of our seven High Court judges lives in Merrylands, in Sydney’s west, where the Nomads and Hells Angels are engaged in what the police reassuringly describe not as a bikie gang war but merely “tit for tat violence”.
It is also unlikely that any of these eminent jurists lives in Northmead, where an innocent woman had her house strafed with bullets while she was sleeping last week in a zany address mix-up by a bikie who was having trouble reading his UBD.
Presumably, none of the judges lives in Adelaide’s north-western suburb of Semaphore where an 11-year-old boy, the son of a former member of the Finks, was shot in the leg while he slept during a home invasion last month.
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The latest move by the Federal Government to make smoking a habit of the past is the latest salvo in the rapid expansion of the nanny state.
Recently the Health Minister Nicola Roxon re‑announced the government’s intention to force tobacco companies to adopt plain packaging for all cigarette brands.
From next year, smokers will be greeted with a standard olive‑green packet emblazoned with graphic health warnings screaming that “every cigarette is doing you damage”.
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Smokers. The unthinkable may become a disagreeable reality. Smoking may be banned in private homes and apartments.
Scoff if you like about improbability of home smoking bans. How they would not only be unfair but unenforceable. Dismiss the concept as ridiculous.
Huff and puff about civil liberties, individual freedom of choice and the home being the family castle. Thump the table about government interference and intervention. About the spidery intrusion of the nanny state. But ignore the looming reality at your peril. The smokers’ nagging fear, that their final bastion will be invaded by smoke police, is already here.
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The recent call by Dr John Irvine to consider charging parents for crimes committed by children under the age of 10 highlights a fundamental social challenge.
Juvenile crime and delinquency is a growing problem within our schools and the wider community – costing millions of dollars each year. Recent Bureau of Crime and Statistics research indicates a 44% rise in juvenile offences since 2001.
Dr Irvine thinks that the ability to charge parents for the crimes their offspring commit “would help” and therefore it’s certainly worthy of debate and discussion. It’s hard to dispute his assertion that the Labor Government is too soft when it comes to dealing with the guardians of troubled children under 10.
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Impartiality is everything in journalism but at the risk of sounding slightly biased it’s fair to say that if the NSW Government were a dog you would take it down to the bottom of the yard and shoot it.
Discussing the innate and irreversible badness of the NSW Government is about the most banal thing you can do these days. If anything this may be its most evil legacy – the cruelling of casual political discussion.
It’s like the inspired Gary Larson cartoon featuring nerds in hell - “Hot enough for ya?” – where remarking that NSW seems to be in political strife is as profound and insightful as noting that Germany has a bit of a chequered history, the Cuban economy could probably be doing better, or that Afghanistan has historically under-invested in infrastructure.
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REMEMBER this name - or if you’re drunk, get a friend to write it on the back of a beer coaster and stick it to your forehead for future reference. It’s going to be important later on.
Not next week. Not in a month’s time. But in a few years, when shouts are banned, shots are illegal, when you are limited, by law, to a maximum of four purchases of spirits, liqueurs and/or fortified beverages within a 24-hour period at any licensed establishment.
When it’s illegal to drink in the presence of minors. Illegal to drink at any sporting event. Illegal to drink at a picnic.
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There’s one civil liberty which is being glossed over In the debate over the response to street crime in the Melbourne CBD. The freedom to do your job without having the crap kicked out of you.
The sickening attack on a plain clothes officer in Little Bourke Street early yesterday - the copper had his jaw broken by a drunken yobbo who king-hit him from behind - has prompted calls from the Victorian Police Union for mandatory jail time for anyone found guilty of assaulting police.
The proposal will no doubt be criticised by civil libertarians as a draconian over-reaction.
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I couldn’t agree more with David Penberthy’s claim last week that the National Press Club “damaged journalism” by giving a platform to motorcycle riders.
The damage is not, as Penberthy thinks, to the grand institution of journalism. After all, a profession that has survived, adapted and flourished over hundreds of years is hardly going to be scarred by the ramblings of a bloke from Blacktown.
No. The damage to journalism caused by Wednesday’s Press Club address is simply that the news media were not – at least for the 60 minutes of the live broadcast – able to control the public’s perceptions of bikers.
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What a sin! The National Press Club actually had the temerity to invite bikers and, an even worse devil, an academic, to address their members! After decades of weekly rants from pompous politicians and bloated businessmen they broke from tradition and dived into the dark side.
Even worse the bikers and academic questioned the wisdom of politicians making stupid laws. As if our moral and upright legislators would ever push the “lock them up and throw away the key button” just to win over the law and order vote.
But make no mistake the South Australian and New South Wales laws are particularly stupid. Forget about the blatant violation that these laws bring to the justice system and just think about their consequences.
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The National Press Club has debased itself and damaged journalism by letting bikie gangs use its forum to indulge in an hour-long orgy of hysteria and lies about the proposed laws of criminal association.
Central to this non-debate - led by a fellow called Ferret, from the Finks - was the laughable assertion that the media somehow over-reacted in its coverage of the sickening bashing murder of Hells Angel Anthony Zervas in broad daylight at Sydney Airport earlier this year.
With a couple of exceptions among the journos - and with the audience heavily stacked with tattooed ratbags - Ferret and his friends were allowed to misrepresent this deserved coverage without challenge.
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The reputation of Western Australia as a frontier state received another unwelcome boost today with revelations that an Aboriginal man was set on fire after being shot with a taser gun while sniffing petrol.
At issue is whether the taser gun started the fire, or whether the man, who was violent and threatening to set himself and the police alight, started it inadvertently with his cigarette lighter.
But even before the case is investigated, it’s been declared case closed by the state’s top cop.
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I would never presume to pre-empt the outcome of the Royal Commission into the Victorian bushfires, the worst natural disaster Australia has endured.
The speed and ferocity of the blazes that engulfed those quiet rural towns, and shattered so many lives and families remains beyond comprehension.
People who haven’t seen such devastation first-hand still find it difficult to imagine. Those who endured that day will find it impossible to forget.
My first experience as a witness to the devastation caused by bushfire was back in 1983, in the aftermath of Ash Wednesday
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Civil libertarians around the country have condemned my new anti-crime gang laws aimed at outlaw bikie gangs. Defence lawyers and pseudo-academics have lined up to tell the public that the bikie gangs are a harmless sub-culture comprised of grandparents who simply like a ride on big bikes.
Following the passing of our most recent law, we’ve seen demonstrations by hundreds of bikies from around the country converging on Adelaide in so-called “Freedom Rides”, an insulting reprise of the civil rights movement in the US.
But for outlaw motorcycle gangs, it’s a different kind of freedom.
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