Australia’s anti-terror laws, ten years old this year, were spawned out of a political atmosphere that was emotionally charged after the horror of 9/11. The consequence of this has been to criminalise thought and speech.
It has been to ensure that guilt by association becomes a useful tool for security agencies and police forces. Politicians and police force chiefs, desperately wanting to sound tough on terror, use any arrests made under these laws to make exaggerated claims about the circumstances of the arrests and to undermine the presumption of innocence.
The laws’ existence is justified even today on the grounds that a terrorist threat casts a pall over Australia and therefore we need to use the criminal process to trample on ancient rights.
(Greg Barns features in the documentary, The Trial, broadcast tonight at 9.30pm on SBS ONE.)
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Britain’s colonial era, now represented by the modern Commonwealth of Nations meeting in Perth, can only be looked back on according to its good bits and its bad bits.
The good bits included rule of law, a public service, democracy, language and cricket.
The bad bits included economic exploitation, cultural genocide, brutal subjugation and cricket.
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Oh dear. Oh deary, deary me. So I’m channel surfing on the couch last night pondering the inevitable demise of 50 over cricket.
Turns out, I was penning a eulogy for the wrong victim. It’s not One Day cricket that’s dead. It’s Australian cricket’s golden era.
Look, obviously we all knew we were in trouble when guys like Warne, McGrath and Gilly retired. But hands up who didn’t think we could hang tough and rebuild this summer with a few old heads to nurse the young guys to maturity? Not now. In whatever format you care to name, Australia is now officially a rabble.
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The groundwork for Julia Gillard’s speech today began four days ago when she started talking about fear (sorry, concern) that was understandable in the electorate (sorry, among people) about boats “looming on the horizon”.
Labor MPs too had legitimate concerns when they saw an election looming and had no convincing way of addressing voters’ worries about the boats.
The substance of Gillard’s announcements today was aimed at dealing with that. What we got was a promise that Sri Lankan asylum seekers will probably all be returned home, and an idea - let’s call it the Dili Proposal for now - to create a “regional processing centre” for people arriving by boat.
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In light of last Friday’s announcement that the Australian Government has implemented a blanket suspension on the processing of new asylum claims by Afghan and Sri Lankan nationals, it is worth going back to basics and taking a moment to consider the human rights reality for many people living in those countries.
It may not be pleasant to read, but it certainly places the government’s announcement in the international context in which it should rightly be considered, and gives an insight into the reasons people are fleeing.
On 24 January Sri Lankan journalist and political analyst Prageeth Eknaligoda disappeared shortly after leaving work at the Lanka-e-News office in Homagama, near the capital Colombo. He has not been heard from since. In the lead up to his disappearance, Prageeth Eknaligoda had been actively reporting on Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, had been critical of the Sri Lankan Government and had received threats.
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For an oppressed group, the opportunity to obtain the attention of the international community lasts for a very short time. So it has proved for the Tamil community of Sri Lanka.
Indeed, the threats and oppression in Sri Lanka extend to anyone who might dare to criticise the government.
In mid May, as the Tamil Tiger (“the LTTE”) resistance came to an end and government forces shelled areas full of civilians, the world was outraged and demanded that the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa seek conciliation with the Tamil community of the South Asian island nation.
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