It’s not often that former Liberal prime ministers turn up on
talkback radio sledging government policy. But that’s exactly what
happened when Malcolm Fraser jumped on the phone this morning
to call ABC local radio in Melbourne to attack Australia’s draconian
anti-terrorism laws. Fraser weighed in to the debate after morning host
Virginia Hausegger wrapped up an interview with vice-president of
Liberty Victoria, Brian Walter, who also happens to be Bob Brown’s
personal lawyer of many years.

“There’s no doubt about it,
what Liberty Victoria said is exactly right. You can be arrested
because ASIO thinks you know something that you don’t know,” he said.
Australia was the only democratic country in the world that had
legislated for the detention and arrest of people who had not been
charged with any crime, he said, and “there are many governments, and
Australia is one of them, that have frightened the people on the
prospect of terrorists attacks.”

According to Fraser, the fear
campaign has been so successful that the Labor party is “too scared” to
debate the draconian rules and it was “all the more of a disgrace” that
the legislation had bilateral support.

to Crikey, Walter described the ALP’s response to the laws as
“pathetic,” accusing the party of going “jelly at the knees” on the

Meanwhile, The Sydney Morning Herald
reports today that Melbourne criminal lawyer Rod Starry has accused
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock’s office of leaking defamatory
information about the latest anti-terrorism raids.

Starry, who
represents a Victorian man charged with terrorism offences, said
current anti-terrorism legislation barred those implicated from making
any public reply. “Where for instance it might be said the information
that is being deliberately leaked from the commonwealth
attorney-general’s office is defamatory and cowardly, there is nothing
else that one can say in terms of any detailed analysis of what has
come out of that office,” Mr Starry told ABC radio.

And Walter
agreed, saying the attorney-general’s office had briefed the media on
its “so-called investigation,” making a number of attacks on the
subjects, knowing that any response would come at the “grave risk of
committing a serious offence.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey