Crikey philosopher Charles Richardson writes:
Attorney-general Philip Ruddock is on the front foot this morning, defending the proposed sedition laws in The Age.
He opens with a swipe at Jon Stanhope: his “decision to release an
early draft of the anti-terrorism legislation has been hailed by many
as a triumph for democracy, but at least in the area of sedition laws,
it has been a triumph for misinformation, disinformation and
At the time, the government criticised
Stanhope on the basis that (a) it was only a preliminary draft, with
changes still being made, and (b) breaching confidentiality undermined
the agreement reached between the states and the commonwealth. On the
sedition provisions, that’s none out of two: the version introduced to
parliament is unchanged from the Stanhope draft, and, as Steve Bracks and Peter Beattie have both pointed out, they were not part of what the premiers initially agreed to.
to the substantive objections, Ruddock shows that he still doesn’t get
it. It’s quite true that the sedition provisions have been “in the
Crimes Act for at least 40 years and some elements date back 80 years.”
But that’s part of the problem. They’re archaic, they hark back to a
time when expressing dissatisfaction with the monarch was a hazardous
business. We have many obsolete laws on the books, and most of the time
we don’t worry about them too much, but if a government chooses to
re-enact them (and with stiffer penalties) it’s cause for concern.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Ruddock ignores completely the way the sedition laws are actually being
extended. As well as stirring up domestic disaffection, it will also be
an offence to utter words that have nothing to do with Australia’s
institutions or political system, but take sides in a foreign war where
Australian troops are engaged – even if they are the aggressors.
In the same paper, Laurence Maher analyses in
detail the history of the sedition laws, including their discreditable
use during the Cold War. But at least the Soviet Union had ICBMs
trained on Australia. The only Australians threatened by the Iraqi
resistance are those that we have chosen to send there in an illegal