It’s a very odd feeling to leap out of bed wanting to hug Michelle Grattan, but that’s how you want to react to her cracking comments this morning on the sedition laws, “Wrong way, go back, but on they press”.

almost want to quote the lot, but we’d better exercise some
self-control. Here are a few pars on the looking glass logic of Philip
Ruddock and the Prime Minister:

Talk about poetic justice! The Government allowed only a
quick and dirty Senate inquiry, but the committee still had time to
find the most serious shortcomings in this draconian counter-terrorism

Government and Labor senators are united on what
should be done to strengthen safeguards, including reducing the sunset
clause from 10 to five years.

They are equally united in urging
withdrawal of the sedition section pending review by the Australian Law
Reform Commission. They propose extensive changes to the section if the
Government won’t do that.

The committee’s argument for stopping
and thinking on the sedition provisions is compelling… A delay would
not weaken Australia’s anti-terrorism capacity “given the nature of the
existing law in this area,” it says. “The committee is not convinced of
an urgent need for the provisions in light of existing laws such as the
offence of treason … and the crime of incitement.”

In other
words, there is no need to rush. But the Government intends to proceed
immediately with the new sedition law – any amendments to this section
of the bill will only be minor – and then have some form of inquiry

This is demonstrably the wrong way round. Why would
anyone pass a flawed measure and then look at it? The only reason would
be if failure to pass immediately left the community exposed. But the
committee pulled that crutch from under the Government.

Government is insulting its three experienced Coalition senators on the
committee, Marise Payne, Brett Mason and Nigel Scullion. Driven by
stubbornness and politics in refusing to press the pause button on
sedition, it went over the top, got it wrong, and won’t fix it when it
logically should. Goodness knows whether it will ever do so. Why would

Marian Wilkinson and David Marr have more on the details,
but their lawyerly worthiness lacks the humanity and immediacy of
Grattan’s response: “The lengthy report by the Senate committee on the
anti-terrorism bill has proposed 52 amendments in an attempt to temper
almost universal opposition within a legal profession that is deeply
concerned the new laws will undermine the fundamental human rights
Australians take for granted…”