Legal stirrer Richard Ackland gets seditious in the SMH this morning:

“PM caves in” on terrorism laws. “Balance achieved.” Or so the headlines assured us yesterday. Don’t believe it. There is still much fermentation about the reach and vagueness of the sedition provisions and the notices to produce that can apply to journalists and, heaven forbid, even executives in news organisations.

We are entering an era of uncertainty about what can and can’t be published. That uncertainty will have the inevitable consequence of stifling the reporting of statements critical of the Government’s war policy that could, in the hands of a zealous prosecutor, be seen as giving comfort to the enemy…

Terror raids make great copy – but what if you can’t use them to sell papers?

“In the next breath the media cries about the importance of press freedom. But after getting all dirty between the sheets with the Government, it is scarcely in a position to whinge about unhygienic activities,” Ackland observes.

And as if to illustrate the point, Sam Maiden reports in the Oz:

Australia’s sedition laws may still be scrapped despite a deal to guarantee the passage of the Howard Government’s anti-terror legislation this year…

Mr Ruddock acted yesterday to allay fears by media outlets including News Limited, the publisher of The Australian, Fairfax and free TV that sedition provisions in the anti-terror legislation may limit reporting.

“To put beyond doubt that these measures do not apply to those who are involved in reporting, we’ve made it clear by including in the defences of good faith a specific provision that says this does not apply to reporting in the media, by publishers,” he said.

At the same time, it also says this:

Coalition MPs have confirmed they will push for the laws to be dumped at a review of the “archaic” provisions that Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has agreed to early next year…

Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull confirmed there was still scope for removing the sedition provisions from the lawbooks.

“Sedition is an archaic offence which should be removed from the criminal law in Australia and replaced by sharply focused provisions which deal with people who deliberately urge or incite others to commit acts of violence including acts of terrorism,” he said.

This is the legislation that the first law officer of the land says needs to be reviewed – yet also needs to be passed. Perhaps it might help if I had the initials QC after my name, but I don’t get the logic.

And as for the grandstanders, there are other options. Judi Moylan gave a pretty good explanation of how they can be applied when she talked to Margo Kingston yesterday:

I really found it very difficult to make up my mind on what I would do. It’s always very difficult to cross the floor. I supported a substantial part of the package, and part of it I did not support. So I thought the best thing to do was to abstain. And Labor hasn’t come with a policy to improve the lot of people on benefits – they’re just being reactive.

If I was in the House and voted for the bill, I’d be saying I supported the whole package. If I crossed the floor I would be saying it was all bad, yet there are good things in it which give attention to giving people positive help to move from welfare to work. I wrestled with my conscience on this because I don’t agree with increasing the spiral of poverty among the most disadvantaged people in our community. I argued we should do this in a better way, get people off welfare without driving them into a spiral of poverty. We’ve missed a golden opportunity here to making good policy.

If I’d crossed the floor it would not have changed the outcome – the bill would still have passed. If I’d crossed the floor without achieving a change of policy it would have become a media circus and a point scoring exercise…

Succinct and smart, Judi. Checks and balances. Part of this thing called democracy.