Warning: this page may contain seditious writings
Read the information on this page by all means - but if you do, you may be charged with sedition under Australian law.
You may even be charged by association - and you may not be told when you get arrested why you have been arrested. Such are the laws that were passed shortly before Christmas 2005.
A New National Anthem for Australians
From The Guardian
A New National Anthem
Australians, you must raise your voice
by R Dunlop
If this be sedition, make the most of it
Yesterday, in defending his proposed sedition law, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock issued the following challenge: "If somebody wants to tell me ... they are in favour of people being able to urge the use of force or violence to overthrow democratic institutions, let me hear from them."
Well, allow me to put my hand up. That's exactly what I'm in favour of. And it's what I think anyone who believes in free speech should be in favour of.
Not that I am generally in favour of people exercising that right, and certainly not that I personally support violent overthrow of the government. But in a free society, those who do believe that it is justified should be free to avow that belief: to encourage or to "urge" violence, up to the point where it becomes incitement to a criminal act.
Incitement is more than just "urging," it involves the immediate likelihood that a crime will result - in the American formulation, a "clear and present danger." That is the point of Mill's famous example:
An opinion that corn dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn dealer" (On Liberty, ch. 3).
Mill, as usual, is right. But contrary to what the government would have us believe, its proposals are not designed to stop incitement - the law already does that. The sedition laws criminalise the expression of opinions, even when there is no prospect that anyone will act on them.
The attorney-general either doesn't see the difference, or doesn't care. But supporters of a free society should care.
Humour? You need a licence for that
Sydney Morning Herald
PLEASE note: persons seeking to perform, publish or broadcast matter of a satirical or similar comic nature must now, by law, apply for a Commonwealth Licence (Satirical Performances) as specified in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.
Such persons should read these instructions carefully before answering each question in detail, using block letters. Special attention should be paid to section 14a) dealing with seditious content regarding the monarch or individual members of the royal family, and section 38b), which prescribes strict limits to humorous matters in reference to the Prime Minister and ministers of the Crown.
Jokes are to be explained in full (including punchlines) to the satisfaction of the Attorney-General or an officer nominated by him as a Commonwealth Humour Assessment Inspector.
Lampooning of the Prime Minister may be permitted where it is deemed to meet normal community standards, but not where:
a) It forms more than one third of any performance or publication.
b) The Prime Minister is referred to as a lying little rodent or is, in any way, (including impersonation, mimicry or cartooning) held up to hatred, ridicule or contempt.
c) All or any part of the humorous content diminishes public respect for the Government.
d) Offence is given to an allied government or head of state, including, but not limited to, the President of the United States of America.
Applicants for licences are warned of severe penalties, including imprisonment, for the publication of seditious or other matter deemed in breach of the act. Properly observed, however, these guidelines will allow suitable fun for all.
IN A fortnight or so, at considerable expense to the taxpayer, John Howard will summon the great and good to Kirribilli House for his annual Christmas party.
Guests frolicking in the starlight will include cabinet ministers currently in favour with himself or his wife; titans of industry; a claque of fawning hangers-on, such as Professor David Flint and the usual media toadies.
What an act of national deliverance it would be for the masses to rise up, storm the barricades and hurl the lot of them into the harbour.
I think I am safe for the moment in this light-hearted suggestion. But when Philip Ruddock, the whited sepulchre, gets his swinging anti-terrorism laws in place, I would be up for seven years' jail for sedition.
This Howard bunch has become the most arrogant and oppressive regime in memory. As Malcolm Fraser put it in his brilliant speech at Melbourne University last Tuesday, the Liberals are a party of fear and reaction.
"Fear and deception have become the order of the day," he said.
Especially sickening this week was the news of Robert Gerard, a filthy rich Liberal Party donor and prime ministerial crony from South Australia, who somehow made it to the board of the Reserve Bank despite a jaw-dropping and ultimately costly encounter with the taxman.
Disgracefully, Howard and Peter Costello tried to brush this off. But their brave new world of labour market "flexibility" will not be so generous to workers who ask their trade union to bargain with an employer for wages and conditions. That will be a crime.
FOR all its melodramatic bluster about keeping Australia safe, the Government has been slack all over the place. Nowhere more so than in the Customs Department.
In February 2003, customs's management at Sydney Airport was given a thorough report into security there, compiled by one of its own experts. It revealed gaping holes, from the employment of baggage handlers and guards with criminal records, to theft and pillage, drug trafficking and other criminal activity. One significant finding was that the airport would be a soft target for terrorism.
Nothing was done. The report was lost in the bureaucracy. Airport security bumbled along with too many chiefs and not enough indians, fragmented between the airlines, the Airports Corporation, customs and the Australian Federal Police. No one was in charge.
This culpable neglect continued until last July, when the report was leaked to the media. All hell broke loose. The then transport minister, John Anderson, flung up a flurry of denials as ministers do when they are caught out: only a draft, just an internal document, no status within the department, blah blah.
Which was bollocks. Eventually things got so red hot that the Government brought out a British expert, Sir John Wheeler, who quickly rediscovered what the original report had found and recommended much the same remedies. And the upshot: the Customs Department security expert who wrote that report, Alan Kessing, has now been charged with leaking it to the media.
His home - and the home of his recently deceased mother - were raided by the feds, and he has been dragged before the courts. So far there have been two adjournments while the prosecution gets its act together.
Kessing is now due to reappear on December 13. He maintains his innocence, vehemently denying that he leaked anything. As a retired public servant, he does not have the money to hire lawyers. He has been unable to get legal aid and so is trying to mount his own defence.
Wonderful, is it not?
Be Alert and Very Alarmed
New Matilda magazine
The Howard-Ruddock 'We Did It to the Refugees and Now It's Your Turn' Acts have been rushed through the Federal Parliament.
If you should meet a nice ASIO person, then be alert and very alarmed. If you are questioned, you should state your name address and date of birth. You might also give your serial number in the Class War. In case you've forgotten, everyone's number is 'one.'
At this point, you should mention that you are relying on the protections provided by the Geneva Accord. It is then unwise to answer any further questions until you have had time to research the various Acts and regulations which are being used as the pretext for questioning you. It is equally unwise to refuse to answer questions as this will be used by the spooks against you. You need to make it clear that you are willing to answer the questions after you have completely clarified your legal situation.
Spooks Inc will probably refuse to provide you with copies of the relevant legislation and regulations. (By the way, inform them that you will need to have a copy of the Acts Interpretations Act, which has recently been updated, to assist you to understand what the other Acts mean.) You will, of course, require all the current 'terror' legislation plus drafts of foreshadowed legislation. The reason you need to have copies of the foreshadowed legislation is because it may subsequently be made retrospective.
Mr Plod will tell you that you can rely on your lawyer (who specialises in conveyancing, most of the time) to be fully on top of this 'terror' legislation - arguing that, therefore, there is no need for you to have access to the legislation. Stick to your guns - failing to know the law is not a defence in Australian courts, let alone the soon to be set up Kangaroo Courts.
It would be unwise to even answer the question, 'How are you?' with the response, 'Ok.' This is because, if you were to fall ill during a subsequent interrogation you could be charged with providing a false answer to an ASIO agent.
Of course, it is not wise to discuss any of the activities which might constitute your defence with anyone while you are being detained. Besides, saying anything before you have had time to read and digest all the relevant legislation is not smart.
Let your lawyer advise you, but keep your own counsel while incarcerated, because ASIO will be listening to every word you say. Lawyers don't usually like going into court hearings without knowing the grounds you are planning to use as a defence, but you'll have time to discuss that with them when you're in the courtroom itself.
Make sure you indicate, to whichever macropod is presiding over the Wallaby Tribunal that you need to talk with your lawyer in the courtroom. ASIO is not yet game enough to place electronic bugs in courtrooms.
ASIO operatives, Mr Plods and their assorted hangers-on will, no doubt, tell you that by 'not co-operating' you are lengthening the time you'll remain in custody. Such advice is designed to con you into saying something which can then be used against you, and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
The Industrial Relations changes and the Coalition's War of Terror legislation are driven by a similar 'control the powerless' mentality. Howard and Ruddock want to silence all opposition. So, if we are picked up, then 'silence should be our firm rebuke.'
About the Author
John Tomlinson is Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the Queensland University of Technology.
Art After Terror
New Matilda Magazine
What will be the effect of Howard's proposed anti-terrorism measures on writers and artists? What will be the effect, for example, of removing our certainty that we can create works critical of the Howard Government's actions in the War on Terror, or works that humanise people the Government wants us to see as despicable? What will be the effect on journalists who report unwelcome facts? How worried should all Australians be about potential restrictions on the way we tell stories in this country?
Realistically, at first little would happen. A certain guilty commonsense suggests that the Howard Government would use this legislation to chase down sheikhs they disagree with and to harass Arab and Muslim youth.
We guess that application of these laws will be political and discretionary. In other words, put bluntly, we all know that any application of these laws will at first be culture-specific and racist. But when I am seditious, which I suspect I will be often, I will have the unpleasant knowledge that I will be speaking because a government chooses to allow it, not because I have a right to.
I rang a literary agent to ask her views, and found her deeply disturbed by the proposed laws and all their implications. She was adamant that she would never reject a novel because of potentially seditious content. And, until publishers get shaky, she would seek publication for it in Australia. She was refreshingly feisty too. She said that we should all have in place codes by which we can let people know that we have been detained without actually saying it.
I rang and asked one of Australia's smaller publishers. He said that he thought publishers would not be on the frontline in the way journalists might be. He suggested that, as a publisher and citizen, he found these laws profoundly objectionable.
But as we discussed it, he said thoughtfully that even the costs of seeking legal advice on a particular book might be off-putting to some publishers, let alone getting advice that they were exposed to a potential lawsuit. He said that book publishing should be a clearing house for ideas and then trailed off.
He sounded depressed.
I rang one of the bigger publishers and spoke to one of their commissioning editors. She was quite fierce about her company's commitment to Australia's cultural and intellectual life. She said, 'put it this way - let's see how many seditious books we can get out in the next 12 months.'
She also thought that good books would come out of this, that it might be a wake-up call to many sleeping thinkers in the country. She sounded as though, at least for a while, her company would be prepared to pit itself against the Government on this one. But if litigation became a real possibility, she said that they would have to help authors find less overt ways of communicating important ideas or dissent.
I asked a journalist. She said there was consternation among her colleagues, but that the spirit on the floor was that journalists must keep reporting the truth and the facts regardless. And she said that younger journalists even thought that these were exciting times -- that there was a challenge to meet.
She believed too that the laws would not affect many people at first, but that journalists would be affected before other writers or private individuals. She wondered what would happen the first time the Australian Federal Police demanded a journalist reveal a source under the new laws, and how many journalists would go to prison. Then we got talking about the highly seditious play she is writing on the side.
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech is the key freedom - it is the means by which all other breaches of individual rights and abuses of power are made manifest and fought over. Freedom of speech is the test of a free society, the test that a society sees itself capable of full and open debate, and full exposure to facts. Freedom of speech is the marker of a social and intellectual fabric that is diverse enough and strong enough to cope with divisive and destructive opinions of individuals or groups.
Everyone should be very worried about the long-term survival of basic rights in a society when a government begins to seek secrecy, and to control what you can know and say about its actions. Everyone should leap up and dissent at the first sign that the government might like the power to silence individual opinion and to muzzle the media. If this legislation goes through, it will affect every single one of us.
Once a book the Government really dislikes is published and the first publisher is charged, self-censorship will begin and mainstream publishing of dissenting voices will slowly cease.
And what about journalists - whose job it is to research and tell a story so that people can imagine a complex rather than pre-packaged world? How many journalists will risk the costs of trial and the inconvenience to their already partisan employers? What will Australian society be like when the only story you ever see or hear in the media is the one the government of the day would like you to imagine?
And after the first attack on Australian soil? The government of the day will be empowered by this vague legislation to do a great deal to any dissenting individual it cares to target. The racism and culture-hatred won't go away: quite the reverse, but we will have more and more difficulty talking about it.
The proposed anti-terror legislation will throw away the civil society we once had, a society in which injustice could be properly debated and questioned. The proposed legislation will not only inevitably lead to profound injustice, it also introduces measures that curb our ability to challenge these injustices.
The Public Imagination
What is the role of art in a time of crisis?
For a while longer, we will get published, we will get exhibited, and we will get audiences. The time is coming when we will have to use allegory, satire, humour, metaphor, and stage illegal performances. The time is coming. But now, the time is here for artists, musicians, writers, film makers, dramaturges and playwrights to express what we are becoming.
Art is powerless to stop us going to war. But it can bear witness. It is the job of art to bear witness.
Art in a time of crisis is about invoking the capacity to think and feel beyond ourselves, and to imagine the lives of others. Art is about keeping alive some part of the public imagination.
The curtailment of freedom of speech and the control of media is the curtailment of public imagination. More and more Australians will cease to recognise some Australians as human. Once exiled from our imagination, what are young Arab Australians to become? Put another way, if we continue to ratchet up the alienation young Arab and Muslim Australians feel, what will be the consequences? Where will they go to find themselves as Australians, their role in Australian history? Exile from the common imagination is the most terrible thing to happen to a group of human beings and has irreparable consequences. We should know that from history.
Artists must use all the imagination they have to wake people from this poisonous tragic fantasy. We are far enough gone that such awakening is deeply painful.
Australia is unreconciled, at war with ourselves, suspicious of all and willing our own blindness, our own destruction.
Who are we? What are we becoming? What have we become? These core questions will drive thinkers, artists and writers to sedition for a long time to come.
Dr Eva Sallis is a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of English, University of Adelaide and is the President of Australians Against Racism Inc.