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Day to Day Politics: Turnbull, breaking bad laws.

Sunday March 19 2017

In the political section of my library I have a book written by Jim Cairns, published in 1972, titled The quiet Revolution. On one of its pages Cairns (I couldn’t find it) makes the same statement that ACTU leader Sally McManus, made on Wednesday’s 7.30 when she said that she believed in the rule of law and then qualified it by saying:

“Where the law’s fair, where the law’s right, but when it’s unjust, I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it.”

The Conservatives were up early the next day preparing their nefarious, but thoughtless words of megalomania that only people with delusions of power could write.

The Prime Minister said he doubted that he could work with new ACTU boss Sally McManus after her comments that union members should break “unjust laws”. Peter Dutton a former copper called her a ”lunatic”. Even Bill Shorten got in on the act with a stinging rebuke. The shallowest thinking people in our society, the shock jocks were intoxicated with thoughts of unionists breaking the law. Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, dubbed her comments ”anarcho-Marxist claptrap”.

An observation.

“I always used to say to my kids. Think beyond the answer. There’ sure to be another one lurking there somewhere.”

On the surface it would seem right that people can’t go around breaking the law. But having said that we do live in a time where horrible things are being perpetrated on us and the shame of it is that we have normalised them and simply adjusted accordingly.

Anyway I thought to myself what sort of world would we live in if Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Liu Xiaobo, Susan Brownell Anthony and many others didn’t just protest bad laws, and then break them.

Would you say you’re justified in breaking the law whenever you morally disagree with it? Law and order is one of the greatest achievements of humankind but every law was written by a fallible mortal. Even those in a democratic societies with the best will in the world always get it right. Not all laws are made in good faith, even with the best interest of the people they are supposed to protect.

What about Whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg, Mark Felt, ”Deep Throat” , Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and hundreds of others who have all broken the law to disclose wrong doing? Politicians themselves break the law by creating ones that hide the truth.

The law and the ethics of it have been debated since the times of the great philosophers. Its not a black and white topic with simple solutions for laws that are made by fallible people.

Australia broke international law when together with the USA it unilaterally invaded Iraq. Is it justifiable to break a law if a person’s life is at risk?

Some say that rules/laws are put in place for those who aren’t capable of being good citizens without there being some sort of consequence. Even that I find to be thoughtless gibberish. Its so much deeper than that.

Jane Caro writing for Fairfax said:

Even in a democracy, laws tend to be made by the powerful and the privileged. It is therefore inevitable that those with less power and privilege, including women, may have to break some of those laws to find justice.”

When Turnbull, a lawyer and Dutton a policeman, and Pyne, also a lawyer don’t have any comprehension of the vagaries of the law and are seemingly, by their statements, are against the actions of Mandela and company I well understand why the country is in the political mess it’s in.

It was civil disobedience that ended slavery.

An observation.

“In terms of social activism. The word wait should never mean never.”

Anyway, no doubt there are many opinions on this subject so I will leave you with two thoughts.

When the founding fathers of America broke the tyrannous laws placed upon the colonies by Britain, the United States of America was formed.

The Eureka rebellion was more than just a few miners breaking the law and protesting against an unjust tax. Some argue that it was the time Australian democracy was born.

On this day in 2016 I wrote the following:

When I wrote my piece titled ‘Only in America. Looking at Trump from Down Under’ I must confess that secretly in the labyrinth of my being I thought the American people were to intelligent to succumb to Donald Trump’s populist outbursts.

Stupidly I, like many others, assumed that over time his utterings of nefarious intent would be seen for what they were. The ravings of a pathological ratbag intent on obtaining power by any means. In my piece I covered the man’s personality disorders, his inappropriateness to even be considered as the Republican nominee and then I tied together current Australian conservatism with that of the American right.

As the Republican debates got underway it became apparent that Trump was not just a flash in the pan contender. People actually loved him for his bigotry, for his racism, for his anti-immigrant rhetoric, for his uncouth mouth, for his incitement of violence at his rallies. The more he did so the more they cheered him. The more hatred he spat out the more his supporters encouraged him. Even reciting an oath of allegiance on his command.

They loved him for his prejudice, his lies, his sexism. His racist tweets, and his offer to pay the legal fees of those who commit violence. His supporters worshiped when he advocated the use of torture and the murder of terrorists’ families.

They almost wet themselves when he gleefully told stories of executing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig blood. And they fell over themselves with excitement when he compared refugees to “snakes”, and claimed that “Islam hates us”.

They applauded him when he tweeted racist images and racist lies. When it took him 48 hours to disavow white supremacy there was not a murmur.

Cheers and raucous joy arose at his rallies at his every hate filled denouncement of minorities and everything he sees as un-American. As if America has some sort of ownership on all morality and righteousness.

Having observed this man, his vile behaviour and listened to his rhetoric, the anger he elicits, and the reaction of the American people to it I have to admit I was wrong. Rather than Americans seeing him, as I thought they would, for the fool he is, they are embracing him as their champion.

If I was wrong about Trump I also regrettably have to concede I was wrong about the American people or more particularly Republican Americans. Wanting a person like Trump as President speaks as much about their mindlessness as it does about his inappropriateness.

At some stage I reconciled that he might win the Republican nomination but could never win the Presidency. Am I also wrong about that?

Commentators are saying that if he gets the nomination we will see a more reasoned Trump. A more lucid personality.

The logic of this suggestion escapes me. I know who he is, what he stands for, and it frightens me. It should petrify the world.

My thought for the day.

“Time doesn’t diminish the crime.”




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  1. Terry2

    It was interesting that Angela Merkel invited Trump to a handshake for the media:

    “Do you want to have a handshake?”

    “Trump says nothing, does nothing, and just stares straight ahead. He sits with that signature pout on his lips, legs splayed out, and posture bent forward. In fact, he sits like the men who take up two seats on the subway, a means of transportation I’m sure he’s never used. Merkel then offers a slight shrug and turns her head away.”

    At that moment the world knew that what we had suspected was true : we are dealing with a petulant and potentially very dangerous child

  2. Denise Drysdale

    I think Trump is great and will do lots of good things; I just have faith in him.

  3. Clean livin

    I wonder what Malcolm would do when driving his Grand Kids along a country road with a raging bushfire bearing down on his vehicle. Would he heed the speed limit?

  4. wam

    dear Lord what a great read? The examples are honest and real. But here is another puff of magic smoke from the trumble government that with the haze of the east coast snowy feasibility renewable is hiding the cost increases and avoiding the ‘budget repair’.
    Denise or dennis, trump may stumble on good things but ‘faith’ is only is the only word to use when confronted by his ‘actions’.

  5. Kaye Lee

    “I think Trump is great and will do lots of good things”

    His health care scheme will see 24 million Americans lose their health care.

    He has slashed funding for foreign aid and action on climate change, cut funding for many domestic social programs (like Meals on Wheels for example) whilst increasing military spending by $54 billion and setting aside billions more to build his stupid wall. Even before this latest increase for more war toys, America spent more money than the other seven big spenders put together!

    Trump is a petulant little rich kid who doesn’t have a clue what he is doing and who has surrounded himself by maniacs like Steve Bannon. He gets his “facts” from Fox and Breitbart and tries to rule the world by twitter. He has caused companies to lose millions in stock value just by a tweet.

    Anyone who thinks Trump will be an asset has not been paying attention.

    “I just have faith in him”

    Faith is blind

  6. Keitha Granville

    Peaceful protest was the only way we got our boys home from Vietnam. Tell me that was wrong . Peaceful protest saved the Franklin River.
    I am proud to be counted anywhere near the same company as Mandela, Martin Luther King, the Freedom Riders. Those people are heroes, and lawbreakers.

  7. roma guerin

    Thanks Keitha Granville for the timely reminder. It used to be infra dig to preface anything with “in my day…..”, but I feel that those of us with long-term memories may have to step up to the plate and remind politicians (lawmakers?) that injustice shall not prevail.

  8. the Lion

    On this basis we see and have seen Every Attorney General of Australia and Every Director of Public Prosecution break the law of Australia by failing to Prosecute John Winston Howard and the Cabinet of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Ranking officers of the Australian Military for War crimes in relation to Afghanistan and Iraq, Not withstanding the Illegal attack on Iraq, but prior in Afghanistan the Australian Government authorised and ordered the Australian Troops to hand over to the United States of America all Prisoners of War captured in those actions. Even after the Australians became aware that the United States of America was not treating those Prisoners under the Geneva Conventions, that includes acts of Torture in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Graib and Bagram amongst others. For those that argue Australia has as part of its Domestic Law the Geneva Conventions act Passed by a Liberal Parliament, it is Australian Law and is specific in its duties under that act and the Persons named earlier have a requirement to Prosecute those persons that have committed breaches of the Geneva Conventions, including those from foreign countries! It is a War crime NOT to prosecute those persons as well, hence that means that the Current Attorney General is as much to blame as anyone!

    Article 129

    The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention defined in the following Article.

    Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. It may also, if it prefers, and in accordance with the provisions of its own legislation, hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party concerned, provided such High Contracting Party has made out a prima facie case.

    Each High Contracting Party shall take measures necessary for the suppression of all acts contrary to the provisions of the present Convention other than the grave breaches defined in the following Article.

    In all circumstances, the accused persons shall benefit by safeguards of proper trial and defence, which shall not be less favourable than those provided by Article 105 and those following of the present Convention.

    Article 130

    Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, compelling a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of the hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a prisoner of war of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in this Convention.

    Article 131

    No High Contracting Party shall be allowed to absolve itself or any other High Contracting Party of any liability incurred by itself or by another High Contracting Party in respect of breaches referred to in the preceding Article.

    John Howard was well aware that such actions were happening in the US prisons as WE ALL WERE but he continued to allow such prisoner transfers!

    Now the crux of the matter is this Effectively The Liberal party has made comment about the Head of the ACTU saying she shouldn’t be able to pick and choose what laws she should follow! However they themselves are in breach of the very same principle here and to a massive scale and for reasons that they themselves are possible in breach of serious and Significant War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity!

  9. Gangey1959

    @ Clean Livin. Yeah right. And if it was a One Way road and he was driving towards the fire he wouldn’t do a U turn either.
    It’s just like when the protesters got into the gallery at Parliament House a few months back, and were vilified by all and sundry in the chamber, shortarse included.
    What are we supposed to do when something is wrong? Glaringly wrong. A peaceful ”letter to my member” hasn’t gotten me very far.
    What is the next step? Maybe fronting him in the street and invading his personal space to ask my question?
    I can’t do that. It’s against the ”law”.

  10. king1394

    In regard to breaking unjust laws, this is really our duty as citizens. The powerful and influential seem to have governments in their pockets, and can change laws to suit themselves, and then have them policed by the force that we all pay for. Police are used more and more as private security to protect property. No wonder the question is asked: Who do you protect? Who do you serve?

    We see new laws limiting our freedoms coming up all the time, such as prohibitions on peaceful demonstrations. People aren’t allowed to form Blockades of coal mining sites where laws have been changed to allow clearing of land for mining. Heritage buildings and homes and people’s green spaces just taken away to suit developers in the cities – these happen with a change of the law quite often that insists that the ‘normal respect’ for these places no long applies.

    The Industrial Relations system / laws that protected wage earners have been dismantled by our ‘lawmakers’ – People support laws that support them, and when governments are short sighted and take away individual protections, they will eventually develop a population that can only fight back in the only way they have.

    The law seems more and more to exist to propel the desires of the wealthy and to protect property. When homeless people cannot even doss down in the street, having no where else to go.

  11. John Lord

    I have no doubt THE AIMN could make an ebook just from the comments. Wonderful stuff, thanks.

  12. Kyran

    “Where the law’s fair, where the law’s right, but when it’s unjust, I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it.”

    Let’s be fair. Talcum doesn’t break the law. He does, however, make obscene amounts of money from those who do.
    Who could forget ‘Spycatcher’? That’s the case where he defended a whistleblower, who was later discredited. How could the testimony be ignored?

    Turnbull: So that letter contains a lie, does it not?
    Armstrong: It contains a misleading impression in that respect.
    Turnbull: Which you knew to be misleading at the time you made it?
    Armstrong: Of course.
    Turnbull: So it contains a lie?
    Armstrong: It is a misleading impression, it does not contain a lie, I don’t think.
    Turnbull: What is the difference between a misleading impression and a lie?
    Armstrong: You are as good at English as I am.
    Turnbull: I am just trying to understand.
    Armstrong: A lie is a straight untruth.
    Turnbull: What is a misleading impression — a sort of bent untruth?
    Armstrong: As one person said, it is perhaps being economical with the truth.
    That, right there, is the moment Turnbull skewered his man. By forcing Armstrong to admit the British Government was prepared to lie to protect national security, Turnbull effectively won the battle there and then. And the book, eventually, was allowed to be published.

    Having ‘skewered’ his man, it seems talcum’s perception of truth has been skewed ever since. The fact that Peter Wright may have had another agenda should never have got in the way of fighting an unjust law, surely?

    It’s not like it was ‘the Goanna’, or HIH/FAI, is it? They were just straight out cases of his clients breaking the law, and him making money off their transgressions. Was ‘Ozemail’, his greatest financial achievement, simply a matter of timely opportunism?
    From the brief transcript above, a ‘lie’ is a ‘straight untruth’ and a ‘misleading impression’ is a ‘sort of bent untruth’. How well young talcum learned. How ironic that his ageing years have deprived him of appreciating the difference, or understanding the significance of the differences. A veritable lawyer’s picnic.
    And we want to lecture our youth?
    By the by, I’d leave Aung San Suu Kyi off the list. She now persecutes the Rohingya population.
    Thank you Mr Lord and commenters. Take care.
    PS Many Happy Returns. May there be many more. Take care

  13. Kaye Lee

    The Australian government may have broken Australian, Indonesian, and international maritime laws if it has, as reported, paid human smugglers to sail their boats away from Australian waters, human rights activists told Quartz.

    Australian criminal law: Any such payments are likely to have violated section 73.3.A of the Australian Commonwealth Criminal Code and also contravened the Australian Migration Act. The criminal code and the migration act both outlaw people smuggling, or providing assistance to people smugglers.

    Australian maritime law: Under Australia’s Maritime Power’s Act, Australian customs and Navy have the power to intercept and detain vessels in Australian waters, and detain people on board those boats in Australian waters.

    But if the people smugglers were in fact in international waters and heading to New Zealand, these powers of detention would not be triggered, leaving Australia’s government in violation of its own maritime law.

    International law: Australia is a signatory to the International Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, and any payment to people smugglers would be in contravention of this law.

    Indonesian law: The crew of the boat in question are being held in Indonesia on charges of human smuggling and bribery. Both Indonesia’s anti-human trafficking bill, which makes the “giving and receiving of payments” related to trafficking illegal, and its anti-corruption bill may apply.

  14. Michael Taylor

    John, that’s over 160,000 comments to wade through. ?

  15. Kaye Lee

    186,790 comments (plus one 🙂 )

  16. John Lord

    Michael, you are the best ever editor.

  17. Harquebus

    Legality does not necessarily make something right and illegality does not necessarily make it wrong.

    “The state calls its own violence ‘law’ but that of the individual crime.” — Max Stirner.


  18. Roswell

    John, I love this sentence in your post:

    Politicians themselves break the law by creating ones that hide the truth.

  19. John Boyd

    I only know of one Denise Drysdale, and I think she would be pulling our collective leg.

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