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Moral Bankruptcy and Civil Liberties in Modern Australian Politics

The Abbott Government’s gradual destruction of our civil liberties is not something we should be taking lightly, writes Daniel Ellery.

Almost 20 years ago, the President of the United States of America at the time, Bill Clinton, signed an act that has had considerable ramifications around the globe; The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Act, which effectively rendered the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 all but useless. The Posse Comitatus Act was created to limit the powers of the Federal Government in using its military personnel to act as domestic law enforcement personnel. It ensured that the Government could not use military personnel or military force to police domestic matters in their own country, essentially prohibiting a state of Martial Law.

In 1993, the FBI in conjunction with the U.S Military stormed into a compound owned by an Evangelical Christian group in Waco, Texas and killed 76 innocent people. Among the casualties were over 20 children.

There have been ominous signs supposing our fragile civil liberties have been increasingly at risk both in the United States and to a lesser extent, here in Australia, for a number of years. A popular type of Government has emerged in the last few decades which at the forefront are represented as a sort of Draconian fear campaign. Tony Abbott is quite fond of often using the Argument that Terrorists are lurking in our own backyard. Again using our Western neighbour and ally as an example, a November 1995 CNN Time Poll found that 55% of surveyed American citizens believed that the Federal Government had become so powerful that it posed a threat to ordinary citizens. 10 years later, we are seeing ever increasing evidence to support that current civil liberties have to be scrutinised very closely here in Australia.

Abbott stated in a speech in September 2014:

“Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we are used to and more inconvenience than we would like. Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift. There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protection for others. After all, the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to walk the streets unharmed and to sleep safe in our beds at night.”

Another seemingly ‘hyped-up’ speech made about National Security in February 2014 can be seen here. The Prime Minister claims that “the threat to Australia is worsening” and that “the number of potential home grown terrorists is rising.” Claims that back the Government’s decision to raise the threat level to high, suggests that “a terrorist attack is likely.”

In speeches to the Australian Nation in 2003, Prime Minister John Howard and Prime Minister Stephen Harper both made incredibly similar presentations. These speeches were regarding the United States’ constant harping about Saddam’s so-called ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. These speeches, spoken by two different leaders said, at stages, word for word the exact same thing. One could blame an incredibly lazy Public Relations team that felt a quick copy and paste address to the nation would either go unnoticed, or that people would not care or see any issue in this. However the issue here is that these were two leaders of different countries saying the same thing, and both bowing to another country’s Foreign Policy issues (U.S.A). In short, this excerpt shows just how serious this address was:

“It is inherently dangerous to allow a country such as Iraq to retain Weapons of Mass Destruction, particularly in the light of its past aggressive behaviour. If the world community fails to disarm Iraq, we fear that other rogue states will be encouraged to believe that they too can have these most deadly of weapons and that the world will do nothing to stop them.”

“We should not leave it to the United States to do all the heavy lifting just because it is the world’s only superpower. To do so, I believe, will inevitably undermine one of the most important relationships that we have.”

We now know that the speech to invade Iraq was based on lies the United States had told about Saddam Hussein and Bush’s foreign policy is one that the vast majority of Americans now reject. Howard admitted in an interview that he felt pressured by the force of the language in the 2002 American National Intelligence Report, and was “embarrassed” to have acted on the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ intelligence. One politician, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, even went so far to say “that Howard should consider himself quite lucky that, conceivably, he hasn’t been tried for conspiracy to commit mass murder.”

A book aptly named Perpetual Peace for Perpetual War highlights a ghastly resemblance between a speech from a ‘Pre Osama’ text to a speech made by Adolf Hitler in 1933, which enabled an act for the protection of the People and the State, The speech was made after the infamous Reichstag fire which the Germans had secretly lit. Hitler’s act reads:

“Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and associations; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.”

Adolf Hitler had a nation of people following his every word; he was the greatest salesman and marketer of the century. His was by far the most influential and repressive propaganda campaign in history. When fear is used by a Government, it is used as a form of control and repression and in turn causes anxiety within society. This creates a willingness to listen and obey anything to make that fear, worry and anxiety cease. People go to great lengths to manage anxiety. The Government of the United States has used fear campaigns extremely well to control the masses in the wake of terrorist attacks, and we are seeing it again in 2015.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Prime Minster Tony Abbott has used the phrase ‘Death Cult’ over 346 times when mentioning the Islamic State. By using fear campaigns and scare tactics, he has stirred parts of the Australian public into an irrational frenzy, turning closed-minded bigots into blind racists and confusing the minds of the young and old alike. The Government has created a sense of division we can’t help but feel, with the Abbott party’s acts described as an “unprecedented power grab” by Greens Senator Penny Wright:

“Peter Dutton’s proposal that he alone should have the power to strip away a person’s citizenship on suspicion alone is preposterous, unworkable and only goes to show how extreme this government really is.”

“The Abbott Government is seeking unprecedented power to bypass the courts, throwing out the most basic democratic right we have”.

One can’t help but feel a slight comparison of Tony Abbott’s speech to Hitler’s in the light of recently proposed and passed laws, including but not limited to the surveillance of telephone and internet data (through metadata collection of ordinary citizens), and other such legislation like the Border Force Act passed in May, which could see teachers, doctors and security staff jailed if they speak publicly about what they have witnessed. Outlaw motorcycle gangs have also been made the target of heavy raids recently, which suggests the scope of surveillance goes far beyond ‘terror’ suspects. The Government’s abandonment of Julian Assange in 2010 after the full scope of Wikileaks became apparent being yet another example of how these laws can be used to prosecute future whistle-blowers.

In June 2015, Tony Abbott publicly attacked the Australian Broadcasting Commission after the ABC aired an episode in which an Australian man convicted of threatening Commonwealth officials appeared on the popular Q&A program:

“I think many, many millions of Australians would feel betrayed by our national broadcaster right now, and I think that the ABC does have to have a long, hard look at itself, and to answer a question which I have posed before – whose side are you on? Whose side are you on here?”

Abbott seems to plant the idea into the heads of the Australian public that our National Broadcaster may not be ‘on our side,’ or somehow is a terrorist sympathiser by giving a platform for free speech to someone speaking out against recently proposed citizenship legislation. I’m reminded here, of George Orwell, who wrote, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.”

After the 1993 attack on the 76 innocents living peacefully in their commune in Waco, Texas, there was a retaliation attack, dubbed the Oklahoma City bombing in which Timothy McVeigh was found guilty of 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. In a statement to the court before the ruling passed, McVeigh quoted a section of Supreme Court Justice Brandeis’s dissent, “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example.” Brandis goes on in his dissent to say “Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means, to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal, would bring terrible retribution”.

Abbott recently made a comment about the Australian court system regarding the Greens Party ‘win’ on the Carmicheal Coal mine. He argued that Australia has “a problem as a nation” if the courts could “be turned into a means of sabotaging” such projects. The president of the NSW Bar Association, Jane Needham, struck back at these claims with a scathing rebuttal expressing her concern that Abbott had criticised the Federal court system and had shown a clear lack of understanding as to how the system works. Needham stated:

“The courts are not the servant of the Executive – any such implication is inimical to the basic principle of the separation of powers, which is fundamental to our Westminster-style system of government.”

“The courts exist to make decisions according to the law, not to further the interests of particular individuals or organisations, including government. They are an independent arbiter of disputes, and politicians need to understand and respect their non-partisan role.”

The breakdown of civil liberties is something not to be taken lightly. Laws infringing on privacy like the collection of metadata sets a dangerous precedent in Australia. Laws passed after the terrorist attacks, of which were largely provoked by the U.S. have slowly hacked away at the rights and liberties of ordinary citizens in the Western world. This is an area that must be watched with careful attention, as laws are passed quietly every day. Not everything is published in the articles you read or the news you hear, especially in the large media outlets who choose what information they wish to disperse. The power is in the people’s hands, and our moral and ethical standards must be scrutinised.

We must be led by a Government that personifies moral strength in an increasingly morally bankrupt world. A Government must remember that in a democracy, the people’s voices must be heard justly, listened to, and acted upon; otherwise it is nothing but an oligarchy. With a current Government that many feel to be going backward rather than forward, one must ask what Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party really care about more. National net profit means nothing if we have nothing left to live on. If our beautiful landscapes fall to ruins in the hands of a few who hunger after nothing but power and money, then I can’t help but feel that the apathetic and nonchalant members of society will also have the proverbial blood of the land on their hands. The same can be said if we allow politicians to hold our civil liberties to ransom. Terrorism is not a joke subject, but neither is degradation of our right to a free, sustainable, and just world. We have to find a healthy balance between staying vigilant and seeing through the veil of government deception. The people need to fight for a democratic society and understand totalitarianism before it erodes our most basic human rights.

If Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party can be given one concession, it is that they have hopefully shaken the trappings of apathy and indifference from the Australian public.



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  1. John Kelly

    Abbott’s comment about the courts sabotaging government projects reflects both his frustration and disregard for the rule of law. I think he would be much more suited to the politics of North Korea.

  2. roaminruin

    What concerns me more than this rabid lot of autocratic despots is the sheep-like mindset of a significant percentage of our population who see no problems with this creeping erosion of our rights. A few of these types I class as friends and many of them are work colleagues. They do not think past the immediate issue and do not consider the nasty, rapidly accumulating implications. And they have no interest in debating it.

  3. mars08

    @roaminruin… I know how you feel. It’s depressing and infuriating how easily most people are willing to give up their rights.

    Most people I know absorb msm hysteria and govt bullshit without a second thought. Mind you those dire American cop shows don’t help.

    The attitude is definitely one of “do nothing wrong and you have nothing to fear”. They never think beyond that point.

  4. brickbob

    Yes hopefully this awful so called Government has awakened a sleeping giant,the Australian population.”””

  5. John

    “There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protection for others”

    Abbott is more fearful than any of us, and I suspect his fear is of us.

    I wonder if he has nightmares about pitchforks?

  6. Stephane

    As rightly pointed out by a friend, 10 years ago Georges W Bush was already president of the USA for 4 years, not Bill Clinton.
    I guess time is running too fast for some of us…

  7. Michael Taylor

    Stephane, a typo. I’ll fix it now.

  8. guest

    It is unbelievable that the intention is that no one is entitled to litigate against a coal mine unless they live in the immediate vicinity of the mine. People who live, say, 600kms away from the mine, will not be eligible to object.

    They said what? Are we not all Australians? Are we not all affected in some way by a project such as the Adani Carmichael coal mine?

    The big Coalition argument is that this mine is about jobs. They speak of 10 000 jobs. They even try to come up with a list, but they are hardly long term jobs. Besides, at present the mine seems to be unviable economically given commodity prices. And India seems to be intent on stopping the importation of coal. So, even if the mine and the accompanying infrastructure is built, in a short time it could be a rail-line to nowhere.

    Never mind the health problems of a large coal mine, and of the burning of coal. And the effects on the environment.

    And then there is this contradiction: Macfarlane is spruiking jobs by shipping coal to be burnt while Hunt is trying to reduce emissions.
    It is as if the left hand of Government does not know what the right hand is doing. One side says they believe in human roles in climate change while the other side says we must burn more coal in order to create jobs and lift people out of poverty.

    Are they really so stupid? Surely a renewable energy industry would produce more long-term jobs here in Oz and also help in the reduction of poverty overseas. The Government seems so inflexible and obstinate and yet so directionless and lost, with one part not knowing what the other part is doing, so full of legal rancour and yet so willing to change the law to suit its own purposes.It takes no advice from anyone. Dissension even in its own ranks is beaten into sullen submission.

    The government is driving erratically, swerving about at speed, looking in the rearview mirror, terrified of a crash. There must be some inkling that it is on the wrong side of history. The government is the saboteur.

  9. win jeavons

    No mine is an island, entire to itself; send not to know for whom the bell tolls ,it tolls for all .(a slight change but the meaning remains ). The whole world is directly affected by climate damage or environmental vandalism. Not to mention loss of potential food farms

  10. babyjewels10

    Totally agree, Roaminruin. I have some friends who I shy away from spending time with now because they regularly sing the praises of Tony Abbott and this government. I can’t stand it.

  11. Pingback: Moral Bankruptcy and Civil Liberties in Modern Australian Politics | olddogthoughts

  12. Barry

    We who are awake to the gravity of the issue must accept that these niggling little erosive actions that are destroying civil liberties are required so that the sleepy can awake in time.

  13. stephengb2014

    All of the above and I fear:
    There is no mechanism to oust these economic and idiological vandals.
    Yes I know about DD and yes About the GG, but these mechanisms are not being employed, why?
    Do we have an opposition that essentially feels the same?

    Imagine if this government had 4 or even 5 years in office!

  14. diannaart

    We are told to be part of the Coalition of the Willing to continue war, yet not a collaboration to mitigate climate change – a world wide threat – warrants a mention…. of course expecting rational behaviour from our politicians…. if all of us held our breath we’d be making progress against AGW… 😛

  15. musicinhills

    roaminruin, I too despair at the attitude of a lot of my friends, which concerns me because of what happened in Yugoslavia friend turned on friend like a pack of dogs, John Laws and Allan Jones has had a lot of air time over the years up here in the north and has successfully disposed of any tolerance or understanding for each other, it’s as if most people don’t really care about the consequences of what a very fascist government proposes it’s as if they have some sense of excitement of something bad happening and actually looking forward to it happening. I hope Mr Abbot and his cronies mates don’t get back into power, I truly wish they dont

  16. Neil of Sydney

    Speaking of the morally bankrupt this is what the ALP/Greens did when in govt

    Young-looking children were chosen to be transferred to the harsh Manus Island refugee detention centre to discourage other refugees from coming to Australia, an inquiry has heard.

    And children detained in facilities on Nauru are suffering illnesses and mental conditions caused by unsanitary and inhospitable conditions on the island nation while all refugees are subjected to a broad “intention to dehumanise”…….Gregory Lake, the former director of offshore processing and transfers at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, told the inquiry he was directed by a ministerial staff member to choose the youngest-looking children from among those eligible for the first transfer of detained people from Australia to Manus Island in 2012, when Labor was in government.

  17. Kaye Lee

    Yes Neil. The whole thing is shameful. I assume you have contacted your local member expressing your disgust at the incarceration of children in offshore detention camps and the ongoing mental, physical and sexual abuse that asylum seekers are subjected to in our name.

  18. corvus boreus

    And that, NoS, is a prime example of why so many people call you a lying troll.

    “ALP/Greens” you say.
    Here is the truth on this matter;

    “After two days of debate the Senate has passed legislation which will allow the offshore processing of asylum seekers who come by boat.
    The Greens put up several amendments to build in extra human rights protections and to stop asylum seekers from being held offshore for more than 12 months.
    They also put up amendments to review the bill and to give it a so-called sunset clause so it would only last for two years.
    But they were voted down by the Coalition and the Government, who joined together to pass the bill.”

    And here is the link;

    You are particularly worthless when you regurgitate re-digestions of the contents of your own cloaca, you putrid trematode.

  19. Neil of Sydney

    And that, NoS, is a prime example of why so many people call you a lying troll.

    Did the Coalition agree to this?

    Young-looking children were chosen to be transferred to the harsh Manus Island refugee detention centre to discourage other refugees from coming to Australia, an inquiry has heard…….when Labor was in government

    That was done by the ALP/Greens govt.

  20. jimhaz

    If i was in the Greens I’d be asking for an investigation into the ABC in terms of being biased against them.

    They often word questions with derision relating to their economic credentials. Now although this same derision is commonplace in the public, that does not mean the ABC can do it.

    i think the outcome would be that YES, the ABC expressed more bias against the Green than the LNP. This would be evidence to use against the LNP’s clearly strategic war on the left.

  21. jimhaz

    [contents of your own cloaca, you putrid trematode]

    Ahh leftie rage – at least it is more inventive than conservative rage.

  22. jimhaz

    [That was done by the ALP/Greens govt]

    Depends if it was directed by the Minister or by a ministerial staff sycophant trying to earn brownie points.
    Young looking is also a little different to actually being young. It is not an illegal method, just a form of propaganda. The ALP were increasingly desperate to decrease the number of boats and it was not just politics, it was also guilt.

  23. corvus boreus

    More an attempt at classification than invention.
    It could be cestode variant, but it is definitely an auto-coprophagous invertebrate practicing regurgitative auto-evisceration.

  24. corvus boreus

    ps, jimhaz,
    Having offered evidential refutation of false claim (with a dash of pejorative sauce), I will no more bite at that worm on a hook.
    Nibbling at parasitic bait is even less rewarding than playing chess with pigeons.

  25. kizhmet

    Thank you Corvus for some additional (amusing lol) entertainment.

    NoS. Let’s be clear. I don’t believe anyone here suggests ALP’s hands are stain-free regarding refugee off-shore processing. Quite the contrary. However, that ALP made questionable calls of judgement does not validate or endorse LNP’s continuing those blunders – two wrongs do not make a right. When did it become OK to politicise people’s lives, health and well-being? When, in a purportedly enlightened society, did it become OK for the government to sanction murder of people for whom we have a mandate to look after? Future generations will look back on this peroid of Australian history and ask “what were they thinking”, “how could they let this happen” … reminiscent of Germans post WWII.

    I am utterly ashamed by what this government is doing in my name.

    The steady drip of erosion of our hard-fought for rights and liberties is at the heart of this current government. It might appear they’re not doing anything, but in this area at least, they are succeeding admirably.

  26. Möbius Ecko

    And of course any death by a thousand cuts of civil liberties must have a corresponding expansion in propaganda.

    “Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Abbott has 37 spin doctors at an annual cost of $4.3 million. Across the whole of government there were about 1600 spin doctors under the previous ALP government. These have grown to around 1900 under the Abbott government and cost around $200 million a year.”

  27. kizhmet

    ME – depends if they’re donated to ALP, Greens or LNP …

  28. corvus boreus

    Möbius Ecko (12:47),
    Any context on that link (whose ledger)?

    As to the question of if anonymous donations of $10,000 are illegal, it seems not.
    From the AEC guide (2011);
    ‘A political party, state or territory branch, Senate group or candidate must not receive a gift of more than $11 500, unless the name and address of the donor is known’.
    The current limit on compulsory disclosure of federal political donations is $13,000 (It was set at $10,000 in 2006, but [unlike the common wage] is adjusted according to the CPI).
    Anything less than 13 grand counts as chump-change to a tramp.

  29. corvus boreus

    10 grand in a blank envelope is legit under current standards anyway.

    Ps, IPA wish-list number 23: End mandatory disclosures on political donations

  30. jimhaz

    kizhmet [ I don’t believe anyone here suggests ALP’s hands are stain-free regarding refugee off-shore processing. Quite the contrary]

    i’m of the impression CB did not want the Greens included as an initiator/perpetrator of such a ploy and if that is the case he is correct.

  31. Neil of Sydney

    over the objections of the GRNs

    If The Greens felt strongly about sending children to detention could they not have broken their agreement to form minority government?

    What is annoying is that Howard got abused by ALP/Greens for locking kids up and then did something about it. ALP/Greens locked up 2,000 kids, many more than Howard did. And most probably will do it again if elected.

  32. OldWomBat

    This government is morally and intellectually bankrupt and doing irreparable harm to Australia and the future our children will inherent. Perhaps these same people can be held to account in a court of law for failing so miserably the Australian people.

  33. Neil of Sydney

    It was the ALP/Greens govt who locked up 2,000 kids

    And ALP/Greens did this

    Between January 2011 and February 2013 there were 4,313 incidents of actual, threatened and attempted serious self-harm recorded in immigration detention facilities in Australia.[73] In the 2012–2013 financial year there were 846 incidents of self-harm across the immigration detention network.[74]

    Between 1 July 2010 and 20 June 2013, there were 12 deaths in immigration detention facilities. Coroners have found that six of those deaths were suicides.[75]

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