A few weeks ago, various Australian MPs were expressing their outrage at China for holding secret trials. I understood their concern. Secret trials are something that should be reserved for the enemies of capitalism and not something that those lefty Chinese should be engaging in.
Most of you have probably heard that Witness K pleaded guilty and was given a three month suspended sentence. Witness K, for those of you who are unaware, was on trial for conspiracy in that he revealed secrets about what the Australian government was doing in relation to Timor-Leste. I presume I don’t need to add allegedly here because, if they weren’t guilty of it, it wouldn’t be a secret, it would be misinformation and you can’t accuse someone of spying when they’re just making stuff up. And if you’re going to start charging people for making stuff up, there goes most of Sky News, the fossil fuel industry and the entire front bench of the Coalition.
Anyway, to the best of my knowledge Witness K is no relation to Joseph K who was the main character in Franz Kafka’s well-known novel, “The Trial” which is about a man who suddenly finds himself on trial even though it’s unclear exactly what he’s charged with. Kafka’s writings have led to the term Kafkaesque used to describe any nightmarish and oppressive bureaucracy that occurs in real life which leads me to the whole notion of secret trials.
The concept behind the legislation that allowed some of the most Kafkaesque elements in the legal system was that, were the trials of terrorists to be reported it might give away valuable information and actually aid the terrorist. Sort of like when the PM announced that we’d managed to catch all these criminals because they were using an encryption system that had been fed to them by the law enforcement agencies. From that time on it’s pretty clear that only those criminals who don’t keep up to date with the PM’s pressers would still be using the messaging service.
Anyway, given that Witness K now has a suspended sentence of three months, one has to suggest that his trial wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that the legislators had in mind when they introduced the whole secret trial concept. I mean, a suspended sentence is meant to be a deterrent to discourage you from committing the crime again. What are we expecting Witness K to do? I won’t reveal any more government misbehaviour for fear of having to serve those three months?
I remember arguing at the time that so much of the anti-terror legislation just went too far and was a fundamental erosion of rights. The answer to any criticism was something along the lines of: Technically it does say that, but this is Australia and we’d never have governments doing the sorts of things that you scare-mongering, lefty types are suggesting.
My point was always that the legislation exists and governments change and as soon as I’m leading the country I can promise you that Pauline will be locked up as a security threat straight away because her stupidity is a definite challenge to the country. In fact, anyone who opposes me is a threat to my security and therefore in need of being detained and questioned by the anti-terrorism agencies and such questioning cannot be reported under parts of the legislation.
In other words, while we may be talking about the so-called secret trial of Witness K, there may be lots and lots of other secret interrogations taking place and we wouldn’t even know.
Anyway, in spite of all this, I must say that I support John Barilaro’s use of the fixated person’s unit in dealing with satirist friendlyjordies and his producer. I know that many people have criticised him and said that this unit was meant to be about potential terrorist threats and if the NSW Deputy Premier felt stalked then he should have just used the police rather than this overreach. However, given how tardy the NSW police were in taking a statement from Christian Porter’s accuser, it’s understandable that Barilaro may have no faith in their ability to act promptly. And thankfully now that the matter has been dealt with and, according to the bail conditions, the friendlyjordies’ producer may not possess or distribute any caricature of John Barilaro.
I’m sure we all feel a lot safer knowing that NSW law enforcement can protect people from such things.
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