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Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

G'day. I reckon the most courageous Parliamentary decision of Simon Crean's leadership was to call Howard's bluff on his ASIO terror package before Christmas 2002. Howard played the most vicious card of all - he said if Labor didn't cave in it would have blood on its heads if there was a terrorist attack in Australia over the holidays, yet refused to accept the bill as amended by the Senate to guard against such an event. Not only that, he'd call a double dissolution security election.  I recorded the drama on Webdiary at Fighting for our Trust (Crean's parliamentary speech), ASIO: what the parties said before the politics went crazy, War of words and Howard's strip-search for patriots

He did no such thing, and an agreed package passed six months later, a package the then ASIO chief Dennis Richardson and Howard himself later said worked well.

Here we go again this Christmas, except that this time the Government has the numbers in the Senate and Beazley has pledged to vote for the terror package if Labor's amendments don't get up. And this time Liberal backbenchers are having a go on the ASIO aspects of this package. Crean set out the history during a fine speech to Parliament last night on Howard's latest grab for power through fear.  Here it is. Kevin Rudd's speech is also worth a read for his clinical assessment of Howard's decision to invade Iraq and the disastrous consequences of that for Australians' safety.

Second Reading Speech

(Hotham) (6.09 p.m.)—I rise to speak in support of the second reading amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2005. Labor has argued consistently since 2001 that we need balanced laws—laws that are tough on terrorists but that protect our democratic freedoms. The legislation before the House does not get the balance right. Labor’s amendments contained in the second reading amendment would get the balance right, and the bipartisan recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, tabled just yesterday, would have also considerably moved in the direction of getting the balance right. The bill in the form before the House reflects this recurring failure on the part of the Howard government to get the balance right when it comes to national security and to protecting civil liberties.

It does not go far enough in protecting the security of Australian citizens by, for example, strengthening security at our airports, on our wharves and on the railway platforms of our great cities or securing our exposed coastline by establishing a coastguard. What it does, in failing to do those things, is actually attack the civil liberties of those very citizens. Labor argues that we need tough antiterrorist laws, but they have to be introduced in a way that does not take away the very rights and freedoms that the terrorists themselves aim to destroy. The basic rights of our citizenry include the right of freedom of speech, the right to know the crime with which you are charged, the right to defend yourself, the right to a fair trial and the right not to be continuously detained without charge or trial.

Every time this government has introduced new laws to protect us from terrorism it has eroded some or all of these rights. It failed to get the balance right in 2002 and it failed again in 2003. It has failed again with this legislation. As on previous occasions, Labor’s amendments do get the balance right and I urge the government to accept these amendments. I urge the government to listen to its own members on the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee: Senator Payne, Senator Mason and Senator Scullion. They are Liberal members who joined with all the Labor members on that committee to propose a significant number of changes—some 51 in all. If the government ignores them—those three Liberal senators—they have no option but to vote for their own recommendations in the parliament. If crossing the floor is a problem for them they should abstain. Having heard the evidence and having deliberated on these issues and come to a conclusion, they are obliged to see that conclusion carried out.

The government, of course, approaches these sorts of solutions and those who advocate them with disdain. We know it has restricted debate in this chamber. Some 44 out of Labor’s 60 members of parliament are unable to speak in this debate because the government will gag them. It will introduce the guillotine. Today it gagged its own members in its own party room. It would not allow debate in the Liberal party room today on this legislation. In other words, government members are expected to vote on this bill tonight when they have not even agreed on a position, because the Prime Minister gagged his own party room. What does this say to the senators who have actually considered the detail of this legislation and come to conclusions about it and the need for change, when their views are not even able to be heard and debated in the party room because the Prime Minister does not want it?

The reasons we need tough laws to fight the terrorists are obvious post September 11 and post Bali. Those events in 2001 and 2002 were graphically etched in the minds of Australians. They changed the security, the concerns and the issues that Australians have. They changed them forever. But, having said that, this government needs to be honest with the Australian people as to why we need new legislation to fight terrorism—the new legislation before the House. If in fact, as I will argue in this debate, we got the balance right essentially because of Labor amendments in 2002 and 2003, why do we need new laws in 2005? I will tell you why: because of Prime Minister John Howard’s decision to take us to war with Iraq—a decision which was based on a lie, a decision which has made this country more unsafe and made us a bigger target. Do not just take my word for it. Mick Keelty, the chief commissioner of the Australian police, said so, only to be attacked by the Prime Minister for telling the truth. Forty-three former Defence chiefs and diplomats, eminent people in this country, also said so. They said that Australia was taken to war in Iraq on the basis of false assumptions and deceptions.

So we made the decision to go to war in 2004 based on a lie. We, as a result, made ourselves a bigger target for terrorism. The Prime Minister of this country wants us to judge his prime ministership through the prism of trust. He told us to trust him at the last election, a man who has shown on so many occasions that he cannot be trusted—the person who said we would never, ever have a GST; the person who argued that parents had thrown their kids overboard; the person who said Medicare would be retained in its entirety, who said we would not have $100,000 university degrees, who said he would reduce foreign debt and who said the reason for invading Iraq was to deprive it of its weapons of mass destruction that have never been shown to exist; and the person who, during the last election, never mentioned the extreme industrial relations legislation he is now seeking to ram through the parliament. His determination to ram through this legislation that we are debating tonight without proper scrutiny and in attempted secrecy is a further abuse of trust of the Australian people.

I say again: we do need tough antiterror laws, but we must also protect the nation’s civil liberties. They are not mutually exclusive. The balance can be struck. On many occasions in this House, Labor has argued for the balance and to achieve that balance, and Labor has consistently put forward proposals that do achieve that balance. It can be done if there is a preparedness to consult and to consider. On many occasions, Labor has proposed constructive solutions to strike this balance. A series of terrorism bills were introduced into this chamber in March 2002. The basis for them being introduced set the pattern. They were introduced at 8 pm on 12 March 2002—a hundred pages of legislation; a hundred pages of explanatory memorandum—and were debated the very next day. Under the original proposed bill, the government were seeking ASIO warrants to be provided for indefinite detention and questioning of persons, including children, who have information on terrorist attacks. They proposed detention incommunicado. They proposed no right to decline to give information or produce a document, no penalty for officers who do not administer the bill correctly and no parliamentary oversight. That legislation, of course, in 2002 had serious flaws. Labor was able to make that legislation better, ensuring the terrorists—but only the terrorists—were targeted.

We also had the ASIO bills sent off for further parliamentary scrutiny. Ultimately even the Prime Minister, who had proposed the original draconian legislation, was forced to admit that we got the balance right. He said so at the Press Club on 11 September 2002 when he said:

We have, of necessity, tightened our security laws. I believe through the great parliamentary processes that this country has I believe that we have got the balance right.

Well, why doesn’t he use that ‘great parliamentary process’ again in relation to this legislation? Why doesn’t he draw not just on what the Labor Party is saying but on what a bipartisan position of the Senate committee has recommended? The truth of it is that back then we stopped the Prime Minister from introducing the worst excesses which he sought to introduce, but he still keeps at it. That is why we are debating this legislation.

Then, of course, the Bali bombings occurred on 12 October 2002. The government responded, but again it could not get the balance right then. That was the debate about proscription, Madam Deputy Speaker—you would remember it. As the then Leader of the Opposition, I said that we would support any measure for tough and decisive action to stamp out terrorism. I said we wanted Australia to be tough on terrorists but only on terrorists. The government then wanted the power for the Attorney-General to proscribe organisations, but we said it was too much power in the hands of the executive. It needed judicial oversight. We said that we were prepared to accept the United Nations proscription formula. We even proposed and introduced a private member’s bill to proscribe Hezbollah. Why? Because of the intelligence briefing we and the government had in relation to that organisation. Again, the point I am making is that it was us who took the initiatives to deal with terrorism but not to strip away people’s civil liberties, as this legislation does.

After the proscription debate the two Senate committees reported on the ASIO bills. They recommended amendments that we, Labor, were prepared to adopt—but not the Prime Minister. He insisted on his own bill. He then ignored again the parliamentary wishes. He threatened the Labor Party that we would be to blame if there was a terrorist attack. Labor, to our great credit, at the end of 2002 stared him down. We told him that he could have had an agreed bill before Christmas. We had that late night sitting—members in this House would remember it. Instead, the Prime Minister walked away from that bipartisan opportunity, only to have the bill brought back into the parliament in June 2003, some six months later, when it passed in a form almost identical to that which we had proposed.

What we wanted then—because it was not in the original bill—was the choice of legal representation, the protection of children under the age of 18 years, a three-year sunset clause to ensure further parliamentary scrutiny and a questioning regime, not a detention regime. We got all of those things. We got them because they were right to get. But I said then that not only will Labor combat terrorism but Labor will protect the liberties that terrorists want to destroy. And that is what the balance has to always be about with this type of legislation. The parliament did get the balance right in 2003, but only because of Labor’s insistence and only because the government did not control the Senate.

It is also interesting to note that, despite the government insisting on the need for these new laws that we are debating tonight post the London bombings, and despite the agreed position of a fortnight ago to change ‘the’ terrorist act to ‘a’ terrorist act, the recent arrests of 18 suspects took place under the legislation finally agreed to on earlier occasions—the legislation that I have just talked about. So getting the balance right, protecting civil liberties, does not compromise the work of our law enforcers.

The history of this bill is an outrageous abuse of the parliament and of the premiers. It is another attempt by the Prime Minister to get his way now that he has control of the Senate. He and the Attorney-General are not attempting to get an agreement on what is needed—still no coastguard and still insufficient airline and port security—but, ever pervasively, attempting to strip away civil liberties; they are at it again. The current Attorney-General, like his predecessor, Daryl Williams, has failed his charter. He has forgotten that as the Commonwealth’s first law officer he has a responsibility to the Australian people and their civil liberties as well as to the government. Daryl Williams lost his position as Attorney-General soon after the 2002-03 compromise. His hardline defence of the Prime Minister’s indefensible position was not rewarded. Howard dumped him. The current Attorney-General, Mr Ruddock, should take note. Stick up, Attorney, for what is right. You wear that Amnesty badge—show you believe in Amnesty’s principles. Adopt Labor’s amendments. Listen to the Senate committee. Listen to the members of your own party, do not gag them, and dump the sedition provisions.

The Prime Minister abused the trust of the premiers at the Council of Australian Governments. The proposal that he took to them did not even include the sedition provisions which now the Senate members recommend should be dumped. The Prime Minister sought secrecy on the legislation, but it was exposed by the courageous act of Jon Stanhope in posting the secret bill on his web site.

Ms Gambaro—Courageous!

Mr CREAN—The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, at the table, said it is outrageous.


Ms Gambaro—I said, ‘Courageous.’

Mr CREAN—What is outrageous, I ask the parliament, about taking the Australian people into your trust and showing them legislation that you intend introducing into the parliament, not through the stealth of night? The Prime Minister talks about trust. Have trust in the Australian people. Jon Stanhope did, and he is to be commended for that courageous stance. He demonstrated a preparedness to properly use the trust mandated to him. He took the people into his confidence. The Prime Minister simply abuses that trust. Honest John indeed.

The premiers forced a rethink of the legislation. Labor again promoted initiatives to get the balance right. Our second reading amendment does that again. But that second reading amendment is bolstered and reinforced by the findings of the Senate committee—bipartisan recommendations from all government and Labor members. The government members have joined Labor and recommended that the archaic provisions relating to sedition be removed altogether. They have then gone on to say that if they are not removed then the rights of free speech and peaceful protest should be protected. Just have a look at what that report says. In quoting the definition of seditious intention, it includes:

... nonviolent civil disobedience as exemplified by religious and political leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi, Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and a great many other prophets of history.

What a great legacy for this country to be passing laws that would have prevented the sorts of actions and peaceful protests that those people led that changed the world, that changed people’s lives for the better. This government wants to close them down. The only evidence supporting the sedition provisions came from the Attorney-General’s own department and the police. All other evidence presented to the committee opposed the provisions.

The Senate committee has also recommended a sunset provision, just like Labor has, of five years, not 10. That is the sort of thing the Australian people want. That is the sort of balance that can be struck—tough on terrorism but protecting the civil liberties of the Australian people. That is why the Labor amendments should be supported and why the government, rather than gag its own members, should do the right thing—which it has always been forced to do in the past—and support that which Labor has put forward.

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re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Pryor's take from the Canberra Times is worth a look.

Margo: Thanks Polly!

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Great speech by Crean. It’s ironic that Crean was dumped as Opposition Leader for being too ‘soft’, too nice a guy, yet he was the one who stared down Howard in late 2002. Beazley, on the other hand, was prepared to just roll over on the new Anti-Terror Bill if its proposed amendments weren’t accepted. ‘Ticker’, indeed.

Speaking of lack of ticker, I’m also curious as to why Carmen Lawrence, who spoke strongly against the bill at Tuesday’s rally in front of Parliament House, didn’t cross the floor. I understand that Labor backbencher Harry Quick did. Carmen, what happened? Where are your principles? I know how hard the Labor party enforces caucus solidarity, but surely this is one of those times when you needed to stick your neck out for Australia. DISAPPOINTED.

OK Liberals – your turn. Who will stand up for their principles? I ain’t holding my breath, you bunch of cowards.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

I find it particularly offensive that Ruddock wears the Amnesty badge - what on earth does he think he's doing?

In all of this you do need to ask, given that Howard and Ruddock have minders in the wings who are advising them, just WHO is driving this agenda REALLY and WHAT is their covert agenda. There is more to all of this than meets the eye and Crean and others would do well to be digging beneath the surface to find out.

This isn't a matter of conspiracy theory, it is a matter of learning from history and taking heed.

Focussing on Howard and Ruddock alone is not sufficient. I'm not surprised when the commentators are naive but I'm a bit more worried when the Premiers and their advisors are...never mind the elected representatives who are SUPPOSED to be guarding the electorate from abuses of power and CORRUPTION be it monetary or ideological.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

PS to last. The thing that is dangerous about Crean's speech (and other's like it) is that he too has taken as given that we need these laws. We don't.

Every single parliamentarian who assumes we need them has already missed the main points around these issues and bought right into Howard's "frame", therein lies the danger.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

I am sending this message to all Senators today, 30 November 2005 :


I remind each of you, as you proceed to a vote today or tomorrow on the government’s counter-terrorism legislation which was rammed through the House of Representatives last night, that Australia is signatory to this most solemn instrument of international law, the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Article 19 states this:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

If you vote for the government’s bill as it stands, including Schedule 7 on sedition, you would be voting in violation of that clear Australian government legal obligation.

In other words, you would be voting for a law you know to be illegal. To do so would be derelict of the Senate’s obligations as a house of review.

Mr Ruddock’s manouevres, pledging that he will later submit the sedition schedule to the Law Review Commission after passing the present law, are completely unsound and unacceptable. Your obligation as Senators to pass or reject laws according to your individual votes and consciences cannot be manouevred in this way, if you are serious about those high personal obligations of your office.

Senator Brown is right – this is the week when Senators of good conscience must cross the floor, if Schedule 7 goes forward in this counter-terrorism bill.

Please, insist on a separate vote on Schedule 7 – cross the floor if necessary on that procedural vote – and then, reject Schedule 7.

Please respect our faith as voters in your Upper House – cross the floor, if Schedule 7 remains in this bill.

Tony Kevin, Canberra, 30 November 2005

PS I should have said, and will say so now here, that there is no reason for Labor - having tried unsuccessfully in the Reps yesterday to get Schedule 7 removed from the bill - not to move a procedural motion in the Senate to have a separate vote on Schedule 7. If Labor is not prepared to do this in the Senate, its good faith in trying to overturn Schedule 7 in the Lower House would have to be questioned. I very much hope that all Opposition parties' Senators - hopefully supported by more than one Independent - will call for a separate vote on Schedule 7.

(Independent writer and commentator. Former senior public servant and diplomat, 1968-98. Author of “A Certain Maritime Incident: the sinking of SIEV X”.)

Canberra ACT 2603

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Fine speeches mean nothing if you then vote for repugnant legislation. I attended a forum in WA but a few weeks ago that Carmen Lawrence addressed. She did not equivocate or hesitate in saying that “I will vote against this bill”. What happened?

History will condemn Labor, along with Howard for this black day in our Parliament’s history.

Margo: My understanding is that two people have to call for a division before a vote can be taken. For Carmen to join Andren in doing that would put her colleagues who oppose aspects of the bill in a terrible situation given that the Partyroom backed Beazley's decision to vote for the bill if the amendments didn't get up and the bill would get passed in the Reps anyway. Carmen opposed Beazley's demand in the partyroom. The Coalition partyroom is yet to have its meeting finalising this issue. That's where the action is right now.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean


Does Ruddock still wear an Amnesty badge?

This has been bugging me for some time. I have finally got round to sending the following email to Amnesty International Australia.

“Dear Contact Person, Amnesty International Australia.

I note with approval that Amnesty is campaigning against the Bills currently being rushed through Federal Parliament that are undermining human rights in Australia (http://www.amnesty.org.au/Act_now/action_centre/australia_oppose_laws_undermining_fundamental_human_rights). However, I am disturbed that one of the principal architects of these legal monstrosities, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, is rumoured to have been an member of Amnesty and to wear an Amnesty badge. For Mr. Ruddock to be a member of Amnesty clearly undermines Amnesty’s reputation as a guardian of human rights. Without violating any applicable privacy laws, would it be possible for Amnesty to do any of the following, please:

(i) publish a statement conveying Mr. Ruddock’s current membership status?

(ii) if he is a member, cancel his membership, refund any appropriate monies, and publish a statement that this has been done?

(iii) publish a statement expressing dissaproval of Mr. Ruddock’s displaying any affiliation to Amnesty?

I do not seem to be able to find any relevant information on your website at present.

I look forward to your response,

Andy Christy”

Tony Kevin, this is a good letter that will hopefully remind the Senators of their duty, Tony. Do you think that it would also be worth sending one to all Representatives, that runs more like:


I remind each of you who rammed the government’s counter-terrorism legislation through the House of Representatives last night, that Australia is signatory to this most solemn instrument of international law, the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Article 19 states this:

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

By voting for the government’s bill as it stands, including Schedule 7 on sedition, you have voted in violation of that clear Australian government legal obligation.

In other words, you have voted for a law you know to be illegal. Doing so was derelict of the House’s obligations to uphold the Law...”

These people appear to be lawbreakers as well as cowards and traitors against democracy. We need to let them know that we know, and will never forgive or forget.

Margo: He still wears it, Andy. All the time.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

I always thought Simon Crean was an honourable and honest man. He didn't have what seems to be so essential in today's media-linked politics - charisma - but he would have done a good job as Prime Minister I believe.

He was one MP Mark Latham didn't knock, either, which reinforces my opinion that Mark himself was an honest man.

However, I agree with Russell Darroch. There was never any need for new anti-terrorist laws. I came to this decision after reading a lot of submissions and articles on the subject, though I must admit I had my doubts from the beginning.

We had all the "laws" we needed already.

This is obvious from the way the "illegal aliens" were treated when they arrived on our shores in their rusty, leaky boats.

They spent many years in concentration camps, without a trial.

David Hicks has been in Guantanamo Bay for several years with no trial. Blair had the UK prisoners sent home for trial, but not our intrepid Johnnie, even though all of the people he is supposed to be serving who knew anything about what was happening over there were against this.

We seem to be very good at doing this type of thing, and there is no legal comeback that makes any difference.

Howard surely does have the MPs fooled. Unfortunately, he has also fooled most of the public.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Andy, well if it isn't a real one it sure looks like one - check it out on Lateline replays. But I think that Michael has told us all something useful. Let us know what reply you get.

Makes a bit of a mockery of what AI stands for.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Andy, during the Tampa affair, as an Amnesty member I phoned Amnesty and asked what their position was on Ruddock's wearing the Amnesty badge. The reply was a wishy washy handwringing that they didn't approve but there was nothing they could do. My response to that was that I was not prepared to belong to the same organisation as Ruddock, and I was resigning immediately. Her reply was something like, "That's your right." And that was that.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Tony Kevin, I just wanted to let you know I bought the book A Certain Maritime Incident and have informed many people of what it contains.

This book, along with Margo Kingston's Not Happy John!, Andrew Wilkie's Axis of Deceit and Marion Maddox's God Under Howard convinced me that Howard is a cunning, despicable human being, and has gathered like-minded people around him.

Mungo McCallum's Run Johnny Run was also a pretty good read! Every chapter starts with a quotation about a rat - a very apt metaphor indeed.

Anyway, thanks, Tony, for the great job you are doing for Australians.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Further to my previous comment regarding Carmen Lawrence, I have been informed by her office that she abstained from the vote.

Margo: But there was no vote when the time came to pass the bill, was there?

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Daphne O’Brien, you may like to add to your book list, if you don’t already have them, the following:

Robert Garran, ‘True Believer: John Howard, George Bush and the American Alliance’. (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 2004).
Alison Broinowski, ‘Howard’s War’. (Melbourne: Scribe Publications, 2003).
Donald Horne, ‘Looking for Leadership: Australia in the Howard Years’. (Ringwood, VIC: Viking, 2001). – This is a good retrospective read if you haven’t read it yet.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

I too was at the forum in Perth that Carmen spoke at a couple fo weeks ago. I recall her words as "I will not vote for this legislation." And she didn't - by not being in the House for the vote. But there has to be a time when such strong rhetoric is matched by action and surely with legislation of this nature it is that time. I understand the politics of it but it is also extremely disappointing.

Margo: But her joining with Andren to force a vote on the whole bill then she and he being alone on the no side would make no actual difference. Most MPs consider crossing the floor only when that action will change the result.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

From yesterday's Hansard: Peter Andren's second reading speech.

Mr ANDREN (Calare) (6.40 p.m.)-The whole process of bringing the Anti- Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2005 into the House is an example of bad law making. The bill allows terrorism to violate our hard-won and fragile freedoms and allows covert government action at the expense of open and independent review of the truth. The bill seriously invades privacy through control orders, preventative detention, surveillance, warrant-free information demands and compulsory reporting of all financial transactions-notwithstanding the recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, which I have had about as much time as everybody else, about an hour, to have any sort of a look at.

The bill as it stands-and that is the important thing; we are debating it as it stands-undermines the right to liberty and the rule of law. It abandons notions of justice and procedural fairness that are so essential to any open and free society. It subverts the Australian Constitution's most fundamental purpose of ensuring separation of powers. It hides government actions relating to human rights from the public gaze and buries accountability. This is one of two significant human rights bills now before the parliament, IR being the other, and the contempt the government has shown for due parliamentary process and good law making astounds me-I wrote in my notes 'astounds me' but perhaps I am not that surprised.

Why were these laws so critical that they were going to be rammed through the parliament within a day? Only Jon Stanhope's placing of the bill on the net triggered any semblance of proper process. Why did debate start without the benefit of a completed Bills Digest, which was not available until a week after the last sitting-something that was hardly surprising given the complexity of the legislation? Why did members make contributions to the debate several weeks ago when they had not considered the findings of the rushed Senate inquiry first? These findings were only tabled this afternoon, and incidentally they pick up on some but not all of the concerns I outline here. Why was this legislation drafted before the completion of the legislative review of our existing antiterror laws in the new year?

It is a disgrace that those who would question this legislation should be labelled as less than solid on national security, given the process by which this has been delivered to the people's house. No parliamentary representative should surrender scrutiny of and debate on any legislation, particularly this legislation, to a blind trust in executive government-especially a government that has already politicised and abused the operation of the armed forces, the police and ASIO in the tragedy of SIEVX, the shame of Tampa and the obscene 'children overboard' claims. This is a government that already holds innocent people in detention centres for the crime of seeking safety and refuge from other repressive regimes and indeed deprives the liberty of others for years at a time due to departmental mistakes. It is a government that deports a non-violent peace activist as a threat to national security and goes to war on the basis of spurious and false intelligence.

Might I remind the House of the thorough scrutiny of and debate on similar legislation in the British House of Commons. Britain is a country well versed in terrorism and its consequences, yet it is prepared to have lengthy debate and scrutiny and see all sides of that parliament expressing their opinion and their vote with absolute freedom. Of course we need laws to protect Australia from terrorism, and Australia already has some 27 pieces of antiterrorism legislation, with existing ASIO legislation already deemed to be amongst the most comprehensive in the world. There has been no demonstrated need or any thoughtful argument put forward to say why these provisions in this bill are needed or why existing laws are insufficient, save for unsubstantiated assertions by the Attorney- General. Let me quote from Hugh White in the Sydney Morning Herald on 10 November:

If we keep seeing each new attack-and each claim of a planned attack-as a new threat requiring a new response, we will never regain our equilibrium in the face of a threat which-for the time being, at least-we must live with.

These sorts of laws would not have stopped the UK bombings, with the perpetrators well under the radar of security and police forces, and the recent operation and arrests in Australia were carried out under existing laws. How do these laws contribute to people's safety and protection of their freedoms-freedoms we have fought legitimate wars to defend? I say 'legitimate' because I am firmly convinced the terror threat we and our Anglo allies face is largely due to our involvement in an illegitimate war in Iraq.

I well appreciate the need for laws to protect Australia from terrorist attack but, without checks and balances under the law and without express referral to human rights, these laws contain provisions that in other times and places have allowed very grave transgressions indeed. This bill criminalises conduct and expressions that, while perhaps being distasteful or unacceptable, need not be directed at anyone in particular or contain any intention to actually cause violence. Under schedule 1 of the bill, an organisation that 'indirectly counsels', 'provides instruction on' or 'directly praises the doing of a terrorist act' is advocating the doing of an act. Such an organisation or group may be proscribed as a terrorist organisation, whether or not an act has occurred or will occur. This is even if the organisation has no other involvement in terrorism, if the person who did the praising did not intend to cause any terrorism and if there is no connection to any actual offence.

Closely related to this sweeping terrorism offence are the obnoxious provisions of schedule 7, under the appropriately archaic heading of 'Treason and sedition'. You can be imprisoned for seven years if you urge another person to assist by any means whatever an organisation or country either at war or engaged in hostilities with the Commonwealth, whether war has been declared or not. While this does not include assistance of a humanitarian nature, the question must be asked: are we also now going to be selective about what constitutes an insurgency or a justified civil war or whether players in it are terrorists or freedom fighters? Do we judge Chechnya by the same values as we did East Timor? The selectivity of some Western nations around such issues is the reason for the resentment leading, at the extremes, to murderous hatred of much Western foreign policy.

The defences for good faith are largely political in nature and do not specifically protect statements made in good faith for academic, artistic, scientific, religious, journalistic or public interest purposes. The most important measures of a truly free society include its tolerance of free speech. Truly free societies should allow opinions to be aired and judged by the court of public opinion. We legislate to restrict free speech at the risk of sliding towards an Orwellian world of newspeak. The more we restrict freedom of speech, the more we run the risk that offensive or objectionable opinion will be driven underground where it cannot be aired and answered and in fact may be magnified and radicalised. I will support any moves to excise sedition provisions from this bill.

Schedule 4 allows a federal Family Court or federal Magistrates Court to authorise the police to restrict a person's freedom in virtually any way possible based on the balance of probabilities that it would substantially 'assist in preventing a terrorist attack' or that 'the person has provided training to, or received training from, a listed terrorist organisation'. The organisation need not have been illegal at the time and the training need not be for violent or illegal purposes, so a court may authorise where the person must be and when, to whom the person may speak or with whom the person may associate, or order that person to wear a tracking device for up to a year and, conceivably, on a rolling basis for up to 10 years-all of this without charge and without judicial oversight. This is done on the advice of the police without the need for specific evidence, without a full and fair trial or finding of guilt of any crime. There is no guarantee that the statement of facts provided when seeking consent from the Attorney-General will include any intelligence on which the order may be based or that any such intelligence would be passed on to the court, let alone be tested as evidence. While the subject may apply to the court to revoke the order at any time after the order has been served, the fact that these orders do not have to relate directly to an intent or act of a particular person renders this so- called judicial review somewhat spurious.

Here we have punitive control orders that may include conditions as onerous as those applied to people who have been tried or convicted of a crime, based on speculation of future conduct or based on actions that may have been legal at the time. Not only this but these orders are brought because there is not the evidence to allow the charging of a criminal offence, nor is there any requirement that charges would follow. Where is justice and due process in this? In my research I have not found a shred of cogent argument about how these provisions could 'substantially assist in preventing a terrorist attack', and this leaves me deeply concerned about these provisions.

Under preventative detention orders we again have a judge or member of the AAT acting in their 'personal capacity' authorising a person as young as 16 to be imprisoned for 48 hours and then for up to two weeks under state law without being charged-let alone being found guilty-of any crime. This imprisonment may be in a jail or remand centre with people convicted of a crime, presumably under maximum security and/or in solitary confinement. The grounds for authorising this preventative detention order are serious. There must be belief the person 'will engage in' or 'has done an act in preparation for ... a terrorist act' or 'possesses a thing ... connected with the preparation for, or the engagement of a person in, a terrorist act'. That act must be 'imminent' and expected to occur within 14 days. Alternatively the detention may be necessary to preserve evidence of 'a terrorist act [that] has occurred in the last 28 days'.

While the facts and other grounds for detention must be considered by the issuing authority, a judge looking at such an application has absolutely no way of testing the accuracy of those grounds, and any decision made to detain someone will be made on probabilities and possibilities. It is the basis of our legal system to be protected from arbitrary imprisonment by either the judiciary or the executive-

Interjection Mr Katter - Habeas corpus.

Continue Mr ANDREN - but it pushes the bounds purpose, as the member for Kennedy so rightly points out. Detention is carried out in secret. There is no true answerability for those unjustly detained. The person detained or their lawyer is only given information about the fact of the preventative detention order; they are not told the reasons that they are in custody-in fact, they are not even aware of the initial detention order until they have been picked up. There is not even a requirement for charges to follow such detention.

We have the absurd idea that the person can contact one family member or an employer or business partner for the sole purpose of telling them they are safe but not contactable for the time being. However, if aged between 16 and 18 or 'incapable of managing their affairs', they may contact both parents and may be visited by another person for a minimum of two hours a day. They may contact a lawyer. But if a prohibited contact order applies to any of these people they may not contact them. However, they are not told if a prohibited contact order exists.

If any of these people discloses the detention order to another: five years jail. If a third person, such as a journalist, discloses the order: five years jail. They or their representative may make representations to overseeing senior AFP members but only about the exercise of that power and their actual treatment, not about the validity of the detention in the first place. They may complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman about the order itself or of treatment by the AFP, but after the whole thing is over. Of course, if a court cannot access the intelligence behind the orders and detention, they are hamstrung in determining whether, on the balance of probabilities, such an action has substantially assisted in the policing work.

Further, the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act is explicitly excluded, which means the Attorney-General is not answerable for giving permission for this whole process to begin, and it removes a person's entitlement to receive any statement of the reasons for the decision to detain them. Without the protection of what is accepted to be full judicial oversight, or the ability to test accusations in a fair and independent court of law before punishment is meted out, these laws have serious potential to dismantle our only protection from arbitrary punishment or detention-from abuse of human rights. The sad and, I acknowledge, understandable fact is that all this seems to be acceptable to the majority of a frightened electorate.

Despite all this there is no mention of this parliament reviewing any provisions in the bill. The bill records that COAG-that de facto governmental process which has largely usurped parliamentary scrutiny-has agreed to review some of the provisions after five years. COAG then prepares a report and, if a copy of the report is given to the Attorney-General, it must be tabled within 15 sitting days. There is no mention in the bill of any review of the other amendments, including the unacceptable schedule 6, Treason and sedition. There should be a full review of this bill by this parliament three years after it becomes law, as is the case with the ASIO legislation.

Further, the so-called sunset provisions do not repeal this legislation. They determine that control, preventative detention or prohibited contact orders cease to be in force 10 years after those provisions become law and that any of those orders cannot be applied for or made after that time. There is no sunset clause relating to schedule 6, Treason and sedition. This means in 10 years those sleeping powers will remain on statute where any future government can simply repeal the three sunset provisions to bring them back into operation. There should at least be an automatic repealing of the bill, properly amended, under a true sunset clause in five years so any continuation of these provisions are first evaluated, debated and refined.

The war on terror is a catch-all phrase to rebadge a determination free countries have had, since their freedom was established or won, to root out criminals who would seek to cause death, injury or mayhem. We should never allow it to become an excuse for an attack on the individual's right to personal liberty in peacetime. Without an express referral to the protection of individual rights under international law we risk dismantling our framework of justice that protects us from the arbitrary actions of the executive. As many have asked, do we ramp up these laws time and time again, thus eroding the very freedoms we hold up as essential virtues of our way of life?

In the last minute or so I want to comment on the recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee-and I pay tribute to Senator Payne and her colleagues for the work they have done in a very, very short time with something like 300 submissions. The very fact that there are 52 suggested amendments to this bill suggests to me the legislation has been sorely ill prepared and demands substantial amendment as this document illustrates. The recommendations surround detention orders, the reporting process, the review process, the five-year sunset recommendation and the sedition laws. I am pleased to see a more substantial role recommended for HREOC and the Ombudsman. I note recommendation 10:

The committee recommends that the Bill be amended to require the Minister-in consultation with HREOC, the Ombudsman and the Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security-to develop a Protocol governing the minimum conditions of detention and standards of treatment applicable to any person who is the subject of a preventative detention order.

The recommendations are on the right track. They certainly need to be examined far more closely than we in this place have had an opportunity to do so. The fact that this legislation was earmarked for a one-day debate and to be rammed through parliament in no time at all is an absolute indictment of the government. If that was going to be its course of action, it could then have been fairly accused of utilising that urgency to ramp up concern in the community to an unwarranted degree.

I leave it on this note: why do we now have this process that has extended it? I would suggest only because the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory jumped rank on his colleagues in COAG and put the draft bill on the web for all to see. And, after all, if all of us are to be impacted by this legislation, it was incumbent on any government to make sure that the public knew exactly what those draft provisions were, not to pretend that it was already an outdated version and not to pay any attention to it and that Mr Stanhope had somehow been duped. I know he has been ignored ever since he did it by the Prime Minister. Why do we not have the proper scrutiny? Why do we not have a proper debate and a proper inquiry into legislation that is probably the most monumental, perhaps since wartime, to hit this parliament? The government should, as a basic move, look seriously at these 52 recommendations. I cannot support the bill at this point until such attention is paid to those recommendations and the concerns I have outlined.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Margo, the Labor Party is a puzzle. They have a bucket load more intellectual horsepower at their disposal in both Houses than the Coalition government. It is such a dissappointment that they appear to get into a complete tangle.

Both Mr Crean and Mr Rudd skewered the Government with their contributions to the debate. The facts are simply undeniable. Mr Howard and his Cabinet colleagues have not simply made serious political errors, they have committed crimes against humanity. They have completely deceived the Australian people.

The price of Mr Howard's folly is our complicity in many dead and injured from other countries, a serious escalation in acts of terrorism, the fracturing of our society and the rapid reemrgence of ethnic and releigious hate and vilification.

Mr Howard and some of his colleagues will some day be charged with their crimes against humanity and we will look back on this period with deep regret and perhaps, many reasons to fear for the future of our children, and horror upon horror, find oursleves weeping over the bodies of our dead citizens - the victims of mindless acts of terrorism.

I did not think it was possible to harbour such a complete disgust for a fellow Australian, nor did I expect to find myself so ashamed of our Government and so many elected members of both Houses of our Parliament, who have neither the common sense nor the common good in mind, who clearly can't find the stomach to stand against this tyranny, whatever the cost. Gutless sods the lot of them. Mr Beazley's situation was a bad one and perhaps he could have gven the leadership and walked across that floor first.

And yes, I too was saddened to see Ms Lawrence turn mute when action was called for - and I really don't care how uncomfortable it may have been for her colleagues, who should also have been shoulder to shoulder with her in their short walk - one short walk, across the floor.

Nor wonder evil triumphs - and the Howard government is evil in intent and action! Useless bastards!

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

G'day. All clear on terror laws from partyroom, according to this report.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

I’ve noted with interest Margo’s various comments on people’s letters, to the effect that it is very politically painful to cross the floor and that MHR’s and Senators don’t do it unless there is something to be gained, i.e. they don’t like to make useless gestures. Point taken.

But I don’t really understand why Margo is suggesting it is all up to the Coalition Party Room now. Because unless Labor initiates or supports motions in the Senate to reject or amend particular parts of the counter-terrorism legislation that is now in the Senate, there is nothing for three or four Liberal dissenting senators to cross the floor for. What is the point, if they are only going to join the Greens and Democrats in an outvoted minority of 10 or 11 or 12 senators ?

The ball still comes back to Labor's court, doesn’t it ? Will Labor tomorrow (Thursday) unite with Greens and Democrats in the Senate in opposition to the worst parts of the bill, eg Schedule 7 on sedition, in order to give Liberal dissenters something to cross the floor for ? In that they would then have the knowledge that they had used their combined numbers to stop these sections of the bill from being passed ? But without Labor laying an assured voting platform for Liberal dissenters, it would be pointless for them to cross the floor.

Of course on my best scenario - if the sedition schedule was thrown out in this way - Howard and Co would say it was Labor’s fault. Would this then be another wedge opportunity for Howard, to seek to discredit Labor ( and his dissenters) in the mass electorate? Couldn’t Labor for once stand up to that by firmly telling the electorate the truth - that this was a bad law that violated our freedom of speech?

Interesting days ahead. And these were the kinds of clever party games Weimar Republic politicians played as Hitler manouevred to consolidate the power of the Nazis in the German Reichstag in 1933.

Sometimes, Kim, one has to look beyond focus group polls and short-term tactical considerations. What about a breath of idealism, in the national interest ?

Margo: Beazley promised Labor would move amendments in the Senate as refined after the Senate Committee. Thus votes will be taken on those amendments in the Senate unless there's a way for the Government to use its numbers to stop such votes. I don't think they can. Labor did force votes on sedition in the Reps.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

All, just remember that when this all comes to pass that the Coalition and Labor MPs and Senators didn't have the balls to stop it. Shame on each and every one of them for evermore. May all Australians long remember this.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Hi Margo. I appreciate your comments about crossing the floor and that for Carmen to have done so would have not brought about any effective change.

However, I still find Carmen's behaviour disappointing. At the forum in Perth she gave an excellent powerful speech in opposition to this legislation. When she said she would not vote for it she received much applause. Many people in the auidence assumed she meant she would cross the floor and she let them believe that. She however meant exactly what she said - she would not vote for it because there either wouldn't be a vote or she would abstain.

We are all too familiar with Howard's careful (ab)use of language where he says something which is read by the electorate as meaning something different and which serves to insulate him from political fallout. We should be similarly critical of this type of rhetorical device when used by someone like Carmen.

At the same forum a Labor member of our State's upper house faced the audience to say that while she had grave concerns about the State's anti-terror legislation including the enabling legislation she would not cross the floor but would work to build community opposition. She was howled down by the audience but she was at least honest.

Margo: Clare, I talked with Carmen a while ago about this, and she said the same thing. We spoke of the likelihood that no division would be called, and that she would not join Andren to force a division. From the comments so far I don't think she was being misleading in Perth - maybe she assumed her audience knew more about Parliamentary procedures than they did. I'm pleased we're discussing parliamentary procedures in more detail now. It's supposed to be the People's Place, after all.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

I remember well that Crean really stood his ground over that in 2002 and here we go in 2005 with bloody me-too Beazley at it again.

For god's sake we don't need these stupid laws, the Iraqis and Afghanis needed them again us though didn't they?

Daphne, I suggest you read Winton Higgins "Journey into Darkness", David Corlett's "Sending them Home", Michael Gordon's "Freeing Ali", Andrew Wilkie's "Axis of Deceit", Marr and Wilkinson's "Dark Victory", then you will see what this nation has been doing in our names.

Then go to the senate website, follow the links to committees and read the submissions to the investigation into the Migration Act.

Everything that is wrong with Australia today can be read on that site - and Howard and Ruddock are the architects.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Margo, thanks for the SMH report. There is a further useful report of last night’s coalition meeting on ABC “Lateline” last night – transcript here.

Here is the part (the last one-third) of Sally Sara’s report that dealt with the counter-terrorism law (most of the report was on the IR bill). Note Senator Brandis’s comment.

“SALLY SARA: While Barnaby Joyce focuses on the amendments to the industrial relations legislation, the Government has also made changes to its counter-terrorism laws. It's taken on board some of the suggestions put forward by the Senate. A Coalition- dominated Senate committee recommended more than 50 changes to the legislation, including a five year sunset clause and the removal of sedition laws. But both of those demands have been knocked back. The sunset clause will stay at 10 years with a five year review, and the sedition laws will remain, but will be reviewed early next year.

SENATOR GEORGE BRANDIS, COMMITTEE MEMBER: In the meantime, the sedition law, in the form it will now take, is sufficiently hedged and guarded by safeguards and expanded defences to remove any doubt anybody could have that political speech and political commentary could be affected.

SALLY SARA: Labor says the extra safeguards won't be enough.

NICOLA ROXON, LABOR SPOKESWOMAN: We think it's just crazy to try to turn a law that was designed to protect kings and queens of Britain, to use it as a tool to fight terrorism in the 21st century.

SALLY SARA: But it seems the Government will have its way. The PM is hopeful that the counter-terrorism and industrial relations changes will be through the parliament before Christmas. Sally Sara, Lateline”

What this story indicates is that even if Labor moves amendments to the bill in the Senate (my guess is it will be today – Howard will want to leave no time for second thoughts) based on the Senate L and C Committee Report, e.g., to remove Schedule 7 on the sedition laws, Senators Payne, Brandis and Mason will vote with the coalition. So will Senator Joyce who has taken no interest in the sedition law. So, presumably will Senator Fielding who has been equally silent on the issue.

So Labor will get its warm inner glow, but the laws will be passed with token amendments Kim will have succeeded in his main political aim - not to be wedged on a national security issue. Of course, any one of those non-Labor Senators could do what Carmen Lawrence did in the final reps vote - absent themselves from the chamber when the votes are taken. But somehow I doubt that they will.

So, at the end of the day, after a brave effort in Committee, our Coalition senators knuckle under once again to Howard. And so Australia continues its inexorable slide into fascism.

Carmen, Nicola, George, Marise, Brett – I hope you’ll visit people like me when we go to jail. Because under this law, sooner or later, people like me will.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

I have to say I'm with Clare and Tony on this one, Margo (as you could guess from our conversation on a related thread).

Either you have core values you are not prepared to compromise or you don't. Not calling for a division is a compromise. It might be smart. It might be realistic. It's still a compromise.

Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have Carmen and Peter et al, wrangling with their conscience about this question than not have them at all!

But ultimately there comes a time when you have to stand up for what you believe in. Maybe they don't think that time has come yet - that's a reasonable argument, but it's not the argument they made in their speeches and I haven't heard them say it publicly anywhere else.

Not one newspaper will have recorded a word any of them said in their speeches. As someone with Mr Albanese as my MP, I think I'm entitled to know why he didn't put his money where his mouth is. And Peter Garrett of all people, as a former activist prepared to break the law in order to uphold the values of this country, should know better.

Yes there would be pain, but if half the ALP voted against the Bill they can hardly expel them all...

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Marilyn and Margo, thank you. Each in your way said what I needed to hear.

I think I got really down this morning as I heard the news on ABC. I just lost faith. Particularly as this same thing is happening or has happened in the US, UK and other countries.

Okay. Time to stop the "sorry for me" attitude and get on with the fight. I do happen to want to be one of those who stand up for truth and justice for as long as it is needed. Well, I guess that will probably until the end of time...

And Marilyn, I have noted the "abuse and vitriol" a few posters have given you. And I have admired you for what you stand for.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Daphne we were told that this government would never stop locking up children for years at a time out in the desert and that we should all just shut up. Well Daphne, on 29 July this year we stopped locking up children in the desert for years on end.

We were told that the Afghans would all have to go home after the fall of the Taliban but Daphne, they are all still here but one family - we started a program called "Let them stay" and it worked.

They told us no-one sent to Nauru or Manus Island would ever be allowed to come to Australia but nearly 1,000 of them are here as refugees.

Ruddock declared he would not close Woomera as it was an excellent deterrent - Woomera is closed.

Of course we still have the consequences of those horrors to overcome but slowly, surely we won.

Margo can tell you the amount of abuse and vitriol I have taken over the years but in the end we won the fights.

We can overcome the sedition things, the IR stuff will cause industrial unrest like never seen before. And the good news is they just don't have enough jails for us all.

If one goes we all go.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

The whole thing just makes a mockery of the "House of Representative"! Tell me who is being represented here? The lily livered lot that bow to anything Howard wants still collect their very sizable incomes at the end of the day even if they know they are not supporting what the community wants them to do. Sure they might lose their jobs at the end of their term but by that time most of them have their snouts in the trough for the rest of their lives. THEY DON'T CARE! It's all very depressing!

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Marilyn, you said:

"Daphne, I suggest you read Winton Higgins "Journey into Darkness", David Corlett's "Sending them Home", Michael Gordon's "Freeing Ali", Andrew Wilkie's "Axis of Deceit", Marr and Wilkinson's "Dark Victory", then you will see what this nation has been doing in our names. Then go to the senate website, follow the links to committees and read the submissions to the investigation into the Migration Act. Everything that is wrong with Australia today can be read on that site - and Howard and Ruddock are the architects."

I have read "Axis of Deceit", plus Kevin Dennis's "A Certain Maritime Incident", as mentioned in an earlier post.

Also, I have read completely two of the 600 odd submissions to the Senate. Time really doesn't permit too much more...

But in the end, what's the use? Could we the people have stopped this from happening?

We certainly couldn't stop our soldiers being sent to Iraq on a lie, and I don't believe Howard would have respected us anymore this time around.

The real worry is that Labor led by Beazley is just the other side of the coin for the one agenda.

Thank you to all for the additional books you suggested, but I'm at the point where I wonder if all the reading and all the talking on sites such as this means anything at all.

Margo, is there anything we can actually DO to halt the degress of our "democratic" country into what is sure to end up, with a few more "terr'st attacks", as a police state where we do not even have the freedom to express our own political views?

Can we the people actually DO anything at all? Or has democracy, in truth, died completely?

Margo: Everything you do is insignificant, but it is very important that you do it - Ghandi.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Russell and Margo:

Thank you for that - worst suspicions confirmed re. Amnesty and Ruddock. My uncertainty was due to a combination of not having an Idiot Box, and averting my eyes from Ruddock’s image wherever possible. If I wanted to ogle the undead, I have plenty of zombie movie DVD’s to choose from (playable on PC) that are much more fun.

Michael: It doesn’t surprise me that I was not first to enquire. Thank you for the info. As you can see, I have just received a similar reply, but have dealt with it as shown below...

Email just sent back to Amnesty International Australia, 1st December:


Dear Wayne and Kathy,

Thank you very much for the prompt, informative and honest reply.

You wrote:

Dear Andy,

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the membership of Mr Philip Ruddock
with Amnesty International Australia. We have forwarded your email on to
the Executive Assistant who liaises with our board of directors. Below is
the response made by our previous National President - Kathy Kingston

Kathy Kingston

Since early 2000, there has been a lot of speculation and some disquiet
about the decision by Philip Ruddock to continue wearing his Amnesty
International badge, and the decision by Amnesty International Australia
not to take action against him. Owing to the Australian government's
ongoing refusal to adhere to international human rights standards regarding the arbitrary and prolonged detention of asylum seekers and the so-called 'Pacific solution', this issue continues to be contentious. What has
Amnesty International Australia done regarding this matter and what can
Amnesty International Australia members do?

Amnesty International Australia has on a number of occasions asked Philip
Ruddock not to wear his badge when representing the government and
advocating policy or legislation which Amnesty International actively
campaigns against. He has persistently chosen to continue to wear his badge despite our steadfast requests. There are no provisions in Amnesty International Australia’s articles of association permitting disciplinary action such as expulsion from membership in this case. Our advice is that adding such provisions might be considered ‘oppressive conduct’ under Australian Corporations Law.

In short, we can neither force Philip Ruddock to remove his badge nor expel or suspend him from the membership of Amnesty International Australia. The decision now lies in the hands of Philip Ruddock. He can choose to live up to the values that his badge represents.

Meanwhile, despite this inconvenient distraction, we must remain diligent
and vigilant in our campaigning efforts. Every hour spent lobbying for the removal of Philip Ruddock's badge is an hour better spent campaigning for the removal of children from detention centres.

Kathy Kingston was the previous National President of Amnesty International Australia.


Amnesty International appreciates your support and interest in the fight
against Human Rights Abuse, globally.

Kind Regards,

Wayne Harvey
Supporter Liaison Officer
Amnesty International Australia

29 Shepherd St, Chippendale, NSW
Locked Bag 23, Broadway, NSW 2007
e-mail: servicecentre@amnesty.org.au
Ph: 1300 300 920
Fax: +61 2 9217 7663


I note:

1. Mr. Ruddock's transgressions against the values of Amnesty run a lot further than you state. The latest example is his current insistence on implementing the sedition provisions in the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Bill, which will enable the criminalisation of Australians who dare to criticise the Government, and will silence a larger number of Australians who do not dare to do so. The recent Senate Inquiry on the Bill recommended that this section of the Bill be deleted completely, but is being ignored by Mr. Ruddock.

2. On your "About AI" WWW page, you claim:

"Amnesty International (AI) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights.

In pursuit of this vision, AI’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights. "

Surely, you can only guarantee this if you have some mechanism for restricting membership to people who do not demonstrably contravene these values?

If there is not a mechanism for expelling such a member, then surely it is possible to refuse to let them renew their subscription when their current subscription expires?

There should, additionally, be a mechanism for enforcing the removal of unsuitable person's badges, at Amnesty's disgression.

3. I find it unreasonable that a not-for-profit organisation with publicly stated values cannot restrict its membership to those who share those values. I do not see why Corporate Law should apply to such an organisation, or why such restriction should constitute "oppressive conduct". I find the latter term laughabale in Mr. Ruddock's case, given the oppression that he has demonstrably inflicted on so many people already.
With respect, I suggest that you need a second legal opinion on this matter, and that your Articles of Association do need changing.

4. Mr. Ruddock's continued membership compromises Amnesty Australia's ethical position. I refuse to join an organisation which is locked into hypocritical behaviour, and I am not alone in this. You are losing membership and funding by not ridding yourselves of this problem.

5. If Amesty International Australia cannot adhere to the values of its parent organisation, then perhaps it should be disaffiliated from the parent organisation?

I have sent a copy of this response to the International Secretariat in London, and would be interested to receive their views on the matter.

Yours Sincerely,

Andy Christy

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

Daphne O'Brien, I can only reiterate what both Margo and Marilyn have said - in spades! And I’ve also just found a missive from the (in)famous Michael Moore in my inbox. The section relevant to your concerns is:

“I just thought we should all pause for a moment today to remember the simple act of courage, defiance and dignity committed by Rosa Parks when she refused to move to the back of the bus because the law said she had the wrong skin color. The greatest moments in history, the ones that have truly mattered and have taken us to a better place, are made up of scores of these singular acts by ordinary, everyday people who could no longer tolerate the crap and the nonsense of those in charge. …. There is probably no better way to honor Rosa Parks -- and yourself -- than for you to put a stop to an injustice you see, not allowing it to continue for one more second.”

In the most genuine sense – I do hope that this helps.

re: Howard's Christmas terror dejavu for Simon Crean

I would have not thought it possible that Simon Cream had more backbone that Kim Beazley, but now I just wonder.

Making threats that he would tear up the legislation if he wins power and proving this by voting with the Howard government is just characteristic mf his me tooism approach to opposition. It shows he has a lack of policy direction and lacks the ticker. Is this the sign of a good leader? Where was the howling noise he promised?

Even Simon Cream offered a more decisive approach to this hogwash now becoming law. I just hope that Kim Beazley just will just for once listen those constructive criticisms coming from our educated institutions such as the Law Council and make a stand supporting them rather than pandering to popular fear. At least Mark Latham didn’t take the crap dished out by the Howard government as what appears to be happening now.

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