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APEC protests: LibLab presents our very own police state

The APEC thuggery results from a Labor and Liberal conspiracy to destroy our civil liberties and give police untrammelled power to serve political ends. I've been warning of this on Webdiary for many years. We saw with Haneef that now, police and/or government lawyers are prepared to lie under oath to the Courts to get their way. And the NSW Labor Government's disgrace started long before Iemma.

  When I attended a Carr press conference  to question him about effectively abolishing the right to march a la Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, he said he would answer my questions because I blamed the Bali bombing victims for their own deaths. A lie, of course, but the tactic of an unethical, whatever it takes politician.Webdiary's 2002 archive is here. Back then, the forces for liberty still had a bit of clout. It's been downhill since then. Below is some stuff I wrote back then.

As for Miranda Devine's conversion, she's a classic case of not giving a damn about the rights and liberties of fellow citizens because she's confident she and her friends won't have to worry. Miranda backed Carr's government all the way when he started NSW down this track in 2002, and the Liberal Opposition said yes please, but make it tougher! But everyone's in the same boat in  the end - think Rau, Alvarez - if we let governments get all the power. Except the really big people, of course. And that's, yep, fascism.

We've gotta rein these bastards in, give the Courts back the power to scrutinise state actions, and somehow get a bill of rights. Think about this before you vote. Please. Just ask John Howard. He said in 1998: '"The law is a valuable bulwark against tyranny and a slide into authoritarianism. As we have seen only too sadly in one or two places recently, the first sign of a drift to authoritarianism is an apparent encroachment by the executive upon the absolute independence and the absolute integrity of the courts of a nation."




Sniffing terrorism (May 9) - 'Now NSW Labor's latest outrage, putting sniffer dogs on public transport. A pattern is emerging across the mainstream parties - ever increasing surveillance and control over our personal lives and beliefs, coupled with the dumping of rights and freedoms we had taken for granted. No free market on this circuit, folks.'

Labor's new crime: Civil disobedience (Nov 1): "Attention left wing voters: Labor disowns civil disobedience and demands you defect to the Greens!
NSW police minister Michael Costa is first off the blocks in the counter-attack against the Greens, and it's beautiful. Civil disobedience is an outrage. The Party founded on civil disobedience now thinks the picket line is an obscenity. All you Labor MPs who joined the wharfies picket against Patricks, get lost. Free speech is no longer allowed in Parliament House if Costa doesn't like what might be said. He'd have no sympathy with Henry Lawson's ode to the Labour movement, Freedom on the Wallaby, written during the great Shearer's strike of 1891 which triggered the formation of the ALP."

Protesting GATTS, if you're game (Nov 10): "My only personal experience of civil disobedience was in the late 1970s, when Sir Joh banned the right to march by telling police to refuse to issue any march permits. In response, I joined hundreds of others in King George Square outside City hall in the middle of Brisbane. We faced an ampitheatre - the street was surrounded by onlookers, and more than 700 police stood ready to defend the patch of street in front of the square. When we walked onto the street we were arrested and put in jail until someone - in my case my mother - arrived to bail us out. I was chucked into a tiny cell with about 20 others, where I worked out pretty quickly that this was not my scene. I also worked out that I had nothing but respect and admiration for people who could take all this to confront the system with its own injustice. Several ALP members who went on to become State government ministers were arrested in the right to march protests. To see the NSW police minister playing Costa's game fills me with dread and foreboding. I don't know what Costa is up to, apart from creating hysteria, but I don't like it."

Hey Joh: Costa's the new demon along the watchtower (November 14): "For a week now I've been tracking the progress of the story that's resulted in injuries to a journalist on Sydney streets today, but the inevitability of the denouement makes makes me feel no less sick at the behaviour of NSW police minister Michael Costa.Images of the worst of times in Queensland under Sir Joh keep flashing through my mind. A police officer caught on video repeatedly bashing a protester walking, just walking, in the front line of a march. Sir Joh said onya. Division on the street - regular people with a cause pitted against hundreds of police with batons. No respite, no reason. I fled ultra-conservative Queensland for a place where people's democratic rights were respected. Now history repeats itself in Labor-run NSW via a police minister who used to head the State's union movement and now apes a Queensland Premier hated by unionists. Many unionists are protesting today against the WTO meeting. Costa puts hundreds of police on the street to face them, after frothing at the mouth for days on how evil they all are, creating a hyped media event from nothing. It can't be... It is."

Costa: police watchdog (Nov 19):  "It's now clear that the people of NSW live in a dual reality. I saw most of the TV news programs on the night of last week's march through the city, and saw no violence from protesters. I did see a mounted police officer charge into a reporter.The next day The Daily Telegraph splashed with "WHAT A BLOODY DISGRACE" and a picture of a small man held by three large police being led towards the camera. The lead paragraph, by reporters Ben English and Rachel Morris, read: 'Violent street demonstrations over the World Trade Organisation's meeting in Sydney by a coalition of professional protesters have cost taxpayers more than $5 million to police.'The Tele published no pictures of protester violence."

Carr dust-up: Bob Carr and me (Nov 19), Carr got the wrong girl (Oct 20),  Jack's back (Nov 20), Seven precepts for disempowered people (Nov 21),  In which Jack is repelled from the citadel (Nov 22)

Protecting our safety AND our liberty (Nov 22): "My suggestion is this. Oversight of the new police powers should be vested in an experienced, independent person who the people of NSW trust. If our core protections against the abuse of government and police power must be suspended - which they must - then the people must feel supremely confident that their interests are being fully protected."

Democracy's watchdogs blind to the danger (Dec 2): "Once again, our media has failed us when it comes to protecting our civil rights. Everyone talks about rights and responsibilities these days, but the media has vacated the field on insisting that governments be responsible for the protection of our liberties, rather than take advantage of fear to trample them under cover of the war on terrorism."

What about a bill of rights?  (December 4): ". The deed is nearly done. By tonight, the NSW parliament will have passed new laws which allow police, on the say so of the police minister, to break-in to your house and search it, to strip search you, to search your vehicle, and to insist that you answer questions. The police minister is immune from scrutiny for whatever he authorises and there's no public disclosure of what is done under the new powers.'



Come in, Big Brother (May 1):

Pick the difference between the following criminal acts.

(1) Martin Bryant massacres 35 people at Port Arthur. A bloke discovers his girlfriend has slept with a mate and torches his car. Football friends bash supporters of the rival team. Drunken mates end the night throwing rocks at shop windows.

(2) A woman kills her newborn child because "God told me I'd given birth to the devil". A man thinks all Arabs are terrorists, and kills his neighbour "as my bit to save civilisation". Aboriginal youths vandalise the new Reconciliation Walk in Canberra because "it's a symbol of our oppression". Protesters at the Woomera detention centre pull down a fence to get closer to asylum seekers.

In (1), each offender gets the full protection of the criminal law and maximum penalties vary according to the nature of the crime. In (2), each has committed "a terrorist act" and can be detained incommunicado for up to six days by ASIO before arrest and people who ASIO believes can help them in their inquiries get the same treatment. All offenders face life in jail. If any belong to an organisation, the government can, in many cases, ban it even before a charge is laid or proved.

The extremity of the difference is courtesy of the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) bill to be considered by Parliament soon. For the first time, the "motive" for the crime, rather than the offender's action, is crucial. If someone causes serious harm to a person or serious damage to property to advance "a political, religious or ideological cause" he is guilty of a "terrorist act", and the rulebook goes out the window.

Why has terrorism been so broadly defined? In a statement on December 18, Attorney-General Daryl Williams said "a terrorist act" would be "an offence under the UN and other international counter-terrorism instruments, or an act committed for a political, religious or ideological purpose designed to intimidate the public with regard to its security and intended to cause serious damage to persons, property or infrastructure". In other words, what most of us would agree is terrorism.

But the qualifier has gone. Try as it might, the Senate committee examining the bill cannot get the government to say why, although it admits that many protests, including picketing, are now drawn into the terrorism net. Its response: people should trust the police not to prosecute and the government to be circumspect. Yet the Attorney-General's department said that, in practise, the police would likely charge an alleged offender as a terrorist or a mere criminal depending on which charge would be easier to prove.

The result is sinister laws giving this and future governments carte blanche to persecute individuals and organisation opposing its political interests. The Attorney-General can ban an organisation if he believes it "has endangered or is likely to endanger the security or integrity" of Australia "or another country". That means he can ban free Tibet movements (endangering China), free West Papua movements (endangering Indonesia), and could have banned free East Timor groups and the ANC. Anyone who remains a member of or donates to or "assists" a banned organisation is guilty of a crime, penalty 25 years jail.

The potential of all this is summed up by Melbourne QC Julian Burnside, a member of Liberty Victoria. Agreeing with evidence from the Law Council that the assault on Parliament House by renegade protesters during a peaceful demonstration several years ago would now be "a terrorist act", he said:

"Imagine that same episode at Parliament House: lots of damage and so on. Then imagine that in one scenario all of the people participating are dressed in balaclavas and have CFMEU logos front and back. Next imagine that they are all Aborigines. Next imagine that they are all distinctly Middle Eastern in appearance. Next imagine that they are all calling out in a broad Irish brogue. Add the stereotypes as you like. At that point, ask: will they be treated in any different way? Will people understand this legislation any differently, according to the identity of the people involved?

"I suspect that the honest answer is that, yes, they will. If it were a bunch of middle-aged housewives who had just got a bit carried away after bingo, I think that people would react rather differently.

"Then add to that this question: what is the political complexion of the government of the day? Does that make any difference to your confidence that there will or will not be a prosecution?"...


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Axel Honneth, disrespect and APEC

What does Axel Honneth have to do with APEC or what does disrespect look like?

What follows is an account of experiences on the day of the APEC demonstration in Sydney. It is more of an account of my 'feeling state' response to the event than anything else. In other words it is an attempt to make sense of my own and communal feelings of outrage on the day...

Up Williams Street from the Town Hall square which has been barricaded on all sides by white painted government buses that are converted to mobile prisons for the day. We're locked into the front of the march, right behind the fire brigade unionists and right in front of the MUA contingent. The firies are heavy set, fit blokes with a spark in their eyes and it feels good and safe to have them nearby. I speculate to my daughter that the organisers have put these blokes up front because they are 'triple 0' workers, like the coppers, and there is an unwillingness between them to get stuck in. Maybe. I've never seen so many coppers at a demo. And these days they don't look like coppers so much as paras with their combat pants, high topped boots, yankee caps and hardware.

I am watchful, like everyone else. This isn't your average Sydney peace march. For weeks the trash media has been pumping up the terrorist threat in order to feed some more fear into the poor cowering bastards that Australians have become under Howard. We've been labelled anarchists and potential terrorists. As if. Members of the DSP start the chant "This is what democracy looks like" and I think "No, this is what Santiago looked like in '75 and that wasn't democracy". More white buses block every street on the left and right of Williams Street all the way to Hyde Park. Coppers line both sides of the street, all the way. In Elizabeth Street the coppers have parked their brand new water cannon to intimidate us. Just in case. It looks like a child's fantasy, a giant Tonka toy truck, but it is a weapon designed only for use against masses of people. It has no other use. No garden sprinkle setting. Their 'Big Dick' truck. I ponder whether politics always be about dicks?

At the corner of Elizabeth and Williams we have a sit down for a few minutes. It takes one poor old bugger with a stiff leg so much time to lower himself to the ground that most of us are back up on our feet before he has settled. I have a good look around and realise that the march consists of an army of grey hairs. In our immediate vicinity my teenage daughter is the youngest and I calculate that she is significantly less than half the age of anyone else within twenty metres. The young aren't complacent. They've been scared off.

People in the crowd are pointing out snipers on rooftops. The sound of choppers thudding overhead is continuous. This feels nasty. The march comes to a stop and I can see why. The coppers have blocked Williams Street between Hyde Park North and South and are going to force a crowd of maybe ten thousand or more to enter the northern half of the park via a small set of steps at the south-west corner. No-one seems to know what to do but I feel resentful at this treatment. They are making their point that they are in charge. There is a double line of them and some idiot starts barking orders at them in parade ground fashion to 'shift right' or some such. This feels really ugly. The front few ranks of the march pause. Our streets, our democracy, our bloody park mate. Get out of the way. A bloke built like a tank who I've seen around the place walks along the rank of coppers so close that he is brushing them. He wears a leather jacket, a felt hat and has a neck you couldn't get two hands around. He is clearly furious, muttering under his breath and, like me, has his daughter in tow. Maybe, like me, he was hoping that things might have been better than this for our kids.

Face to face now with the coppers. They want to have a crack, you can feel it. Christ, they must have drained every country precinct in NSW to get so many of them here today! They are wearing vests and armoured gloves and I think that a belt from someone wearing those would be like being hit in the head with a brick. They are young blokes who've been wound up by senior command, the media and slaveringly subordinate politicians about what a bad bunch of bastards the demonstrators are. In the current political climate, I guess we are, really, for daring to have a different opinion and for having sufficient spine to voice it in an old fashioned, street march kind of way. Good on us. And good on my beautiful, brave daughter for having enough faith in me to be here. She would have come anyway, even if I had not, because she is training herself to be brave. She is going to need to be brave, the way things are shaping up.

We finally make it into Hyde Park and the strain eases. People spread out. The Police bottle-necking of the crowd means that it is going to take a long time for the crowd to gather in the park so I go off and get us a coffee and a hot chocolate. On the way there are small groups of familiar faces from Politics in the Pub and elesewhere. They are all older than me. It is like a pensioners re-union. We hang out and chat and decide to go down to look at the ridiculous fence at Circular Quay. We are not the only ones and on the way we chat to a bloke who is in the company of his son. I start to notice this pairing everywhere - parents with their teenaged kids. This is a hopeful sign. Good bonding, that. The ugly functionality of the fence is confronting. Well, when did the wealthy and the powerful defending their own privelege ever look aesthetically pleasing? What did we expect, Bahaus?

Our attempts to return to Hyde Park are thwarted. The whole of Hyde Park North is ringed by coppers who won't let us cross Elizabeth Street. They won't let elderly shoppers leaving DJ's cross Elizabeth Street either. There is a small crowd outside DJ's looking across at the large crowd around the fountain in Hyde Park. Feeling impish I argue loudly that the Police are interfering with people's right to shop. Without irony, one shopper agrees. I try to organise a spontaneous mass crossing of Elizabeth Street but the shoppers aren't up to defending their interests that vigorously. Police cordoning of the streets forces us to walk almost all the way back to Town Hall square and then up Williams Street again to regain entry to Hyde Park. Both sides of Williams Street between Hyde Park North and South are lined by coppers. We are forced into Hyde Park South and then allowed to cross to the North via a two metre wide funnel formed by coppers. Hundreds of people are virtually queuing to exercise their democratic rights.

We are being treated like shit. Politics isn't about the absence of feelings. It is about acting on one's feelings. There is a rationality to feelings that we ignore at out own peril. Axel Honneth has revitalised critical theory by exploring exactly the issue of disrespect and its affective consequences. The whole day has been one long experience of disrespect for our rights, for our views, for our right to voice our views, for us as citizens. I'm pissed off now and to my daughter's chagrin and delight, on finally gaining the safety of the wall in Hyde Park North, I make my hands into a low tech megaphone and tell the coppers and the crowd that we are the class who pay our taxes and that the coppers had better not forget that they are on our payroll. Our taxes pay their wages and they are our servants, not Howard's, not Bush's, not Iemma's. Ours. It is an old fashioned notion. Someone in the crowd below shouts back "we know who you are".

Inside the park at last and it is clear that Sydney's left has managed to create the usual good humoured carnival atmosphere despite the outrageous Police provocation and Howard's hysteria. We are too clever to not understand that anything resembing 'public disorder' would have played right into Howard's hands. There are plenty of street performances: a guy in bad drag, numerous people in costumes, an abundance of silliness on a serious day. The issues are so clear that there is no need to bang on about them. We are playful. There is music and the PA plays the Beastie Boys singing 'you gotta fight for your right to party'. Too true.

The right to gather peacefully in public is essential to democracy. It is a doorway to particpation on a mass basis. It is not ineffective, it is not a display of mass powerlessness or a gathering of the democratically underpriveleged. We bring ourselves into being as citizens at moments like this. We gather to assert our democratic right to act, not as members of elite circles of policy makers, but fundamentally as citizens because without citizens policy has no meaning. The exercise of public virtue consists of treating others with recognition and respect. The absence of respect from the state represents a diminution of us as citizens. We'd better watch out because the Policing of the APEC march was so aggressive that it constituted an attack on the idea of citizenship. Ultimate disrespect. Sure, we want an end to war, poverty and injustice. But after that day at APEC, we also now want an end to the sorts of policies and legislation that proscribe people because we remember the lessons of Chile and Argentina where first they 'proscribe' you then they 'disappear' you. We want an end to bullying Policing at mass public gatherings. We want a genuine democracy, not the sham that we have now.

We leave and I go to work on afternoon shift in the emergency department of a major public hospital. I am informed that the hospital has an unheard of eighty empty beds due to APEC planning in which elective surgery was cancelled to provide space in the event of a major terrorist attack. Later that night I join GetUp. For me now no more political parties, bully boy factions, corrupt deals or rampant narcissists. Citizens acting independently, with respect, and offering mutual recognition. Nothing less.

Anthony Nolan

Axel Honneth - Disrespect: The Normative Foundations of Critical Theory - http://www.amazon.com/Disrespect-Normative-Foundations-Critical-Theory/dp/0745629067

What was, what might have been

Thanks Anthony, I was back there again.  Like David Davis, we probably came within metres of each other.

In spite of a sickness in the stomach pit when I recall the cops on the day, it's almost farcical when compared to the other end of the spectrum.  While we were there, and while there was some fear of a bomb attack, the US "intelligence" mob had lost Al Qaeda due to the White House leaking the Osama tape.   All this attention for we deadly protesters, and in the meantime if a command had been given through the Obelisk network to let a dirty bomb off in Hyde Park, it wouldn't have been detected.  Maybe that's what the cops were for... to shoot the inevitable looters?

I have a very dark political comedy lurking in the back of my head from the above scenario.

Unlike in the Homeland Security drills being conducted right now in the US, without intelligence warning our authorities would have been in chaos.  That's what I think the hospital beds may have been a contingency for.

My gut still says that everyone was much more worried about a much more dire situation.  In hindsight (the Osama stuff up only revealed a week ago, but hardly mentioned in Australia) things may have gone much more badly.

The snipers surely weren't there for the protesters, were they? Remember from my piece the bloke with the sound system in the wheelie bin that was searched three times?  I know what I thought the police were looking for.  In light of the IED and Iran and dirty bomb stuff bouncing around the ether over the last week, I don't think I was being over-paranoid.  I also reckon the "sharpshooters" (to borrow from US spin) were for anyone the cops thought was on the brink of detonating.

We Shall Overcome

Hi Paul,

I understand that they’re working on it.

“We’re” working on it too.  Our job is to help cultivate among the people the power and determination to live free and proud.  To help our mates.  To care for country and for people.

It’s important to me to remember that we aren’t a democracy because the state (the Divine Right of Parliaments) says we ought to be.  People have died for it.  The blood of Martyrs and Citizens have nourished it.  In Australia our heritage of democracy is in our blood, and we owe to our forbears and descendants to exercise it joyously and vigilantly.

And to assume that 99.99% feel the same way.  This is how human beings can respond to the fear-mongering of would be fascists.

God Bless the Chaser.

I wish you could have been in Court with us in Alice Springs and seen the faces and the feelings and the spirit of goodwill that came to light among the lawyers, court staff, security staff, witnesses, DOD, AFP and ASIO staff, supporters and members of the public as we spent 12 days examining the war in Iraq, the law, and the citizens’ duties in times like today.

Our job was to break down barriers and win conviction that we all have an obligation to end this war, and by extension all wars.  Well, we certainly got conviction.  But all of the people in that Courtroom, including ourselves, went away with a better sense of how humanity might prevail over injustice and its beneficiaries.

We’re going back for more.  First in February 2008 (18-22?) at the Court of Criminal Appeal (3 Judges to reason with) in Darwin.  The CDPP wants to put us in prison.  What could be more fun than that?

Second in April, the ANZAC Day long weekend, to do workshops and then run another series of high order NVDAs against the U.S. run Pine Gap Terror Base, just outside Alice Springs.

Each time we’ll be asking the Rudd Labor Government about U.S. Bases at Pine Gap and Geraldton, about the security and sedition laws, and about the Emperor’s new clothes.  We'll be among the first on the block.  You should think about joining us.

In the lions den

Hullo Bryan, thanks for response. You seem to ask several questions of me.

Do I think Pine Gap is the best or most relevant issue for attention from peace loving, progressive, thinking Australians just now? There are so many issues that people could consider that are reprehensible. Where do we start?

Can it be shut down is not the same as should it be shut down? No, I doubt it will be in the immediate future and Labor won't interfere with it either. Pine Gap is less "obvious" than SerfChoices or Iraq and many will feel that it has a worthwhile if MAD, ugly function.

Is it, like APEC, a good means for showing up underlying undesirable tensions, tendencies and aspects of or within a society that we both sense is under threat? Undoubtedly yes.

The fierce resistance you and your civil rights co-workers put up shone the spotlight of public opinion on repressive laws and applications of these laws as surely as the people demonstrating against APEC did, or the people exposing Refugee, Alvarez, Hicks and Dr Haneef farces did. They rendered visible the theoretical consequences those opposed to tampering with the law predicted would happen. And you and your confederates have done this over stressful months and years.

Had people like yourselves not maintained your efforts during times when most others had given up, the very concepts of civil liberties , government and citizen accountability, consciousness, judgement, conscience and freedom might have been put to sleep. As it is there was still enough "oxygen” to feed a sense of consciousness preserved in the community by different resistors of Establishment attitudes and policies. After all, self evidently an audience "alive" to be capable of appreciating something like the Chaser's pomposity -exploding stunts of recent weeks or mock the eventuation of the "forbidden city" of Sydney, when all that money could have built a hospital in East Timor, or even Melbourne, or funded health improvements for Aboriginals.

Despite everything that has happened over the last fifteen years, some sense of community and issues still exists. People have somehow kept talking and thinking, being stimulated by people asking certain questions, and now the opinion polls here and in America demonstrate that the people sensed nonsenses were “on", eventually. Now they reject the more obvious failed antics and their authors. The people maybe were not asleep after all, just quiet but watchful after an initial nap, until they worked out what was true and what was not, "coming out in the wash" and awaited opportunities to eventually remove the offenders. Maybe they were lazy, but it obvious even in a conservative society that sufficient people can become revolted by the suffering in poor and oppressed countries offshore and the disempowered at home

With any luck Bush and Howard will both be gone in the next year. Some of the danger of the current system falling into the hands of delinquents and vandals (for any longer) will at least be alleviated, if probably only temporarily. But further reforming the system, let alone dismantling and getting rid of the system itself (with what?), is another issue and will become harder the more abstract and radical the program. Component failure is not systemic failure until replacing the offending component fails. And the majority will not move unless they have to. Why would they?

In the rubble of Berlin post ww2 "they" finally did "move" but only after it was apparent that the system was, indeed, comprehensively broken to the point of being beyond repair: before that there seemed not sufficient need, regardless of any increasing uneasiness felt.

You can either campaign on the rainforests in general, say, as to a specific environmental issue within wider ecology,(or "nuclear", say). You can then focus on a specific aspect like the Tassie pulp mill which an immediate threat, if you believe it is germane to the wider cause, or cede it whilst still believing you can win on environment as a wider issue. You may think that a pulp mill may be built regardless of what you do, but believe that protesting is a good way to show up what's underlyingly wrong with the system that permits something that common sense dictates is wrong for many rational people, involving corrupted and weakened civil rights laws.

People are aroused by single issues, most likely as emergencies, or as part of baskets of issues viewed through a certain philosophical lens, in pursuit of a certain order of goals that comprise a certain type of future world, or other.

The big political parties purportedly do the latter but then there is always the tension between the pragmatists and the true believers as to who is looking more "constructively" through that "lens". The individual hopes she can influence politicians, public opinion and or win seats in parliament within the current system to do that, but not everyone s game plan let alone goals are the same.

Then there is Revolution. The big change and if this is executed in even a small way poorly, the death of a goal that remained hypothetical but possible, against what's here now that could have been lost, no matter how degraded and ignoble compared to the prize of the Big Vision that requires risk.

Bryan, am glad to congratulate you on what you and your comrades have achieved. A contribution to maintenance of social consciousness is a demonstrable, tangible achievement. Although getting Pine Gap shut down whilst achieving a nuke free world would have been icing on the cake, provided we could trust that that occurrence would achieve a guaranteed positive and irreversible outcome, too.

Wish I could answer you more satisfactorily, but will ponder on what you have written.

contra Bryan Law.

Bryan, you may be right in some sense, replying to Mary J Shepherd, but as your own experience of all people's ought to tell you; they're working on it. That's the point Margo is making: not that the line discussed by Ian MacDougall has been crossed, but that the Australian political scenario heading into the future makes it a genuine possibility that it can happen quicker than we'd say, "Jack Robinson".

It's not to be taken for granted.

When does an authoritarian become a fascist?

My sources tell me that in an earlier life Michael Costa made three attempts to qualify as a train driver, and failed the lot.  So they made him NSW Minister for Transport instead. This, if true, is an irrefutable case in support of lower standards for train drivers. Though he would have no chance passing himself off as a serious Elvis impersonator, talent scouts on the look-out for someone to play Telly Savalas (Kojak) or Warren Mitchell (Alf Garnett) in some extreme melodrama could do worse than give him a call. But only just.

Costa is a seriously unfunny man, with an earnestly unfunny seriousness about him. However, I am disinclined to call the authoritarianism of Howard, Costa and Iemma 'fascism'. That word in my opinion should be reserved for the situation where we find right-wing political parties becoming overt mass movements, building their own private armies and militias, and using them to smash all opposition: street demonstrations, union meetings, parliaments, whatever.

There is a tradition on the left of politics of calling anything one disagrees with 'fascist'; which is OK, as long as one doesn't mind the word losing its meaning, and ceasing to aid understanding and discrimination. So on this point I must disagree with Margo and Mary J.

Democracy and Capitalism

It was Brian Toohey in the Fin Review I think who pointed out the irony of G W (for Global Warming) Bush telling the Chinese to be less capitalist (stop saving) and more socialist (introduce pensions and benefits).

There is no reason to think that being free to make money will lead to freedom of the press or freedom to vote.  They are quite different.

That's the way that we do business in NSW now

This is in the SMH today


Civil libertarians and protesters accused the police of overreacting and using excessive and extreme force during Saturday's rally. They want the charges dropped.

But Andrew Scipione, the new Chief Commissioner, said tactics were clearly defined and practised. "That's the way that we do business in NSW now."

Police officers will help defend democracy

Denise Parkinson, you quote Woodrow Wilson saying "Liberty has never come from government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance."  How apposite.

Freedom of speech, assembly, organisation and political action is not something that can be completely guaranteed by legislation.  Ultimately these things are guaranteed through their regular exercise by citizens of good will - but legislation is important. 

In Queensland I use the Peaceful Assembly Act 1992, created by Labor after the Bjelke-Petersen years to regulate Police authority.  That Act creates a statutory right of assembly and political expression.

With that Act available, I and my political friends in Cairns go hard for relationship building with Police, and prior liaison when organising direct action of any kind.  As a result we now enjoy a sound and productive relationship which assists us in our political objectives, and Police in their task of maintaining peace and public order.  This operates even when we conduct civil disobedience and arrests occur.  (Civil disobedience need not, and ought not, be disorderly)  Arrests are amicable – and all the grief is directed where it belongs, to the politicians.

There’s no doubt the Commonwealth government is escalating its attacks on those who dissent.  In my own case the Commonwealth DPP and Attorney-General elected to charge us with never before used Cold War legislation (the Defence Special Undertaking Act 1952) in an attempt to secure prison time for us for a fairly simple entry into the security compound of the Pine Gap spy base outside Alice Springs.

We got a 12 day trial in the NT Supreme Court and were convicted.  In sentencing, Judge Sally Thomas took into account our prior liaison with Police, our nonviolent and cooperative behaviour, and she even found (among other things) that “the actions of the defendants which have been described in full during this trial, indicated that there is no evidence that their actions resulted in any harm or injury to any person either physical or psychological”.

Police testimony was vital to us in establishing the nonviolence of our actions.  We got a fine and restitution orders, some $13,000 in all among 4.  To my astonishment the CDPP has appealed the lenience of that sentence, and we front up to the NT Court of Criminal Appeal early next year.  They really, really want us to go to prison for (as Prosecuting Counsel submitted) “striking at the heart of national security”.  I expect we’ll defeat the CDPP’s appeal by focussing on the actual nature of our offence and discrediting the Prosecution hyperbole.

So, in summary, a Police state aims for a compliant population, which in turn requires a compliant police force and judiciary.  Police and Judges are human, just like us, and building good relations through right action will tend to make them non-compliant with fascism.  It’s up to us to act in ways which build humanity and maintain clarity.

My hat goes off to the good folk in Sydney who persevered in the face of political hyperbole and maintained such good order despite provocation.  Their actions have exemplified the benefits of political dissent, and exposed the lies of those politicians and their servants who would go down the path of fascism.

The Chaser’s hilarious exposure of over-kill and pomposity has deeply damaged the new Police Commissioner in NSW.

Mary Shepherd - we're not fascist yet.  If we were, we'd be having this conversation in a prison cell while in pre-emptive custody.  I'm going to take a chance and put my faith in the better angels of our nature.

Very Succinctly Put Margo

I've long blamed Bob Carr as the greatest disappointment NSW Labor has ever had, yet I thoroughly admired him at the beginning. It was when he began identifying 'ethnic' gangs without a clue about the consequences that I first had doubts. The rest is history on that subject. He's got a long record now of absolutely no understanding of how the law courts work, derogatorily commenting on many people after they have been charged with crimes. He took the 'law and order' phony auctions to new heights. Carr was right behind the Iraq invasion as well.

I've had it out with him twice and his only comment-"you don't understand politics". Probably true. It's not Howard who should have been given the mantle of the "cleverest politician"-that belonged to Carr.

I was looking forward to voting for the very decent John Brogden until sad events put the mockers on that. Now I have a good state MP in Clover Moore which salves my conscience of not voting Labor-but I'm looking forward to the soon to be Wentworth MP George Newhouse. There's a bright young bloke to watch.

Democracy - need not apply here

We have been told for as long as I can remember that democracy and capitalism goes hand in glove, you can’t have one without the other. But the fact is capitalism does not go well with democracy, which is messy, slow with its debates and elections and dissidents. Capitalism requires a smooth running system that has at its helm the hard hand of authority.

Remember the industrialist did very nicely under Hitler.

The powers that be pay lip service to the notion of democracy but at the same time are doing all they can to bring it down hoping the citizens will not wake up to the fact that these two systems are not compatible, especially the rampant form of capitalism/consumerism/globalisation that they have been shoving down our throats for years now.

It seems to me that they are all in on it while the great mass of people go about shaking their heads and wondering what the hell is going on.

Each year takes us closer to a totalitarian state and that IMHO will be the case no matter who is elected. Our only hope is if we can all wake up to what is going on. And then it will be a almighty struggle to reverse the trend. Governments never give citizens rights and freedoms but largely manipulate situations to take these away. It has been the citizens themselves who demand and fight for their liberties. 

"Liberty has never come from government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance."

Woodrow Wilson: Address, New York Press Club, May 9, 1912

"A population weakened and exhausted by battling against so many obstacles -- whose needs are never satisfied and desires never fulfilled -- is vulnerable to manipulation and regimentation. The struggle for survival is, above all, an exercise that is hugely time-consuming, absorbing and debilitating. If you create these ''anti-conditions,'' your rule is guaranteed for a hundred years."

Ryszard Kapuscinski

Bloody Sundays

What conversion? Miranda attacked NSW Labor, as per usual.

I am steering clear of APEC. My distaste for political demonstrations is long-running but in the current security-intense environment I think they are dangerous. This is not because of the threat of violent protest but rather because of misadventure. I compare it to blocking a fire escape - it is harmless until something goes wrong, and then it becomes a problem. The Charles De Menenzes shooting, after the London bombings, taught me an important lesson about the power of the state over the individual. If a bomb did go off anyone in a mass demonstration is a nuisance and a danger to themselves and others. I don't want to be anywhere near the city because I don't feel safe, not because of terrorists, but because I might be gunned down by panicked police officers.

Modern communication technology makes such protests indulgent and unnecessary. Hell, so did old communication technology. The best way to make your voice heard is to lobby your local representatives, local media and electorates through small, targeted pamphleteering. The online world also opens up vast new avenues. Mass demonstrations in the past often had a bloody end - recall "bloody Sunday" in Tsar Nicholas II's time. Their main purpose is physical intimidation. A "peaceful" mass demonstration makes no sense, and there is almost always at least a handful of people that end up in a confrontation. The whole thing is about flexing your muscles. It is 19th century kind of stuff, which is why it appeals to trade unions, who behave like Lenin on a podium.

Forgive me but I will pass. I find it boring, predictable and ineffective.

I declared Australia a facist state in 2001

And nothing since has changed my mind.

Our Police State

I'm simply stuck to know what to do.

The police state mentality is shared by both major parties.  I don't think joining one will make a shred of difference.

Protesting obviously won't make a difference.

I really don't think a bill of rights will make a difference (US laws aren't any better than Australia's as far as I know).

Vote Green?

I'm stuck and rather despairing.

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Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner