Contributed from Victoria
The Australian government’s proposal for withdrawing citizenship and deporting convicted terrorists through a chance in the Citizenship Act, may sound to the uninformed, like the government is doing something to protect Australian citizens.
It is far from this and it is important to step back and have a closer look at what is being proposed.
The first problem is that the existing anti-terrorism laws do not clearly define what committing a terrorist act is. This is up to the minister of the day. Someone involved in a protest opposing a policy, could fall under the label. You don’t have to bomb, shoot or stab anyone or plan to do so, to be convicted under these laws.
Anti-terror laws are designed so that a person can be convicted not for having committed an act, but on the opinion they hold or expressing this opinion to others.
These laws do not rely on the normal test of evidence. The accused can be arrested and detained without charge, kept in virtual isolation, denied proper access to legal representation and family, and when appearing in court, does not have the right to cross examine witnesses, and untested allegations can be considered as evidence.
The principle of innocent until proven guilty is overturned. The accused is deemed guilty, unless they can prove themselves to be innocent, sand under the restrictions, this is difficult to do.
Laws like these, provide fertile conditions for their abuse. We live in a climate where, racial, ethnic and religious profiling is already being carried out by government. Who could seriously suggest there has never been any abuse?
Under the laws, terrorism is bound up with espionage and treason. The second is associated with revealing information that the government decides should be kept secret. The third could cover just about anything. Terrorism has become the short hand for all.
How long before these are equated with opposition to the government, being accused of being a socialist, campaigning for a republican Australia, or even celebrating the legacy of the Eureka rebellion? Can participation in a union and taking part in an industrial dispute fall under the definition of an act of terrorism? The answer is yes.
Australia has already traveled a little way down this road. We may only be at its beginning. Terrorism is already being loosely exchanged for the word “extremism,” and again without real definition. People are being accused as a means of grabbing political power. The most recent incident was over the Melbourne Bourke Street stabbing, where Australia’s prime minister went to the media and manipulated the incident for his own political advantage.
Which brings us to the growth of trial by media in Australia. It’s no secret that certain outlets, especially those connected with Rupert Murdoch, have used the threat of terrorism and normalised abuse as springboards for their own political agenda.
Overall, the media is failing to scrutinise what is going on. It is either cheering or just accepting. It is thoroughly embedded. No questions are asked about the potential for abuse and the absence of checks and balances, the connection between this and the politics of hate and division, the erosion of normal legal rights, or the violation of international law and conventions.
It has been established that these laws run counter to existing international law and are a breach of conventions that Australia is a signatory to. The Australian government doesn’t care less. International law and conventions cannot be enforced. They are seen as no more than a means to beat others about the head, but not to be observed.
The proposed new deportation powers should be called out for what they are, a cynical means by which to hide potential problems from the public eye. This is not far removed, from putting refugees on a remote island. We know how this has led to human rights abuses, and the same model is now being extended.
Under the changes, those who have dual citizenship will be deported to the other country. Those who don’t will be locked up in what should be called concentration camps.
This is a significant attack on human rights in Australia.
A significant body of opinion is growing against what the government is trying to do. Hopefully, this will become strong enough to put a stop to it.