Contributed by Ben Wilson
The Turnbull government’s proposed law against foreign donations and interference in Australian political affairs is being soundly and widely condemned as nothing more than an attempt to silence voices.
But people are speaking out against the promotion of xenophobia and playing anti-Chinese race card, which is being used to divert public attention away from the real major political donors, the pressure to conduct a real inquiry into the banks that will do something, the pressure to curb massive corporate tax evasion and several other issues that are weighing the government down.
It is the sort of thing that a government that has lost any semblance of principle and moral compass might do. At the same time, it is an admittance of its weakness, its fear of the population and a rising desperation to cling on at all costs.
The foreign donations law is only one of the new measures being brought in. Another is the attack on the unions, through a fake financial services inquiry. It is a fake, because, instead of an inquiry onto the banks as promised, there is an inquiry to reward the banks, by allowing them to take the industry super funds.
The unions are already being set up, accused of causing industry super funds to be misused. Turnbull and key ministers have already said that they intend to remove union representation from the super fund boards, which will be turned over to “competition”. Hand pisked “Experts” will be brought in business and finace will be brought onto the boards. Many of the them will come from the banks. The inquiry will suggest that this these are the things that must be done. It is one of those cases where the result has been announced, before the investigation has begun.
Less well known is that there is also an move to change Australia’s secrecy laws, so that those disclosing secret information will face up to 20 years jail. This covers government and intelligence services whistleblowers. It potentially covers journalists as well and has implications for online sites like WikiLeaks.
Grafted onto it is a list of “aggravating” offences that target anyone who publishes leaked material.
Disclosure of and publishing of secrets is already covered under a single offence under the Crimes Act. A new law is not necessary, unless it has a different purpose. It is not hard to see what this other is here. The target is not only government employees. Everyone is included, who passes on unauthorised information. The point is that under the proposed new regime, the passing on of information is criminalised, yet the crime is not clearly defined and this provides the means for abuse.
Those deemed to be passing on information that falls under the vague category that it “causes harm to Australia’s interests,” can be targeted. There is the potential to include that which causes a loss of confidence or trust in the federal government. This is a weapon to be wielded against critics. Reporting the conditions faced by refugees on Manus Island comes to mind. The law can also be used against those who are critical of Australia’s involvement in foreign wars, and even against critics of economic policy, if they disclose information that is not authorised.
There is good reason why we should be seriously concerned about many of the changes being brought about. Together, they are an attack on our rights.
The fact that they are being sneaked in through the back door is the government’s greatest weakness. It is running scared, because it knows that Australia doesn’t want to go down this road. What the government may not have grasped is that Australians will not be silenced so easily.