||Issue No. 134||03 May 2002|
The Hijacking of May Day
Interview: Youth Group
History: Back To The Future
Industrial: On the Street
Unions: The New Deal
Legal: The Police State Road
Women: What Women Want
Politics: Street Party
International: The Costs of War
Review: Songs of Solidarity
Satire: Bono Satisfies World Hunger for Preachy Rockstars
The Locker Room
Week in Review
M1 Open Letter
May Day Debacle
Mothers Day Musings
Greetings From Canada
The Police State Road
Warnings by civil libertarians and the ACTU last week that proposed Australian laws to counter terrorism could see routine political and industrial activity proscribed, should come as no surprise.
The Liberal Party has had a long flirtation with laws that would place Australia on the road to a police state.
In 1950 the new Liberal government of Prime Minister Robert Menzies introduced a Bill to dissolve the Communist Party of Australia (CPA).
Not only would the Bill outlaw the CPA, but also ban other organisations, and imprison individuals, believed to be prejudicial to the laws and defence of Australia. Banning also entailed the confiscation of assets by the government.
The government only had to be 'satisfied' of the guilt of the targeted organisation and individual for the law to take effect.
During the 1950s in Australia the term 'communist' was a general term of abuse and vilification used by conservatives to describe people and organisations to the left of the Liberal Party, irrespective of whether or not they were communists or sympathisers.
Trade unions that did not toe the Menzies industrial line, especially those in the essential services, were prominently in the frame.
When a High Court challenge to the Bill by the CPA and ten trade unions found the legislation unconstitutional, Menzies put the Ban proposal to a referendum.
The Australian people narrowly rejected the Ban in 1951. The scales were tipped against Menzies by the courageous and consistent civil libertarianism of ALP leader Dr H. V. Evatt who campaigned at great personal and political cost against the Ban.
Undeterred, Menzies and his apparatchiks subsequently made great use of the Crimes Act, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and Arbitration Act amendments, to hound, persecute and prosecute the political and industrial left.
In 1952 Cabinet rejected as too controversial draft legislation to introduce the death penalty for a new definition of 'spying' under the Official Secrets Bill. The contentious legislation would have permitted wide powers of search and arrest without warrant. The provisions regarding 'onus of proof ' basically gave the authorities the whip hand; virtually a matter of guilty as charged.
No matter. Avoiding public scrutiny and debate, Menzies and ASIO secretly went ahead with plans to intern untrustworthy migrants and native-born leftist radicals and trade unionists should the opportunity present itself in the form of a 'national emergency'.
Initially 750 people were listed for internment in holding camps, but this eventually blew out to 16,660 people. The plan was still on the books during the early 1970s.
At no stage were any of the many European Fascists and Nazis who came to post-war Australia ever considered for internment, not even the bona fide 'war criminals'.
Fast forward to 1969. John Gorton is the Liberal Prime Minister, and Nigel Bowen the Attorney-General. The Vietnam War is in full swing, and a growing and robust anti-war movement is confronting the Liberal government and its slavish adherence to American foreign policy.
In an attempt to curtail the anti-war movement, Bowen's legal hacks come up with draconian curbs on free speech, including hefty fines and prison terms of up to three years. Proposed legislation makes it easy to ban public demonstrations, and it becomes a crime to criticise government policy, government Ministers, and friendly foreign governments (like those of the US and South Vietnam).
But it is late in 1969. The Liberals are gnawing away at their own innards with factional fighting, and they are facing a Federal election and an increasingly critical electorate.
So Cabinet quietly slips the proposed legislation under the carpet; it is considered too hard to sell.
Roll on to the aftermath of 11 September 2001. The 'War Against Terror' is in full swing, and Australia again slavishly follows American foreign policy. On the home front John Howard is in the chair with his plans to counter 'terrorism' and ride roughshod over democratic niceties. John worships at the shrine of Robert Menzies who knew how to get things done. It looks like being a matter of 'here we go again' as the Liberals do a Dorothy and take Australia down the police state road.
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