Interview: Under Fire
Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Economics: The Common Wealth
History: Walking for Justice
International: Deja Vu
Legal: The Rights Stuff
Review: That Cinderella Fella
Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
The Locker Room
Age of Consent
Make Ads Not Law
Nice One, Workers!
Dog Eat Dog
The Rights Stuff
Unless you had forty of your rudest mates over to watch the Bathurst 1000 on telly, odds are the police didn't knock on your door last weekend.
And unless you have turned your kitchen into a drug lab, odds are the police didn't search your house. Or track your movements for the last year.
And even if you have been running a major credit card scam from your spare room, you are allowed to have a lawyer present and tell your mum where you are when the police drag you in for questioning.
And unless you are... well, absolutely no one in Australia has ever been lawfully detained for two weeks with out being charged with anything.
But all of this is about to change.
The Government has asked the Australian public to trust it with police powers of the type never seen before in this country, even though observers say they are reminiscent of police powers in Apartheid South Africa.
No one in their right mind wants murderous fanatics on the loose. While bombs go off and Jemaah Islamiah is free to flourish in Jakarta, things are not great.
Bespectacled types talking about the civil liberties of those suspected of terrorism may irritate those who choose to see life for themselves rather than read about it in a book.
But if you think the Government's new laws will preserve your way of life, think again.
People who just happen to work on construction sites are already subject to secret interrogations due to new laws introduced by the Government in August. These are ordinary Australians who the union hating Government have already pushed out of the normal justice system.
And there is nothing to suggest that even more average Australians won't be sucked into Howard's police state due to the new terrorism laws.
The problem is, no one knows what a terrorist looks like. Is it someone who has a beard and wears robes or is it someone who has blond hair and wears a flanny, like David Hicks?
The cleverest terrorists, like any successful criminal, are the ones who don't draw attention to themselves. Letting a bomb off in a shopping centre is a lot easier if you look like an average shopper.
Under the new terrorism laws police will be able to detain terror suspects as young as 16 for up to a fortnight without charge and control their movements through court orders. Police will also be able to keep suspects under house arrest and given stronger powers to stop and search people in transport hubs and mass gatherings such as sporting events and rallies. These are in addition to very broad detention powers given to ASIO in 2003.
But as more bombs go off and people die, as they almost certainly will, what happens next?
When the busy body down the street dobs you in to police for keeping strange hours or having too many bags of fertilizer, civil rights mean there is no way police can lock you up for a fortnight on no grounds whatsoever while they work their way through the tens, hundreds or even thousands of tips from an increasing paranoid public.
But the Government is going to let that happen.
It doesn't take an encyclopaedic knowledge of Robert Mugabe's or Pinochet's regimes to know that the ability for police to question people the government doesn't like without anyone else, including family, knowing where that person is must be very, very strictly controlled if a society is to remain free. Even without the latest set of terrorism laws, ASIO already has that power.
It will be a sad day when civil liberties are no longer a hot topic for history buffs alone.
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