Growing legal powers creating fear
Richard Ackland’s “Persona non data” and Mike Seccombe’s “The real threat of terror laws” (September 20-26) add further proof to the sad reality that liberal democracy in Australia is fading. The craving of law enforcement agencies and governments for more powers to spy on what we are doing and to restrict where we can be will create fear. It is that fear, not the fear of terrorists, that is the beginning of the end of public communication and dissent. As Electronic Frontiers Australia points out, “determined criminals will have little difficulty disguising, or anonymising, their communications”. Last week, in an exercise of fear-based politics, the New South Wales parliament reintroduced the presumption against bail “show cause” for those pleading not guilty to certain offences. Meanwhile, Thomas Piketty explains in Capital in the Twenty-First Century the distribution of wealth in favour of the rich, including Australia, is once again on the march. No doubt our politicians will be too busy to deal with that.
– Max Taylor, Epping, NSW
Look at the evidence
Although we seem to be once more at war with it, terrorism is not some leviathan. Rather, it is little more than a tactic. So Mike Seccombe is quite right that we should be sceptical about renouncing freedoms in the face of such threats. While the article presented a strong case for keeping terrorism in perspective, it made one rather suspect claim. Bret Walker, SC, is no doubt a sharp legal mind, but he is no sociologist. His claim that terrorists are “sociopathic inadequates” with “personality disorder[s]” who are mostly not driven by politics or religion is simply not supported by the literature. Studies show exactly the opposite.
To portray terrorists as deranged lunatics rather than instrumental actors is to privilege fear over reason. This is precisely why we as a society accept the diminishment of our liberty.
– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW
Measures no safety net
Re “Persona non data”: There are countless public access points where an individual could use the internet anonymously. The measures would be hopelessly ineffective for all but the most unsophisticated of plots.
– Patrick Hockey, Clunes, Vic
Tied up in plots
If governments are paranoid about possible threats they will tend to indulge in an excess of lateral thinking and try to nail shut every possible window including some windows where there is no danger lurking at all (“The real threat of terror laws”). Police and security forces are always looking for extra powers; governments are not averse to having powers that can be used to suppress awkward elements as well as real threats. State rhetoric, such as that now being wheeled out for the Anzac centenary, will glamorise people in uniforms, dead or alive. Everything links to everything else.
– David Stephens, Bruce, ACT
Flying Kangaroo’s bind
Thanks to Martin McKenzie-Murray for pointing out that Alan Joyce isn’t to blame for Qantas’s financial performance (“Flying blind”, September 20-26).
But the significance of Qantas is neither vague nor recondite. The reason most large countries no longer have a national carrier is that they are not located on the opposite side of the world in the Southern Ocean, with only islands for neighbours. You can’t count on Swissair to fly you to Bali! Indeed, in many ways, living in Australia makes little economic sense. When we stop the pillage of the land, we’ll work that out.
– Jonathan Silberberg, Newcastle, NSW
Advance Australia Unfair
Paul Bongiorno’s article on Tony Abbott’s sojourn in the Northern Territory (“Black rights and white wrongs”, September 20-26) and the possible recognition of Aboriginals in our constitution quoted Abbott, in ruling out a bill of rights, saying, “The problem with a bill of rights is that it takes power off elected politicians.” That is precisely why we need one! Our constitution should give the people certain “inalienable” rights similar to those in the United Nations charter or the United States constitution that recognise social and economic advances, and once written into a bill of rights could only be removed or amended by referendum. They would be free of political machinations of those who see political power as a mandate to impose their will rather than to be our representatives. Of course, that would be a step towards a true democracy rather than the current sham.
– Mel Cheal, Manly, Qld
Cycle of despair
A good point that despair is a “consequence of armed conflict but then it becomes a cause of continuing armed conflict” (“Our lady of laws”, September 20-26). Why then are we demonising our young, denying them affordable education and denying them unemployment benefits? Why are we demonising ethnic groups and casting their children into despair? Why are we surprised when they convert to Islam and join the IS?
– Stephen Broderick, Avalon, NSW
A meaningful partnership
As a fan of Things of Stone and Wood from way way back, it warmed my heart to read Leigh Sales’ interview with Helen Durham. In the 1990s, Greg Arnold wrote some wonderful songs about various important social issues (as well as some beautiful pop melodies) and it gives me hope that those sentiments live on in the work of his wife, Helen.
– David Stanton, Murrumbeena, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 27, 2014. Subscribe here.