New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
Our leaders are failing us
Foreign affairs is a delicate subject, but it is a comfort to know that Australia has joined forces with Saudi Arabia, a nation that routinely, officially and publicly detaches human heads from their bodies. It is also nice to contemplate our agreement with Cambodia as a convenient means of removing some of the wretched of the earth to a country notorious for its poverty, corruption and disregard for ordinary human rights. Let us come nearer to home. In response to the violence of Islamic State we are now afflicted with criminal laws that go close to being the civilised world’s most intrusive. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is given sweeping new powers under the new legislation. We are told ASIO is beyond criticism and will never abuse its powers. Experience suggests this is open to question. For example, in the Mamdouh Habib case, an Australian was abducted in Pakistan by the CIA and sent to Egypt for interrogation under torture. Habib alleged ASIO agents colluded in the exercise. He subsequently sued the Commonwealth. The government settled the claim and paid him substantial damages. In the Izhar ul-Haque case, the Supreme Court found ASIO agents had acted criminally in the interrogation of a suspect. There are other cases. I am not ashamed to be an Australian, but I am becoming increasingly fearful of those who run the place. Including those who sit in parliament.
– Ian Barker QC, Gerroa, NSW
Australians must act themselves
Following the recent worldwide marches for collective government action on climate change, together with the forceful speeches made by US President Barack Obama and other leaders at the United Nations climate summit, I had some faint hope that Australia’s renewable energy target might be revised upwards. But after reading this paper’s fine editorial “Refusing Obama’s other call” (September 27-October 3) it seems a lost cause. “Action on climate change in Australia, urgent as it is, will not come from Abbott’s government.” Until such time as this government is thrown out of office, action on climate change needs to be initiated by the people themselves, principally through divesting and reinvesting. As the price of renewable energy continues to fall, Tony Abbott’s short-sighted policies are simply delaying the inevitable. At the same time the government risks trade retaliation and international sanctions against it. International condemnation has occurred already, and will undoubtedly gather in strength.
– David Nash, Manly, NSW
Nothing safe from capitalism
Like your writer James Norman (“The unusual suspects”, September 27-October 3) I, too, found myself confronted by the corporate rent-a-mob at the People’s Climate March. Seems that the planet can be saved after all by a few simple adjustments to our consumption patterns. However, I am afraid that I failed to do my bit. I declined the free ice-cream, I will not be changing my electricity retailer, and I told the leaflet thruster from the super provider to “F--- off.” It has been obvious for many years now that no area of life, private or public, is safe from the grasping tentacles of profit-seeking corporations. But I must confess that the commodification of protest still comes as a shock to me. Rooted in the past I may be, but I refuse to have my dissent reduced to an input to some corporate marketing department’s SWOT analysis.
– Howard Gibson, Cooriemungle, Vic
ALP not ready for a fight
“But for the moment it appears Labor has little appetite for another bruising brawl” (Sophie Morris, “The great divide”, September 27-October 3). The ALP stopped being an opposition party when Bill Shorten was dropped in the position against the vote of the rank and file, and now they just don’t have the guts to “brawl”. The “brawler” Abbott is used to having cowards around him.
– John Fraser, Brisbane, Qld
Hitting the low notes
While there are aspects of the Queensland state government I do not admire, I cannot support a federal inquiry into their activities. The two royal commissions on pink batts and unions instigated by the Abbott government had a distinct political flavour about them that I thought brought politics to a new low. People want to respect their politicians, but this respect has to be earned.
– Jim Banks, Pottsville Beach, NSW
Warmongers to rue the day
To my friends, I’m an idealist because I argue government policies must evolve to counter the Islamic State. The government’s preoccupation with prevention manifests in troop deployments, jet-fighter strikes and “dangerous mutations of our legal DNA” (Mike Seccombe, “The real threat of terror laws”, September 20-26). It’s a hangover from the 20th century’s binge on military pragmatism. IS isn’t the problem, rather a symptom thriving in discontent with the West’s prevention complex. The symptom perpetually transforms into al-Qaeda, mujahideen, Boston and Bali bombers, Taliban, etc. My friends retort: so we do nothing? Abbott could redirect the $600 million anti-IS war budget to domestic and inter-regional inclusion programs, relegating Team Australia and disassociating from America’s war machine. Alas, Abbott believes bolstering Australia’s prevention policies will win the day, though it never has and never will – recall Einstein’s definition of mad. Abbott is the idealist, not I.
– Lachlan Alexander, Hawthorn, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 4, 2014.
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