Dear Bruce, I’m worried…

UPDATE (29/10/2005): Bruce Schneier has indeed blogged about my email!

Below is the text of an email I’ve sent to security commentator and blogger, Bruce Schneier, in the hope that he will see fit to comment on it. It raises matters in respect of proposed legislative changes here in Australia to deal with the prevention of terrorism. The proposed changes are attracting significant comment from across Australian society as they unquestionably involve excesses which breach fundamental human rights; rights which Australia as a nation has agreed to respect as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Note that I’m not against anti-terrorism legislation. In fact, I’m very much for it. Terrorism is a scourge which rightly needs to be purged from the face of the globe. However, these latest proposals continue the trend by neo-conservative Western governments across the globe (in which I include the UK Labour government) to propose and enact laws which see fit to subjugate human rights in favor of a demonstrably draconian position, defending the changes with fearmongering and “movie plot” threats.
The changes proposed for Australia are at best a matter for significant concern; one which ought to involve citizens making representation to their elected officials to express their dismay at the extreme position proposed.

BruceYou may or may not be aware that a number of new, pretty draconian, legislative changes are in the works here in Australia. They are very much modeled on UK law in the same space. The proposals include such matters as:

  • 14-day secret detention without arrest by security services
  • shoot-to-kill “on suspicion” powers for police
  • imprisonment and fines for revealing an individual has been the subject of an investigation

There are a raft of other changes which are equally if not more concerning. These matters are causing a significant amount of conversation in the media here, not least because Jon Stanhope, Chief Minister of the ACT, revealed the draft legislation on his website a week ago, in defiance of a Federal Government request not to do so
(http://chiefminister.act.gov.au/media.asp?media=692&section=24&title=Media%20Release&id=24).
The draft legislation is viewable at http://chiefminister.act.gov.au/whats_new.asp?title=What’s%20New as well as a response from the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions expressing his concerns over the legislation.
Additionally, many commentators in politics (including more than one former Prime Minister), media (including Nobel laureate JM Coetzee, who has compared the laws to the worst excesses of the South African apartheid regime) and churches have expressed deep concern over the proposed changes.

If you are interested in further looking at this material, any of the major Australian media outlets have a wealth of material (try http://abc.net.au/news/default.htm, http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ as a start).

It’s not online, but my local broadsheet, The Canberra Times, ran a series of in-depth examinations on the weekend which I can get to you somehow if you’d like.

This seems to be the sort of thing you may be interested in commenting upon…

Steve Collins

You can read the draft directly here. This is scary stuff! Jon Stanhope’s What’s New page also has a number of responses from individuals and organisations in a position to comment appropriately, there are responses from:

The condemnation is pretty universal. Coupled with the protests and concerns expressed by a number of prominent Australians, the groundswell of opinion aginast the proposed legislative changes must surely have an effect on the Howard government. If not, they will have demonstrated once and for all a position I have believed they held for some time; that they care little for what the opinion of the Australian people is, and that most moves they make are for the sake of political expediency and perpetuation of their powerbase.
If you’re an Australian, I urge you to write or email your State and Federal member expressing your concern about these proposed changes.

3 Replies to “Dear Bruce, I’m worried…”

  1. As someone who is increasingly alarmed by the attacks on civil liberties in Britain, I find it depressing that other countries should follow Britain’s lead. I’ve written about this legislation on the Magna Carta Plus News blog:

    http://www.magnacartaplus.org/news/

    The Australian proposals look to be just as worrying as those that Britain adopted in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. And Britain now has an even more dangerous set of proposals going through Parliament:

    http://www.spy.org.uk/spyblog/2005/10/terrorism_bill_2005_second_rea.html

    I hope opposition to these attacks on civil liberties is more successful in Australia than it has been thus far here in Britain…

  2. “The Senate inquiry into the Federal Government’s proposed anti-terrorism laws have been told that parts of the legislation are “bristling” with human rights protections.

    Critics say the laws lack safeguards to protect human rights, particularly in relation to control and preventative detention orders.

    But the assistant secretary of the security law branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, Geoff McDonald, says the laws are consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200511/s1510376.htm

    Can you be more specific as to how you think the AG’s office has failed in it’s interpretation of the law as to your assertion that they conflict with the ICCPR ?

  3. Tank, AG’s as the agency responsible for drafting the legislation pretty much has to say they’re okay. If you read the opinions prepared by some of the most significant legal minds in Australia which choose to differ, the voice against the laws as they are proposed is very strong.
    Legal minds as significant as former and current High Court Justices choose to stand against these laws as proposed.

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