November 3, 2005

Sedition = to "urge disaffection" toward the government or to promote "ill will or hostility" among groups.

According to the proposed anti-terrorism bill in Australia, where free speech doesn't seem to be much of a treasured value:
Public debate has been limited because the government did not publish the bill. The chief executive of the Australian Capitol Territory, Jon Stanhope, published it on his Web site three weeks ago, saying he thought broader public discussion was needed. Mr. Howard, leader of the center-right Liberal Party, reacted by refusing to provide Mr. Stanhope, of the Labor Party, any further drafts.

Based on that draft, the proposed law would permit the police to use preventive detention for up to 14 days, during which time the detained person would be allowed to let only one family member know of the detention. It would be a crime for the family member to tell anyone else - even for a father to tell the detainee's mother, for instance.

The definition of sedition would be expanded to include statements that "urge disaffection" toward the government, or that promote "ill will or hostility" among groups.

Mr. Howard is expected to introduce the bill on Thursday. Approval is expected within days. Mr. Howard's party controls both houses of the Parliament, and the leader of the Labor Party, Kim Beazley, has said he supports such a law.
Well, I would urge disaffection toward the... Or, no, I guess you'd better be careful down there.


Lawrence said...

Australia is somewhat of a police state compared to the US. However, it has a lively independent media, which has publicised the leak leading the PM's backbench MPs to even revolt and force some changes in the proposed bill.

JimNtexas said...

Didn't one of the President Adams try something like this?

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jimmy said...

Left-wing activist in Canada also pushed to pass a bill that would make it a crime to engage in hate speech against nationalities and ethnic groups.

Increasingly many of the people found in violation of this this law are Left-wing Candians engaging in "hate speech" against Americans and America..

Hows that for Biblical justice?

jult52 said...

Just to make sure I understand, is this legislation actually going to be enacted? It's unbelievable.

Chris said...

Australia has a written constitution but no Bill of Rights. (Aside: because Australia was formed as a Federation of States, we borrowed many aspects of our constitution from the U.S. -- eg., a House of Representatives elected from seats with roughly equal populations and a Senate with a equal number from each state.) We followed the British approach of leaving lots of important stuff unwritten (eg., the constitution does not mention the office of Prime Minister). This means that state and Federal governments have a great deal of theoretical power that convention forbids using except in extreme circumstances. Governments know that use of such power will have to be justified to the courts, the community and the electorate.

Our system will seem really strange to people from the American legal tradition, but it works. Yes, this legislation will pass, with widespread public approval. No, we are not by any means a police state.
Despite its vague language, use of this legislation against anyone but terrorists and supporters of terror would be a career-ending move for police and prosecutors, and a major public scandal with dire political consequences.

(Incidentally, reliance on unwritten conventions instead of written constitutional text probably only works in smaller, more homogenous nations like Aus. Non-Americans have lots of trouble grasping just how ginormously huge the US is; Americans may have the opposite problem in understanding the political system in our country.)

Jennifer said...

Chris, I wish I was as willing to trust our government as you are.

You're right that there are a lot of things theoretically allowed in the constitution that don't actually happen, but you only have to look at our government's willingness for one of our own citizens to be locked up indefinitely without trial in Guantanamo Bay (a situation that no other western country allowed without protest) to realise that they would get away with a lot as long as they were directed towards recent immigrants or muslims.