By Jim Hayes
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is now pushing changes to laws that will allow the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to spy on Australians as never before, and without oversight, strengthening already existing measures for detention without charge and denial of the right to have a lawyer present.
Dutton has also proposed that targeted individuals for interrogation should be as young as 14.
There are also laws specifically targeting journalists and threatening them with prison, plus access personal information on the internet (metadata).
Lawyers experts and civil rights defenders around the country and from a broad political spectrum, have slammed these changes, as attacks on civil liberties that are nudging Australia down the road towards dictatorship.
GetUp is contributing to a campaign against Peter Dutton’s latest proposals. Part of this is an online petition. Nearly half a million Australians have signed so far.
Another and particularly sinister development, comes in the form of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Production Orders) Bill 2020, This bill is designed to pave the way for agreements between Australia and the United States, and other “like-minded countries,” to expand joint spying on Australian soil. It has long been known that this has been going on. Now it is being admitted for the first time, and the bill intends to lift it to a new level.
The bill provides for far reaching exchange of private information between the spy agencies of the respective countries, without a special warrant, and supervision at the Australian end is limited to a politically appointed division of the Administrative and Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
These changes are being made to increase social control over the emerging politically and economically less stable landscape.
In this landscape, there is a decreasing political legitimacy of traditional politics, and reaction to the bankruptcy of neoliberalism economics and social engineering.
Curtailing democracy fits in with other measures to pull down a range of rights, target sections of the population, and vilify inconvenient science, facts, and opinions. All is engineered to create a climate of fear and induce a section of the population to applaud the loss of these rights.
Life is making it harder to hide that so many are being left worse off, while a few prosper. The perception of rising corruption as the normal way of doing business for the privileged is becoming much more widespread, and generating even more hostility towards political leaders, institutions, and the operations of big business.
The counter reaction is to shift from relatively more gentle persuasion, towards increasing reliance on coercion as a means of maintaining control.
Our greatest hope lies in the preparedness of enough people to stand up, to turn this around and assert the voice of the majority.