A federal parliament committee is hearing widespread views on the state of Australian democracy, including our inability to amend the Constitution and a reluctance to hold many referendums, in a series of ‘public’ meetings available to all citizens through streaming. Here is a precis of the comments in a submission by academic Dr Bede Harris, who has recently launched a major book on the subject.
A Member of Tasmania’s Upper House, Michael Gaffney, has used the Parliament on 31 Aug 2021 to expose massive, newly-discovered flaws in the the original (2010) and subsequent appeal cases presented by the Crown against Sue Neill-Fraser. She is in her 12th year of a 23-year sentence for allegedly murdering her husband, Bob Chappell. CLA and most independent observers believe the woman was wrongly convicted and should be freed, immediately, and acquitted. A formal criminal appeal is under way, awaiting the verdict of three judges.
CLA saw one of its prime recommendations adopted by the parliamentary Homelessness inquiry: we don’t often get a committee agreeing completely with us, but here we did. Also, the CLA Board has decided how we can operate more efficiently and therefore effectively in future, with details and the dates of a special general meeting set out in this issue. CLA member Barbara Etter and barrister Hugh Selby have exposed gross incompetence, and possibly worse, by the Tasmanian Office of the DPP and TasPolice in ‘evidence’ collected and filtered before tendering to the judge and jury in the original trial of Sue Neill-Fraser, now in her 13th year wrongly jailed. Her defence counsel was kept in the dark about some witness statements that could have helped her.
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- Laws your MP had no chance to vote for…or against
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- Barrister calls for judge to be removed from bench
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- China plans new laws around public health, privacy
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Once mass vaccination eases the pandemic, laws need correcting to restore democracy, civil liberties and human rights to Australians, CLA says. When C-19 broke out, our rulers first abandoned parliaments, which stopped meeting entirely. Then draconian emergency laws empowered politicians and police to act virtually without restraint. Soon, instantly imposed regulations, stemming from the unbridled emergency powers, saw us all locked in our homes, unable to work, travel cross-town or interstate ,or even choose to travel overseas, and with no prospect of tribunal or court appeal around special individual circumstances. Once the panic is over, we must restore Australians’ freedoms and liberties by demanding meaningful Human Rights Acts throughout the nation.
It sounds so simple, just adopt an ID card that you must carry with you everywhere to ‘sign in’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. But how quickly would surveillance-creep go viral, and your movements be subjected to watching and recording every second of every day, all year, everywhere, by the police, spooks and governments? Massive safeguards are needed to protect our privacy and our private information, CLA says.
Are Australians losing liberties under the pandemic? There’s a strict, legal answer…and then the practical reality of what’s occurring. But the real lesson is that only eternal vigilance – and a federal Human Rights Act – will protect our freedoms. ‘The struggle for civil liberties is a journey that’s never ending,’ former High Court judge, Michael Kirby, says.
ACT Bar Association Vice-President Jack Pappas has defended the organisation’s support of Bernard Collaery, the Canberra barrister caught up in a political prosecution authorised by former federal Attorney-General Christian Porter. The ACT Bar called for the case against Collaery to be dropped, Pappas says, as recently as April 2021.