Camouflage green fences exude precisely the wrong symbolism for a parliament building purpose-designed to be an accessible People’s House. From one angle, the most prestigious building in the National Capital looks like a jail, with slum attached. Are we keeping the prime inmates protected, or locked away behind our own ‘Berlin Wall’? Gates and upward-rising bollards – which have hoisted Commonwealth cars skywards – are further barriers to openness, security expert Dr Tony Murney says.
Assault-style weapons proliferate throughout the external parliamentary precinct: armed guards patrol the ricochet-rich foyer. Into this potential bullet-riddled firezone Australia’s politicians invite subsidised schoolchildren in their hundreds every day the Parliament sits. With schools and embassies (including that of China) in nearby over-shoot range, even an accidental discharge could create personal tragedy or international incident.
Can liberties and rights we previously enjoyed survive the Covid-19 pandemic? Already the right to privacy has been formally legislated away in one Australian jurisdiction, while the Federal Court is under investigation for allegedly unlawfully revealing hundreds of asylum seeker names. As well, the government is blaming the pandemic for the absence of a much-needed integrity mechanism, even as courts themselves lock down behind closed doors into secret trials spreading around Australia. People’s locally-elected representatives are being by-passed as an invented executive mechanism, the National Cabinet, takes over from parliamentary democracy. The signs are not good.
Other items in this issue:
Some parliaments went into their own lockdown (but not WA). Some met briefly, but just to do Covid-19 business. And some took special precautions to put in place review mechanisms to help protect people from muddle-headed legislation. Tasmanian Upper House Member Meg Webb has done everyone a favour with this rundown of who did what to whom, and when.