An unlikely pairing of two Liberal and Labor politicians are using the Senate Scrutiny Committee to rein in the ever-expanding power of ‘Executive’ Ministers producing legislation – about half of all Australian laws – that can change and expand under ‘regulations’ at the government’s whim, with the Parliament having no review powers over them. The Senators have taken the first step in restoring properly-balanced power between the Executive, the Judiciary and Parliament, as the Australian Constitution says it should be.
Today’s the day! Risdon prisoner Sue Neill-Fraser’s long-awaited, long-thwarted, and long-delayed appeal is due to start on 1 March 2021, this CLArion issue’s cover date. The tortuous, uphill climb to today began on 2 August 2013 when CLA President Dr Kristine Klugman and CEO Bill Rowlings briefed then-Shadow Liberal AG Vanessa Goodwin on the need for Tasmania to ‘mirror’ the then-new law in South Australia allowing a second appeal. On 2 November 2015, the now-deceased Goodwin was true to her word: the second ‘Right to Appeal’ became Tasmanian law too. Since that date – 5 1/2 years ago – SNF has been striving for an appeal court to overturn what CLA believes is her wrongful conviction for murdering husband, Bob Chappell, on their yacht moored in Sandy Bay on the night of 26 January 2009.
Civil Liberties Australia, in one of its 2021 Australia Day letters, has asked federal MP Kevin Andrews to propose a Private Member’s Bill that would reverse the 1997 federal law he introduced which currently overturns ACT and NT citizens, and their parliaments, having the human right to vote on euthanasia in their territories. Another OzDay letter, to all state and territory jurisdictions, proposes that they review their patchy and inequitable censorship rules for prisoner mail. A third letter calls on the WA Police Commissioner to formally apologise to all those people named falsely and irresponsibly by police as ‘persons of interest’ over a period of 25 years before WA secured the recent conviction and life sentence of Bradley Edwards for the Claremont murder.
It’s good to look back on an extraordinary 2020 to re-set the gauges of life for 2021 and beyond. A virus has curtailed personal liberties in the name of a wider good, so the challenge becomes to decide how basic freedoms can be entrenched better in ordinary times – and extraordinary times – in future. This year will feature a push for human rights laws for all of us in more jurisdictions (including federally) and, in particular, the quest for justice denied these past 12 years for Sue Neill-Fraser, still locked in Hobart’s Risdon jail.
Much about wider military and general society is revealed by the alleged murders committed by special forces troops. Cover-ups and refusal to account for bad behaviour are rampant throughout politics and police forces, and strongly suspected among the security elite. CLA believes widespread change is needed to re-boot society, starting with a strong ICAC accountability mechanism to de-power ruling elites, and a human rights act and tribunal to empower the less-privileged.
Criticise the federal government at your peril is the lesson from the 2020 Budget as the ANAO, ABC, human rights and other agencies suffer more funding cuts. Meanwhile funny money magically appears in ever-increasing amounts to continue the two-decade long expansion of security, police and intelligence agencies…even as state governments hand over our driver licence photos before legal and privacy protections are legislated.
There are vivid lessons to learn for the next emergency from the current Covid-19 pandemic. We need to identify the right ones, so that for the next virus wave or national disaster we better incorporate maximum freedoms and individual compassion and care into a process where lockdown, quarantine, personal fines and repression were allowed to become excessive and over-dominant recently. It’s not easy…but considering liberties and rights of everyone, from the beginning, would be a great start.
As the virus pandemic grinds on, people are increasingly questioning traditional daily Australian life, from how Parliament convenes (eg, with electronic access and voting, or not) to how we value older people’s lives during a Covid-19 disease which specifically targets them. Trust in politicians, already fragile before the pandemic, is dissipating even as state boundaries become Great Walls. And, as happens during emergencies, organised operators as widely dispersed as security and police agencies to online trolls and anti-vaccination fanatics are actively taking advantage of uncertainty and confusion to further their unique views.
With another election season upon us, politicians and candidates are trotting out their ‘law n order’ fear-creating campaigns to gain election, not telling us that it costs taxpayers more than $300 a day to house each prisoner, which adds to the taxes we pay. Similarly, the security service heavies – notably ASIO’s – are spruiking more fear to boost their control over citizens and ultimately their budgets and staff. In all cases, it’s a ruse played knowingly on citizens to the advantage of would-be control freaks aiming to diminish our civil liberties, rights and freedoms.