Governments by their very nature are controlling, and so-called terrorist activities have, supported by politics of fear-mongering, provided them with an abundance of opportunities to move towards autocratic societies. And because of a press largely silenced by structural complicity and citizens all to willing to uncritically buy into paranoia, governments’ measures to limit our personal freedoms go largely unnoticed.
But it’s not only governments that take away our democratic rights; parliaments participate and the following example shows that even the judiciary is part of the process (which is not surprising given that law is an expression of ideology and that judges, especially the higher court ones, are appointed by government ideologues).
While Australia, and especially its press, has been caught up in pope euphoria, the Federal Court in Melbourne has quietly but firmly cut a slice out of our national democratic as well as universal human rights. In the case against Syed Mustapha Hussain, the bench decided that ASIO assessments on a person cannot be tested before courts once they are certified by government agencies as inaccessible. In Hussain’s case all the Attorney General Philip Ruddock had to say was: “Disclosure of the contents of the documents … would be contrary to the public interest because disclosure would prejudice security”. That’s it. No further explanation needed.
In practical terms it means that the Court legalised
- the secrecy of ASIO hearings despite their effects on personal freedoms and rights
- the blocking of the citizen’s legal counsel’s, courts’ and the defendant’s access to ASIO documents generated in and from these sessions
- the impossibility for the accused to get knowledge of the content of ASIO’s assessment that forms the basis for the accusations
- the inability by anyone involved to challenge ASIO’s or the governments’ assessments, processes and decisions
- innocent people’s inability to repair the damage done to their reputation and material circumstances
In other words: ASIO has become infallible – despite obvious blunders in the past, and the government can do as it pleases. ASIO can accuse you of something, the government backs it and you have to cop it without any chance to defend yourself.
Well, if this is not bad enough, the three judges Mark Weinberg, Annabelle Bennett and Richard Edmonds said that they doubt that “ordinary members of the community” would be concerned that judicial integrity could be compromised by such an arrangement! I guess from a legal perspective one would have to ask the question how they were able to pass their examns; talking about reality though in Australian society they, sadly, are most likely correct in their assessment. And for this very reason they get away with it too, as those in power always do with their arrogance.
This post is based on an article by Richard Ackland in the Sydney Morning Herald from July 18, 2008.