Police State Blues – Issue 1

Welcome to Police State Blues, a monthly digest focusing on the erosion of civil liberties and the criminalization of dissent in Australia.

Net filter
Gizmodo Australia has launched a campaign calling on new Prime Minister Julia Gillard to replace Communications minister Stephen Conroy with Kate Lundy in her expected cabinet reshuffle.

Gizmodo like Lundy because of her previous work as shadow Minister for IT, and because she has spoken out against a compulsory filtering regime.

But don’t get your hopes up. In her first round of interviews, Gillard said she wanted to “combat the alarming emergence of raunch culture”. She may see continuing Rudd’s war on the Internet as a way of pursuing this aim.

War on the Poor
Queensland’s Premier has announced a new “on the spot fine” regime for “public nuisance”. QUT law lecturer Peter Black initially supported the move, it would free up the QLD magistrates court, but then realised his mistake:

I was looking at it from my privileged point of view – if I was to be charged with a public nuisance offence – instead of from the perspective of the least privileged members of society. I now think it could be easily abused by police who could issue on the spot fines to members of the community who may www.chicagobearsjerseyspop.com not necessarily be aware of their legal rights to challenge the fine in the Magistrates Court.

And what is “public nuisance” exactly? Well that’s the astounding criminal activity VOLLEYBALL of swearing in public, or otherwise annoying the police.

Bye bye Freedom of Association
It seems increasingly likely that South Australia’s “anti bikie” Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act will be emasculated or even overturned in a coming High Court decision.

The High Court is hearing a challenge to a control order imposed on Sandro Totani, a member of the Finks Motocycle Club. New Chief Justice Robert French has described the control order regime as “draconian”.

It’s amazing the unity that external oppression can bring to a sub-culture. The fractious “outlaw” motorcycle clubs continue to campaign under the banner of their united front, the United Motorcycle Councils of Australia.

In this youtube video they compare the actions of Australian state governments to those of early Nazi germany and apartheid South Africa:

Normally I would call Godwin’s law, but at least the apartheid comparison is apt. The similarities between the South Australia and New South Wales anti-bikie laws bear striking resemblance to apartheids infamous “ban” laws.

A key aspect of the The Bikie laws has been the notion of “criminal intelligence”, or secret evidence. “Criminal intelligence” as a concept started to creep into Australian law in 2004, through so-called “anti-terror” 15 legislation. Now you can find it everywhere, even in liquor licensing!

Many of the laws hinge on so-called criminal intelligence: material that can be relied on by police and government but kept secret from the people it’s used against on the grounds that its disclosure may jeopardise an operation or expose an informer.

What they call criminal intelligence can be notes by an officer, their personal views, speculation, or world! it can be information from an unidentified informant [who] might have an interest in saying something damaging about another person.

“It’s the most unreliable information you can have. It’s the kind of information that would never usually be allowed in court.”

Sally Neighbour has the story. Unfortunately the High Court is unlikely to completely reject the notion of secret evidence, in light of previous decisions upholding various pieces of “anti-terror” legislation.

Snippets

There’s now a CrimeStoppers iPhone app, reminds me of this piece of graffiti for some reason.

Four peace activists arrested for trespass at the Swan Island base have been freed. Nine more have been arrested.

Ark Tribe’s case has been adjourned again, and is due to resume on the 22nd of July. The CFMEU are threatening nationwide strike action if Tribe is convicted. I suggest locating your nearest CFMEU active site, and heading on down to support any strike action if and when Tribe is convicted.

Melbourne Black has published an interesting history of squat campaigns in Melbourne.

Next Issue
The next issue is due to be posted on the 25th of July. Get your submissions in early!

2 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more. The common element in these “crimes” seem to be that they are victimless crimes. By definition, a victimless crime has no victim or complainer, and is conduct between consenting adult participants. This is consistent with what John Stuart Mill argued in his Harm Principle.

    He argued for limits on the State’s power. And he was right: the power of the State and its agents MUST be curtailed. The State has to realise that it is not all-powerful; it does not have the right to interfere in the exercise and enjoyment by private individuals of their rights without good reason. Mill argued this reason was “harm”. Admittedly, as his critics contend, he did not define what he meant by harm, but he gave examples from which we can infer what he did mean.

    By “harm”, Mill clearly meant injury to person or property of another. He included force, fraud and treachery within it. He said the State may punish people for breach of duty, such as failing to give evidence in court or serve on a jury for a proper crime, failing to help someone who is involuntarily in distress, or failing to perform military duty when the Nation is under threat. It seems to me that this is perfectly consistent with the concept of victimless crimes. Just as importantly, Mill said that, unless a crime is not a victimless crime, the State has no right to interfere with a person’s life or conduct.

    For example, here are two examples from Mill. Firstly, he said that freedom of speech may rightly be limited in a case where a person incites a crowd to lynch a particular person, but not where a ringleader incites a crowd to lynch non-specific people. Secondly, he said that it should not be illegal to incite or assist something which is legal: this is of modern importance because, although suicide is legal, it is illegal to incite or assist someone to do it.

    I think Mill’s principle and reasons are an excellent framework for a free society. As far as I know, no country puts it into force in the real world.

    I will be following this blog with interest.

    Reply
  2. On a related issue, with an implicit acknowledgement that governments stuff up on privacy, and interesting because there is a new senate inquiry on “The adequacy of protections for the privacy of Australians online”, and though it has a near reporting date, no closing date has been advised, so get in soon to eca.sen@aph.gov.au

    http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/eca_ctte/online_privacy/index.htm

    Terms of Reference
    The adequacy of protections for the privacy of Australians online, with regard to:
    (a) privacy protections and data collection on social networking sites;
    (b) data collection activities of private companies;
    (c) data collection activities of government agencies; and
    (d) other related issues.

    Reply

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