Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Civil liberties

Jack the Insider commented on the new laws announced in New South Wales and South Australia to restrict the activities of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. He makes a very valid point about how quietly the Australian public accepts restrictions on civil liberties that are a foundation of our democratic system.

Since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, many governments hastily implemented "anti-terror" laws. Such laws often proved poorly designed, subject to abuse and a catalyst for sloppy investigative work. In countries like the United Kingdom, this led to the laws being water down. Australia has also had limited success in the application of similar legislation. It seems that police anti-terror investigations became lazy because the requirement for police to have sufficient evidence to charge a person within 24 hours of their arrest was removed. There have been few successful prosecutions despite a number of arrests.

Now, it appears that New South Wales and South Australia have not learned from the experience of poorly designed anti-terror laws and are hastily throwing together similarly draconian regulations. In light of recent violence perpetrated by Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, both states are seeking to introduce laws that allow the government to ban any organisation that it deems to be "criminal".

I acknowledge that new laws may be needed to respond to organised crime and/or terrorism. However, it is important that any such laws are well designed, thoroughly debated and respect the fundamental freedoms that have maintained our democracy for so long. It is equally important that ordinary Australians examine government policy proposal with a critical eye and with thought to the potential consequences of such policy responses.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Schapelle Corby

I wrote a letter to the newspapers following the conviction of Schapelle Corby for drug trafficking in May 2005. They did not publish it. However, I came across it in my files and thought I would include it here. It responded to the emotive attacks on the Indonesian judiciary in the wake of their verdict. I read today in The Daily Telegraph a story about Corby and I remain amazed by the continuing interest in her case four years after she was convicted. The letter appears below.

Generalised criticisms of the Indonesian judiciary are unwarranted and unhelpful. The Schapelle Corby guilty verdict will inevitably lead to emotional criticisms of the Indonesian legal system from certain sections of the Australian community. This is an entirely natural response given the divisive public debate over Corby’s guilt or innocence. However, it needs to be remembered that many in the community applauded the guilty verdicts in the trials of the Bali bombers as evidence of reform and balance in the Indonesian judiciary. Criticisms of specific inadequacies of a verdict are preferable to generalised value judgements of a sovereign nation’s judiciary. These double standards can only serve to damage perceptions of Australia in Indonesia.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Quote in The Jakarta Globe

The Jakarta Globe quoted me briefly in their article on smoking. The editors of the Globe have taken a noble anti-tobacco stance. You can find the article here.