30 August 2000.


Early this week in Canberra the Australian government put legislation before the senate that legally enabled our soldiers to shoot demonstrators.   As usual, the Murdoch press downplayed the importance of this enabling Act.  Even the opposition only wanted to "limit" this extraordinary increase in our government's powers.  (In the Australian constitution, Federal powers not explicitly permitted are forbidden.)   This legislation is supposedly required to enable our soldiers to help guard the olympics and the world economic forum from terrorists.  For that, the constitution has already made provision.   The appropriate state need only request assistance.

Wednesday's news was that Justice James Wood in Sydney had found talk show host John Laws guilty of breaches of the Jury Act.  John Laws is Australia's Rush Limbaugh.  He had inquired of a juror on deliberations in the Jury Room.   Some men had used a gun in a country where guns are prohibited to law abiding citizens, and killed a father of two in his suburban shop during a robbery.  For some reason they had been found not guilty of murder.

The law against press disclosure of Jury room deliberations was made after the embarrassment of the Lionel Murphy case.  Lionel Murphy was a high court judge appointed directly from an executive position in the governing Labour Party.  He was accused of corruptly using his power to help a "friend".  The scandal reached stratospheric importance when a juror spoke on radio about the case and deliberations in the jury room.   The Labour party felt that public exposure of a jury's deliberations to the media did not help justice as they saw it, and promptly enacted criminal legislation prohibiting any broadcaster from ever again publishing jury deliberations.

Legislation enacted to control the courts has for a long time favored politicians.  Australia's defamation laws protect people in public office more than they protect ordinary citizens.  Some months past two of our politicians and their spouses took around $400,000 in defamation damages because an author had speculated on their sexual politics.  The lack of a jury trial meant that the ordinary citizen's sense of justice was not allowed to intrude on the administration of this horrendous legislation.

The most amazing legislation was, of course, that of the NSW parliament enacted at the close of business, a few minutes after midnight on the last day of business before Christmas a few years past.  Concealed as a minor administrative change, our noble legislators had voted themselves a whopping 40% pay rise.

The conclusion must be that Australian legislators seem to be concerned to legislate only to benefit themselves financially, and to prevent the failures of the political system from ever being exposed to public view.

SPIN is concerned with those issues, but SPIN is more concerned that the Australian constitution allows our legislators to so "push the envelope" of our civil liberties, to enact legislation so deliberately intended to entrench themselves as our undisputed rulers.

The instances above are not what is broken.  They are the symptoms of a greater failure.

What is broken is Australia's constitution.  What must be fixed is the misuse of power by our legislators.  Like an out of balance wheel, the problem is a minor disturbance at low revolutions.  As our constitution is tested, as the rotation of the wheel increases, the centripetal forces increase until the wheel shatters.

The enabling legislation to suppress violence that is the response to legislated infringement of civil liberties will cause an escalation until fascism results.


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