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Personal liberties

In defence of the right to boycott

do-not-buy The parliamentary secretary for agriculture, Richard Colbeck, has floated once more the possibility of removing the exemption that environmental and consumer groups enjoy from the general ban on secondary boycotts.

On the ABC’s World Today I responded to this proposal. Boycotts, whether primary or secondary are a completely legitimate form of political expression. Any government that is pledged to support free speech should also support the right to boycott.

I also spelled out this argument in greater detail in the Drum in September last year.

Abbott government pressing ahead with social media censorship plan


Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher has announced that the government is planning to draft legislation for its ‘Children’s e-Safety Commissioner’, according to ZDNet Australia:

Fletcher said today that the government would now proceed with legislation on the eSafety commissioner.

“It is clear that all stakeholders share the same objective, that is, to protect children from online dangers such as cyberbullying,” he said.

“I welcome the input we have received in these many thoughtful submissions, which will be carefully considered as we proceed to develop legislation.”

This is a terrible policy, as Simon Breheny and I explained in our submission to the Department of Communications, and I wrote in the Sunday Age last weekend. The government’s proposals will do nothing to tackle the root causes of bullying, ignore solutions that already exist, and will vest the government with a vast new censorship power.

Of course we wait to see the legislation. But it’s astounding that at the exact time the government is looking at reforming the Racial Discrimination Act to protect freedom of speech, it would be also looking to clamp down on that very same freedom on social media networks.

First person charged under Queensland’s out of control party laws

The first person has been charged under Queensland’s out of control party legislation after a Townsville party devolved into a brawl:

The 17 year old man was charged after 17 police units (31 officers) were required to quell a disturbance at Gulliver on Saturday night.

Senior Sergeant Graeme Paterson says when police arrived at the Parsons Street address about 100 people were in the street.

“There was fighting occurring out on the street, there were bottles being thrown around, there was broken glass around the area, the initial police crew required the assistance of many other police crews,” he said.

One police officer had a full can of alcohol thrown at her, police charged other party goers with liquor, drug and wilful damage offences.

Of course, fighting, throwing things at police, drug use and property damage are already illegal. Even being drunk in public is a crime in Queensland.

What’s new about the out of control party legislation is that it places sanctions on the host of the party, blaming them for the criminal acts of their guests.

The party had been registered with the police, as it was required to be, and was only intended to have forty attendees. Despite this, the 17 year old is liable for a $12,100 fine or one year’s jail.

As I wrote in the Drum as these laws were being considered in November last year:

Defending his out-of-control parties bill, the Queensland Police Minister has argued that “the majority of people who do the right thing have nothing to fear”. Well, that’s not the way the bill is written. Not if the letter of the law is enforced. No free society should rest their liberties on the discretion of the agents of the state.

Human rights are not a zero sum game


The problem with the human rights debate has been neatly summed up in these two paragraphs from Michelle Grattan in The Conversation today:

The Abbott government believes there has been too much attention on that part of the “rights” agenda concerned with anti-discrimination and the like; it wants more focus on removing restrictions.

In fact both arms of the rights agenda are important; the issues will always be about priorities and where lines are drawn.

There are not two arms of the human rights agenda – there are things that are human rights (civil liberties) and there are Continue Reading →

Poll: 80% disapprove of government surveillance without a warrant


Some encouraging polling was released earlier today. It shows 80% of respondents disapprove of the Australian government being able to access their phone and internet records without a warrant.

I wonder how many Australians are aware that a large number of government agencies (including local councils and the RSPCA) currently have the power to obtain phone records without a warrant.

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