Reblogged from Sinking Ark.
Citizens in the Western world (and, indeed, the world over) should take note of the striking law that was just passed in Australia last week.
The law allows Australian government spies to monitor the entire Australian internet with a single warrant, and will simultaneously allow the government to punish anyone who releases information about government intelligence capabilities – including journalists – by jailing them for 10 years. In other words, a single bill has effectively legally ended both the right to privacy and free press in Australia.
Seems like a big fucking deal right? Yeah, well it is.
The right to privacy, as I’ve written about on this blog before, is a basic human right. Constant surveillance changes how we behave and restricts our ability to fully express ourselves without fear of retaliation for saying something “wrong” (whatever that may mean at a given point in history). While we’ve all but lost this in the United States (even although many are trying to fight it) at least US citizens have retained the right to press freedom. At least in theory (see: general mainstream bias in favor of government’s perspective, i.e. propaganda).
However, brave journalists can still publish damaging stories in the US without fear of being incarcerated. Sure, the whistle blowers will always be persecuted, but generally journalists themselves have avoided direct political targeting**. Well, Australia is changing all that. It is now a crime to tell the truth in Australia, and if a journalist is caught telling that truth – at least, the truth that the government doesn’t want you to know about – they can be imprisoned for a large portion of their life.
This is not the beginning of the end for free society in Australia. It is the end. It no longer exists there. The journalistic right to challenge the government’s action is a foundational democratic building block. With this gone, the Australian people no longer have a right to know what their government is doing in their name. When governments are no longer, by law, required to be accountable to the people, then the people are left without representation. In America, we grow up understanding this tradeoff, and it is taught as “taxation without representation.”
Australian citizens are facing a difficult time in their nation’s history. They are the first Western country in a long time to officially lose the right to free press. Unfortunately, for them, they don’t have the luxury to sit back and do nothing. They have a responsibility to peacefully stop this roll out of tyranny in their own country by voting these people out of their offices and demanding their basic rights. Otherwise, the West will have witnessed a new precedent for and example of how to significantly roll back human rights in the civilized world.
Australians – your country is smaller in terms of population, and arguably more malleable, than many others in the Western world. If you can push back and show the rest of the world that civilized peoples won’t stand for these unmitigated violations, then it will be an example of what leaders should not do in other countries where they desire stable societies. But if you do nothing, you will instead show the world that our civilization has pacified us and left us wanting not of our freedoms but instead of cheap entertainment and trinkets, and that we would gladly abdicate the former in favor of the latter. This cannot happen.
By legally losing the right to privacy and freedom of the press, Australia has ceased existing as a free society. Australians must push back against this dangerous trend now that they have a near-term opportunity to vote and show their opposition.
**This may perhaps be changing in the US as well. More on the troubling case of James Risen in the near future.