‘Tony Abbott running from the law’ | The Saturday Paper

Abbott is not a conservative here. Separation of powers, habeas corpus and court scrutiny of government are conservative doctrines. All prime ministers bridle at the restraints of the law. But Abbott has been willing to a remarkable degree to push the law aside to appease populist fears and populist contempt for human rights.

This plays beautifully to his base but across Australia it raises old trust issues with Tony Abbott. The evidence of the polls can’t be doubted: Australians trust courts far more than they trust politicians. Attacking courts, judges and the traditional ways of the law makes Australians uneasy.

via Tony Abbott running from the law | The Saturday Paper

Greater surveillance and deeper silence | Melissa Parke

Melissa Parke was the only major party MP to speak out against the new national security laws.

Quixotic, perhaps, but worth noting and honouring.

So far the debate on this issue has occurred within a frame that posits a direct relationship between, on the one hand, safety and civility in our everyday lives and, on the other, the powers that impinge upon and make incursions into individual freedom.

If we want to continue our lives free from terrorism and orchestrated violence – so the argument goes – we have to accept shifting the balance between freedom and constraint away from the observance of basic rights and towards greater surveillance, more interference, deeper silence.

Let me say that no one should be fooled into believing it is as simple as that.

The truth is that the remarkable peace, harmony, and security we enjoy in Australia is in fact produced and sustained by our collective observance of freedoms and human rights, rather than existing in spite of such values and conditions.

It is wrong to say that we have been complacent about security on two counts.

First, because we have strong, well-resourced, and competent security agencies, and second because our commitment to a way of life that puts faith in freedom, respect and tolerance, that puts faith in democracy and the rule of law, is itself productive of peace and shared security.

It’s amusing, if a little depressing, to ponder what pressing issue Shorten and co might have had in mind when they decided to waive this abomination through so as to keep their “obstructionist” powder dry.

via No one should be fooled into believing security is as simple as greater surveillance and deeper silence | Melissa Parke | theguardian.com

National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014

Even the authors of the Parliamentary Library Bills Digests report on the NSLA Bill aren’t comfortable.

The lack of independent scrutiny and time for Members and Senators to consider the complexities of the Bill is concerning. It is particularly so in light of Recommendation 41 in the 2013 PJCIS Report. The PJCIS recommended that amendments implementing its recommended changes to AIC legislation be released as an Exposure Draft for public consultation as well as being subject to Parliamentary committee scrutiny and targeted consultation with the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS).

They’re not alone. Here’s the bottom line from the Law Council of Australia:

These concerns have led the Law Council to recommend that the NSLA Bill not be passed in its current form and that the PJCIS should request the next appointed Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) to consider the operation, effectiveness and implications of existing legislation with a view to addressing the issues which are raised by the Bill. While the previous INSLM has considered a few of the relevant issues (as noted below), most have not been subject to the INSLM’s consideration.  If this recommendation is not adopted, then the Law Council urges the PJCIS to carefully consider the following recommendations for changes to the Bill that are discussed in detail in this submission.

They, like most others concerned with this bill, are particularly unhappy with Section 35P which creates new offences related to the unauthorised disclosure of information relating to a Secret Intelligence Operation (SIO). It devotes almost five pages to its flaws and dangers Continue reading

‘Only fools will rush into Iraq’ | Hugh White

In the face of the latest rush “to do something” (in this case about the Islamic State), Hugh White provides some sensible counsel.

They should also be reminded there is simply no way to have any real influence over the way that new order evolves with the kind of low-cost low-risk commitments the interventions would involve. As we saw in Libya, campaigns of air strikes can affect what happens on the battlefield, but they confer no control over the political consequences of victory or defeat. Only troops on the ground can do that, and only in immense numbers. So only those willing to commit huge ground forces have any hope of being able to shape the outcome. Anyone else would be better staying away.

Finally, they should be reminded that the terrorist threat posed by Islamic State to western countries such as Australia is best met not by military interventions of the kind that have already been tried and have failed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but by the less spectacular but more effective work of intelligence agencies and police forces.

via Intelligence is the key: only fools will rush into Iraq.

Lest we go over the top | The Monthly

Don Watson on the dilemmas of commemorating WWI.

Whatever form the commemoration takes, something might be learnt from the Anzacs of old who commemorated their war by shedding a few tears at a dawn service and getting drunk for the rest of the day. Though the ritual has since fallen into disrepute and it would be a rank presumption to revive it, no other form of remembrance will ever convey so well the unfathomable dimensions of the whole thing.

Hmmmmm . . .

Not a great first innings from the Coalition. Even partisan supporters probably flinch from time to time as fresh details of the latest lurch emerge. Early days, mind you. As I recall, the Howard government looked something of a rabble at this stage as well.

The own goals have been impressive. Abbott playing the hard man with Indonesia after the phone tapping details emerged was downright bizarre in the wake of that early goodwill trip bearing assorted apologies. Couldn’t he see he’d eventually have to play nice? After all, who’s the supplicant in this relationship just now. As for Pyne, could he have set his sights on a quick slot in the Guinness book of records . . . most egregious unforced error with backflip, perhaps? All very strange.

First impressions aren’t easy to change. Continue reading

More than a good bloke

Don’t worry, I’m not after a date or anything. I won’t be stalking you round the hills of New England. It’s more the sort of crush I had on James Stewart after I saw The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, or Yves Montand whenever he played a resistance fighter. It’s a political kind of crush.

Don Watson mourns Tony Windsor’s exit from politics in the latest Monthly. It’s a lovely tribute dressed up as a letter.

I share his sentiments. Windsor was one of the few politicians I was happy to listen to. He spoke plainly and reasonably, did his own thinking and tried to civilise politics rather than play on discord. None of them qualities we’re over endowed with just now.

A good bloke lost as collateral damage, people are saying. If that is all we can make of it, we will only deepen the folly. You could be the dead-set best bloke in history and be no loss at all. What matters is that you were a good politician: good enough to be the measure of what’s missing in modern politics.

I mean the qualities that the media no longer much values or, in its more extreme and youthful forms, even recognises, and which the major parties only sometimes reward. Not “the vision thing” – though I suspect you have one – but the dependable, intelligent, worldly, unbreakable, character thing, on which democratic politics and our faith in it depend.