‘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

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‘Good’ Blasphemy | The American Conservative

The American Conservative, a publication I usually quite like, has been vocal in its reaction to the Paris shootings with four posts so far by one author, all beating the same drum. I ended up posting a comment on the latest thread.

It starts with a quote from Rod Dreher’s fourth piece (which also encapsulates his argument):

“But when some within that civilization punish blasphemy with violence and murder, then, says Ross, we all had better defend that blasphemy to protect our own right to speak and to worship as our consciences dictate.”

I then continue as follows:

Rousing stuff, but a false syllogism. It’s conflating two separate issues. Worse, doing so is probably reacting exactly as these bastards hope we will.

Instead, why not staunchly defend the legal right to freedom of speech while deploring those who choose to use it in a juvenile, destructive fashion? Equally, unequivocally condemn any use of violence while holding onto enough heart to grasp the anquish such sophomoric “journalism” triggers for many ordinary Muslims.

What you seem to be missing is that this atrocity was probably intended to foment division. Doesn’t the rather doctrinaire, self-righteous response you’ve repeatedly indulged in so far play directly into their hands?

Cui bono? Worth asking before letting rip.

Anthony Albanese: Labor has gone too far in supporting national security laws | The Guardian

At a time like this the security agencies will take the opportunity to impose things that have been in their bottom drawer for a long period of time. I believe our agencies, including Asio, do a great job for this nation … but it’s also the case in a democratic country like ours – we’re talking about fighting for freedom, it’s important to ensure freedom is protected and not given up.

That’s Anthony Albanese on Sky News’ Australian Agenda on Sunday morning. The Guardian’s report continued.

Albanese argued the impact of theNew law should be closely examined by everyone. “There are legitimate criticisms and they need to be responded to by the government.

He signalled the laws might need to be wound back. “I’m concerned about the rights of journalists. I’m someone who has consistently supported the rights of media to report.”

Asked whether his critique was supported by other senior figures, Albanese said: “I’m speaking for myself.”

Continue reading

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

Why Didn’t Eric Holder Go After the Bankers? | The New Yorker

In the years following the financial crisis many have wondered (with varying degrees of incredulity) why no senior banking executives were criminally prosecuted.

Instead, as John Cassidy writes in the New Yorker, there’s been a succession of monster settlements between financial institutions and the US Justice Dept.

“We seem to have stumbled into a new form of corporate regulation,” I noted at the time of the JPMorgan settlement [November 2013], “in which nobody in the executive suite is held personally accountable for wrongdoing lower down the ranks, but the corporation and its stockholders are periodically socked with huge fines for past abuses.”

To the extent explanations for the failure to prosecute have been offered, they usually come down to two things.

First, although foolishness and cupidity were ubiquitous in the years leading up to the crisis, proving intent to defraud can be a tricky business as the Justice Dept discovered in its attempt to prosecute two Bear Stearns bankers in 2009.

Second, there’s the “we might end up destroying a systemically important bank” excuse. In other words, the Justice Dept version of “too big to fail”. Continue reading

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

Judge Rakoff: Why Have No High Level Financial Executives Been Prosecuted?

Without multiplying examples further, my point is that the Department of Justice has never taken the position that all the top executives involved in the events leading up to the financial crisis were innocent, but rather has offered one or another excuse for not criminally prosecuting them – excuses that, on inspection, appear unconvincing. So, you might ask, what’s really going on here? I don’t claim to have any inside information about the real reasons why no such prosecutions have been brought, but I take the liberty of offering some speculations, for your consideration or amusement as the case may be.

via Judge Rakoff: Why Have No High Level Executives Been Prosecuted In Connection With The Financial Crisis? | The Big Picture.