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Combating the Rise of Fascism and Erosion of Democracy in Australia Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Cam, Australia Sep 30, 2005
Education , Human Rights   Opinions
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"I'm So Worried About ..." - Monty Python
The Monty Python song lyrics came to me this morning, reading the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) over some pancakes and a latte at a local cafe.

The more I read, the more came back to me about all I have read, debated and honestly, shunted to somewhere near the back of my action priorities ... Australia - like many 'Western democracies' - is slipping in to fascism and there is barely a whimper. The Rise of Fascism in Australia

There were three key triggers for my 'worries' in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The first was the regular opinion piece by Mike Carlton, commenting on the new 'anti-terrorism laws'.
The second was Wendy Frew writing on the Gunns case, and expressing the perils of protest in contemporary Australia.
The third was Leunig's cartoon - I've reposted it here:

I've read pieces and observed examples and patterns with regard to the erosion of civil liberties, the quelling and discouragement of dissent - and arguably worse political participation!, and the encroaching specter of 'fascism' over the last five years. Truth be told, I've probably paid attention to this in some form or other since reading 1984 back in Year twelve.
And I have, particularly more recently, upped my level of political engagement, awareness, conversation and activities. I'm thinking that it might be a difficult proposition not to when you live in Canberra. Yet these triggers had me asking "Am I doing enough?", or anything really. Is what I'm doing helping to avoid history repeating, stopping fascism? Do I deserve freedom? How much vigilance - in terms of "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" - is enough?

My days, and too many of my nights, are pretty much spent 'working for good'. I am paid to work in fair trade (http://www.fta.org.au). I run an international not-for-profit organization engaging young professionals in sustainability and social change (http://www.iypf.org) in my spare time. My office is located in the Centre for Governance of Knowledge and Development (http://cgkd.anu.edu.au) where our team is primarily concerned with changing 'the rules of the game' for the benefit of humanity, particularly those who are currently poor and powerless.

Is this enough? I have the luxury of working in these areas and earning a livelihood from it. Most don't. How do they feel?

I feel like I've done little to oppose - or constructively critique - changes to laws, values, etc. that threaten the values, beliefs and world I love and cherish.


Anyway, here are some more thoughts on these triggers, and some additional references.

Anti-Terrorism Laws
Mike Carlton's piece opens with the following quote:
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Mike says "Australia's heads of government joined in a shameless conspiracy to pervert the constitution by depriving us, the people, of our ancient legal protection from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial."

Given recent performances - locking up and deporting Scott Parkin, intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, children overboard, the ongoing detention debacles, institutional abuses of children in care of the state and the mentally ill, indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody - I see absolutely no reason to believe that Federal or State governments should be trusted with such powers, or that they are even capable of doing a good job.

History too doesn't provide a glowing record, not for government's ability to use these powers wisely and effectively, nor for the rights of citizens.
Fascism creeps up slowly. It's helped along when traditional voices of dissent or critique are weakened - NGOs, the media, parliamentary structures for review.

A piece in the SMH by David Humphries explores this a little:
So does Wendy Frew's piece on the perils of protest (see later).

We have all seen the rise of spin and the clever manipulation of the public through the media - on issues like Iraq, Afghanistan, Tampa - and now these methods have been applied to the new anti-terror laws.

Marian Wilkinson and David Marr, in their piece today, http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/they-know-where-you-live/2005/09/30/1127804662748.html, demonstrate how insidiously released, but subsequently denied, 'facts' can sway public opinion.

I quote directly: "Twenty-four hours after the country's leaders agreed to draconian counter-terrorism laws this week, the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, was playing down media claims that ASIO believed there were 800 would-be suicide bombers living in Australia."

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