Last month, Australian Security Forces broke-up a plot by Islamic State terrorists to randomly behead Australians, in Sydney. This is somewhat reminiscent of the earlier hacking death of a British Soldier, home on leave from Afghanistan, by Islamic fundamentalists on a street in London. Accordingly, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced some “regrettable news”.
As it turns out, Australians will have to endure a considerable amount of enhanced security. Among the loss of some Freedoms are: the surveillance of the entire Australian Internet; journalists, whistleblowers or virtually anyone may be threatened with 10-year prison terms if they reveal information regarding a “special intelligence operation”; and it is considering whether Australians might be detained without charge and subjected to “coercive questioning”. The Law has also granted Civil and Criminal Immunity to law enforcement agents who may break the Law, in the course of their work–with several exceptions.
Obviously, this Legislation looks like a work in progress, which will be modified as the situation evolves and more facts become available. I do have several points, however, that I am concerned about: only one warrant is required to what might possibly include an on-going surveillance of the entire (Worldwide) Internet; will there be any safeguards on either requiring separate warrants either before, or shortly thereafter, someone is arrested without charge; and has anyone ever truly provided factual information under extreme coercion, better known as torture?
A recent article, in the Washington Post, entitled “Did Australia just become a national security state?”, is linked as follows; http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/07/how-australia-just-became-a-national-security-state/. Over the years, the U.S. has had a series of enhanced-security laws, with the most-recent one being the so-called “Patriot Act”, which was passed after the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.
But, America has one enhancement to its Constitution that Australia does not have. Shortly after our Constitution was established (1787-88); however, it lacked the bill of rights, which had always been in the “original plan” for the Constitution. So, in December of 1789, as proposed by James Madison, before he was President, his proposed “Bill of Rights”–the First Ten Amendments to the Constitution--became Law.
Among those basic Rights and Freedoms are: Speech and Press (I); protection against Unlawful Search and Seizure (IV); requires a Grand Jury Indictment (except in time of “War”) and Due Process of Law (V); Speedy and Public Trial, to be advised of the Nature of the Crime, and ability to Confront Accusers (VI); against Cruel and Unusual Punishment (VIII); and the right to Legal Counsel (IX).
It is important to note, however, that the U.S. has not always abided by its own Bill of Rights on various occasion, such as the Internment of Japanese-Americans without cause during World War II and the alleged illegal surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency. So, if our government can commit these acts, given our guaranteed “Rights”, then, what will happen to these new security Laws in Australia, where such Rights are not “guaranteed”? I believe that Australians have concerns: how might these Laws morph into something even more Draconian, and how long will these various restraints on their Freedoms last?
Now, I don’t believe that there is anyone, who is in Australia legally, who is questioning that the Government should and must take action against random Islamic Terrorists acts within the country. But, might some of the various security measures eventually be used for political reasons? Do they go too far? And what, if any, are the safeguards that have been established to protect the legal Rights and Freedoms of Individual Australians?
So far, Prime Minister Abbott’s popularity has increased somewhat after the Citizens were made aware of the terrorist activity and the fact that the government has initiated protective measures. Even some critics of the extent of the Laws have resigned themselves to the fact that the Laws are being implemented. Over time, however, and as the Laws evolve and are implemented, will the Public still embrace them–and be content? Only time will tell what the eventual sentiment will in, let’s say, five years, ten years, twenty…