Australia

Free Speech at Risk in Australia, Thanks to Terrible New Counter-Terrorism Bill

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 ||| Flickr / Peter Miller

Free speech advocates from across Australia's political spectrum have raised concerns about new counter-terrorism legislation passed by the Australian senate this week.

The legislation, which received bipartisan support from Australia's two main political parties, grants new and increased powers to Australia's intelligence agencies.

Among these new powers is the ability of the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to access a limitless number of computers on a particular computer network, all under a single warrant.

As The Sydney Morning Herald has reported, this could potentially allow ASIO to monitor the entire Internet.

Recent experience in the United States has shown clear potential for abuse when the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies are given wide-ranging surveillance powers. The problem could be even more dire in Australia, where the warrants required for surveillance are granted by the director-general of ASIO, or his deputy, rather than a judge or magistrate.

This means that a system of mass surveillance in Australia would require less judicial oversight than the NSA's now infamous metadata program.

The legislation was opposed by a motley collection of senators from across Australia's political spectrum.

Sen. Scott Ludlum, of the left wing environmentalist party, the Greens, was particularly vocal about his opposition to a new offence for the unauthorized disclosure of information relating to a special intelligence operation.

As the Guardian Australia reports:

There is no limitation on whom this provision can be used against, with media organisations and lawyers raising serious concerns about the potential for a journalists to be jailed and a "chilling effect" on reporting about intelligence matters.

The legislation was also opposed by Australia's first senator elected on a consistent libertarian platform, the Liberal Democrats' David Leyonhjelm, who warned against the loss of freedom, in what he called a "moral panic" about the threat of terrorism.

"I think it is very important that we absolutely maintain our rights and freedoms as individuals and deal with the terrorists without compromising those rights."…

"The idea [in this legislation] is you commit an offence unless you can prove you're innocent, it just goes against all of our rights and freedoms as a free society."

The legislation is set to come before the Australian House of Representatives next week, where it is all but guaranteed to pass.

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  1. Point of order… I don’t believe Australia, or really, any other nation in the fucking WORLD has any explicit form of free speech.

    I read a Eurozone article a few years ago where someone said it’s “more by tradition” than by law.

    1. Australia does not have explicit freedom of speech in any constitutional or statutory declaration of rights, with the exception of political speech which is protected from criminal prosecution at common law per Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth. There is however an implied freedom of speech that was recognised in Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation[46]

      In 1992 the High Court of Australia judged in the case of Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth that the Australian Constitution, by providing for a system of representative and responsible government, implied the protection of political communication as an essential element of that system. This freedom of political communication is not a broad freedom of speech as in other countries, but rather a freedom whose purpose is only to protect political free speech.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…..#Australia

      1. Laws by implication are the best! It worked really well down there with the right to keep and bear arms.

        BTW, they beat the crap out of us in the economic freedom index (not saying much, I know.)

        1. BTW, they beat the crap out of us in the economic freedom index (not saying much, I know.)

          To be fair, doesn’t almost everybody?

          1. They’re three and we’re twelve.

  2. As The Sydney Morning Herald has reported, this could potentially allow ASIO to monitor the entire Internet.

    Good luck with that… China already does, by the way.

    1. Thank god we don’t!

  3. Among these new powers is the ability … to access a limitless number of computers on a particular computer network, all under a single warrant.

    Gee, I hope their anti-virus software is top-notch!

  4. IT’s hard to get upset over this. I mean, not that I don’t think it’s wrong or utterly screwed up… but modern governments (yes, even us wonderfully enlightened western democracies) are becoming very hostile to the internet and freedom of speech. Governments are finding any excuse they can to amend our freedoms.

    My daughter’s learning about the constitution in her 7th grade class. I’m actually happy, although I’m not 100% sure what, exactly they’re being taught. But considering officials at the highest levels of our government believe shit like “every word in the constitution limits your freedom”, you realize how truly fucked we are.

    Encrypt everything, and be prepared to spend time in jail if you don’t give up the passwords to your doctor who’s been mandated to report you.

  5. That’s a bloody outrage it is! I’m taking this all the way to the Prime Minister!

  6. If it saves even ONE LIFE….I won’t give a shit, cause it’s another country.

    Yes, I am that shallow. And tired. Can’t wait to get home and sleep…

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