Monday, February 20, 2006 


Apologies for not having popped up earlier with comments on the amendments to the sedition provisions. There will be more regular communication once the promised review by the Australian Law Reform Commission is underway.

In the meantime, the amendments to the act outlined below now mean that an individual must advocate force or violence to be prosecuted for sedition. This is a vast improvement on the original wording and a small victory for those who continue to speak freely. Enormous effort went into the lobbying by various individuals and organisations (of the 294 submissions to the Senate about the sedition provisions 2 were in favour of them - AFP and the Attorney General's Dept in case you're wondering) and the ammendments while seemingly small go a long way to curtailing the more malevolent uses of the provisions.

There are still two provisions which do not include links to force or violence. These are 80.2 (d) and (e) which deal with urging another person to assist a person or organisation that is at war with the Commonwealth or engaged in armed hostilities with Australia's defence forces.

There is also criminal definition of "recklessness". You may not specifically urge the overthrow of the Government, you may not even desire the overthrow of the Government, but if there is a risk that your words may result in someone using force or violence to attempt do just that, you may well be committing a seditious offence.

So, while the addition of "to use force of violence" has gone a long way towards lessening the more ominous capacities of the provisions, concerns remain:

Self censorship - anecdotal evidence since the bill was first proposed suggests that publishers and broadcasters will be wary of risky and controversial material. Most of the publicity has centred around the rights of journalists and stifling open debate, but there are ramifications for fiction and drama.

Will these provisions drive terrorism further underground? Is open engagement a better means of way of combating or diffusing seditious views?

That's enough to mull on for the time being, there will be plenty more when the reveiw is announced. Until then, this site may be a little quiet.

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