Remember the Anti‑Terrorism Act (No. 2) 2005 (weakly amended in 2006 in order to protect mainstream media and professional journalists) which contained new draconian sedition law introduced by the Howard Government which virtually made every blogger, letter to the editor writer, whistleblower and protester potentially vulnerable to political charges of sedition and/or treason in certain circumstances? Were you one of those outraged by its provisions?
Recall the 2006 Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry which in Fighting Words: A Review of Sedition Laws in Australia (ALRC Report 104) recommended conservative changes (including the removal of Schedule 7–Sedition) which would ease the more punitive effects of this legislation and, the fact that in 2008 the Rudd Federal Government formally supported 25 of these recommendations and two others in principal?
Can you bring to mind this undertaking made in the Australian Parliament:
Review of Security, Counter-Terrorism and Sedition Laws
Mr Ciobo (Moncrieff) asked the Attorney-General, in writing, on 24 February 2009: When does the Government plan to introduce legislation to: (a) establish the statutory office of National Security Legislation Monitor; and (b) implement the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission's review of sedition laws.
Mr McClelland (Barton) (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows: (a) As I announced on 23 December 2008, as part of the Government's comprehensive response to the reviews of Australia's security and counter-terrorism laws, the Government is progressing legislation to establish the statutory office of the National Security Legislation Monitor as a matter of priority. The legislation is being developed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in consultation with the Attorney-General's Department. (b) As I announced on 23 December 2008, as part of the Government's comprehensive response to the reviews of Australia's security and counter-terrorism laws, the Government will introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission with respect to the federal sedition laws. The Government is planning to release exposure draft legislation in the first half of 2009. This will provide an opportunity for public input prior to the introduction of any legislation into Parliament.
Well the exposure draft was published in 2009 and, the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 (finally introduced in September 2010) which allegedly intends that Schedule 1 contains proposed amendments to the treason and sedition offences in Division 80 of the Criminal Code in response to recommendations from various reviews apparently does not really remove those wide sedition provisions across the board. Instead they have been rebadged as treason.
Indeed, under the current Australian Attorney-General this bill will expand the existing sedition offences (to be renamed offences that 'urge violence') to also cover urging force or violence on the basis of 'ethnic' or 'national' origin and it will also add to Part 5.1 (Treason and Sedition ) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 so that an Australian citizen, resident, corporation or accepted refugee can be imprisoned for life if found to have materially assisted another person considered to be taking part in an undeclared war which the Commonwealth in its turn considers itself to be party to.
While Senator Ludlam's private members bill Anti‑Terrorism Laws Reform Bill 2009 which (among other matters) actually proposes to remove rather than rebadge the offence of sedition, after a Senate Inquiry has morphed into the Anti-Terrorism Laws Reform Bill 2010 and now idles during the parliamentary silly season holidays.
I seem to recall that in the second half of 2007 the Australian Labor Party began to tell the electorate that it would remove those constraints on free speech and freedom of association which could be implied from Howard's draconian legislative measures.
I don't know about the rest of Australia, but I am ending 2010 confused as to the actual state of play, highly suspicious of the political process and, never quite sure if I'm being seditious or not - either verbally, in writing, waving a placard or making a donation to a charity with international programs.