These are the notes I took at a Fulbright lecture a while ago now (last year sometime); it was part of a symposium of peace and human rights education, althought I only got to this lecture. As always – my notes, quite possibly my misunderstandings….
*Dr Diana Shelton (?sp) (American)
The world since Sept 11…
– Terrorism seen as act of war, not (as it actually is) a crime. Parallels with Pearl Harbour in WWII.
– People held, not given rights of POW or civilians, but as unprivileged combatants: on June 16, someone could be held in perpetuity without trial [I think I missed something here, like which year and country this was referring to… oops. Doesn’t really make much sense without that].
– USA PATRIOT Act (which I still cannot believe is an acronym; I thought only bad editors did that…) had no community consultation, was done in a panic after Sept 11, enhances executive branch powers, including protesting against the government, potentially [this being banned, I think, was the idea]; also surveillance rights, eg no search warrant needed.
–most sections have sunset clause – 31 Dec 2005 – but trying to get this extended.
–changes attitudes towards non-nationals in, and coming in.
– Other executive orders carried out… people being held for long periods with no bond… justice is being made a travesty of! Also issue about interrogation – when does it become torture?
– Losing liberty just to get a little secutiry is a bad deal.
*Prof George Williams (Australian)
– The gulf between actual knowledge of a threat v community fear of one [that’s all I wrote; I think the idea was that this is something that needs to be seriously considered. After al, lots of people think that crime is increasing when actualy it’s not, etc. The media has a lot to answer for).
– Aust laws did not get passed very quickly , and were frequently subject to parliamentary review and criticism, meaning that the laws that did, eventually, pass are better than they would have been without that.
— Still grave issues, however (you can be jailed for 5 years for reporting publicly that you were held by ASIO, or saying you were mistreated by them – as can any journalist saying this about you).
—However, human rights doesn’t seem to have a place in dialogues about these issues…
— He is a strong advocate of a Bill of Rights for Australia.
Me: I can’t believe that Australia doesn’t have a Bill of Rights. That’s just a bit embarrassing… I guess the founders assumed we would be under Magna Carta or something. Stoopid. I really enjoyed this lecture. The American and the Australian were nicely complementary of one another. It frankly scared me, too, to hear about the changes to laws that both countries have made. I think it’s just dreadful that liberties are restricted to try and curb terrorism and other threats to our lifestyle. Surely that means that the people who apparently don’t like deomcracy and Western ways of living are winning?