By Joe Montero
GetUp has released a report on the decline of democracy in Australia. The research was carried out by Dr Keiran Hardy, Dr Rebecca Ananian-Walsh, and Dr Nicola McGarrity. It explosively reveals the extent to which creeping and extensive surveillance over recent times.
The project funded by GetUp members details the attacks on whistleblowers, the press, and community activity. It doesn’t stop here. The report puts forward suggestions to overcome this attack.
Australia’s national security apparatus has become more extensive than that of any other comparable nation.
This is used to silence whistleblowers, attach certain communities, and impose a threat of retribution on all of Australia.
The now existing Department of Home Affairs has been provided with enormous power. Most importantly, the direct politicisation of national security matters in the hands of politicians. This is being secured with an integrated agency of intelligence organisations, policing, and the military.
Along with this there has been a strengthening of the culture of secrecy. Transparency has gone out the window and secret government is emerging as the norm.
The rising culture of secrecy has facilitated the growing attacks on the media. Laws are now in place threatening journalists with imprisonment for exposing wrongdoing within the government, or any other field considered by the government to involve national security. The connection between disclosure and national security doesn’t have to be explained.
National security is now defined broadly enough to cover just about anything that doesn’t please the minister and government of the day.
This attack is being ratcheted up with the constant passing of new laws through the parliament, and the power of a few over the many is increasing. A bill has just been rammed through, to substantially increase the powers of police to spy on citizens not committing crimes.
Military personnel are starting to be used to control the civilian population.
The report calls for strengthening whistleblower protection under the law and changing government culture with an office of the Australian Information Commissioner; Legal protection of journalists, a narrowing down of the definition of national security, and protection of confidential sources; plus strengthening oversight and splitting of the Department of Home Affairs, and an independent National Security Legislation Monitor.
Increasing citizen participation in bringing about change, through raising awareness and action is put forward as vital to making all the difference.
All these calls deserve support.
Anyone can help GetUp’s letter campaign by going to this link.
Laws taking our rights away cannot really be seen in separation from measures taken to deny decent jobs and conditions. Take the misnamed Fair Work Act. Its purpose is to interfere with the legitimate right of workers to combine to defend their shared interests. By using a special law targeting workers in the construction industry, the government took this attack to a new level.
Attacks on jobs and the right of workers to organise are major attacks on democracy and contribute to creating the conditions for attacks on other rights.
There are the matters of the casualisation of work and the attacks on the unemployed and other on Centrelink benefits. These along with the attack on jobs raise the lack of economic democracy.
An absense of economic democracy and the rise of big brother government are two sides of the same coin.
Fighting anti-democratic laws that give rise to big brother government is important. Fighting for our rights as workers, a decent standard of living, and for access to vital services are important democratic rights too. These should not be overlooked. The Covid pandemic, has shown us how important this is. Each one diminishes our rights.