For the second week running, eastern Australia is burning. It isn’t even summer yet, but unprecedented fires are sweeping through NSW and Queensland. And these blazes have hit our state at a time of unparalleled drought and human caused water shortages.
If Australians have learnt anything since the outbreak of the fires, it’s that we’re not to talk about the reasons for such intense weather conditions. Even though 11,000 scientists around the globe declared a climate emergency a fortnight ago, we’re forbidden from equating the two.
Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack last week said that it was “disgusting” and “disgraceful” to link the climate emergency with the atypical fires. And this sentiment was reiterated by NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and evangelical prime minister Scott Morrison.
But, since when has being democratically elected to office, given politicians the right to dictate what questions the citizenry can ask? And this scenario is of particular concern, when these parliamentarians are deliberately creating policies that stoke the rising flames higher.
“Nothing more clearly defines a Liberal Nationals Coalition government than our strong, full-throated support for traditional industries like mining,” Morrison remarked at a Queensland Resources Council lunch about a week before the state went up in flames.
The PM smugly went on to tell the fossil fuel-addled crowd that he’s drafting further anti-protest legislation. And this time the measures are designed to outlaw secondary boycotts, which are the sort of actions that Middle Australia tends to partake in, as it doesn’t entail taking to the streets.
What this indicates is a government that’s prioritising a quick buck for industries at the expense of future generations and the planet itself. And in order to do so, the PM’s going to pass laws that criminalise greater numbers of the population to ensure they no longer have the ability to speak out.
It seems the Morrison regime is all about trying to reinforce an untenable system that’s passed its used by date. And to continue on with its rotten fruit will only see the divide between the citizenry and the government widen, as politicians pass further laws to shut the public up.
The widening disconnect
Right now, Australia is the only western democracy without some kind of legislation at the national level that protects citizens’ basic rights. So, while under international law, Australians’ right to freedom of speech is guaranteed, under the federal laws of this country, this right doesn’t exist.
A bill of rights works to keep the powers of government in check. And for some reason successive Australian governments have failed to pass such a bill, and instead have passed around 80 pieces of national security legislation since 9/11 that have been incrementally eroding citizens’ freedoms.
Morrison loves to talk about the Canberra Bubble: the realm of federal politics, where those involved are somewhat disengaged with the concerns of “the quiet Australians” on the ground. But, what he doesn’t like to convey is that he’s an advocate of this disconnect.
Indeed, the PM’s actions speak of a politician who’s legislating to the benefit of big business buddies, and for greater control over the population. And those who dare to speak out against this are being confronted with laws that clearly reveal the harbouring of opposing views is not permitted.
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Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.