The Beginning of the End for Australian Freedom of Speech

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Isaac Blencowe, Contributor

CLN Editor's Note: Thanks to Isaac for summarising the chilling new anti-terrorism/freedom of speech laws introduced by the Abbott Government in Australia this week. George Orwell must be rolling in his grave… again.

“He who sacrifices freedom, for security, deserves neither” – Benjamin Franklin.

Under the new National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014,  anyone including, “journalists, whistle-blowers and bloggers” – who “recklessly” disclose  “information” … [that] relates to a special intelligence operation,” will now face up to 10 years in jail for doing so.

With any operation being able to be classified as special, by an Authorized ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) officer. On top of this ASIO also gets complete immunity from criminal and civil liability in certain circumstances, basically meaning that they will be above the law.

If that is not enough the bill allows ASIO to need just one warrant to access a limitless number of computers on a computer network, when monitoring a suspected target. This will effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored, due to the fact that the bill does not define what a computer network is.

ASIO will also have the complete power to copy, delete or edit the data held on any of the computers allowed under the single warrant. With the ability to disrupt any target computers and even access innocent non target 3rd party computers in order to do so.

Senator Brandis who has praised the new bill said that it “targeted those who leaked classified information, such as the former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.” (Or Julian Assange).

Both of which exposed important information and damaging material on how the US government had been illegally monitoring its citizens, among other damaging information.

In addition to this new bill any citizen who identifies an ASIO agent could also face 10 years in Jail, which is a 10 fold increase of the previous ‘maximum’ penalty.


And as if this bill hasn’t already gone far enough, another two bills are also looking to be enacted over the next few months. The second being a bill that will make it a criminal offence to travel to a terrorist hot-spot, without a reasonable excuse. And the third bill enabling law- enforcement and spy agencies, to collect internet and phone metadata for a period of up to two years, without the need for a warrant, to be introduced later this year.

Now there is no denying that terrorist organisations like ISIS do exist and that they may pose a risk to the Australian public and that some measures are understandable in light of this. But there is no denying that the latest passed bill as well as the two still to be passed are a blatantly outrageous and unnecessary use of power.

And it becomes even scarier when you hear such outlandish statements such as Palmer United Party Senator, Glen Lazarus who said, “The internet poses one of the greatest threats to our existence.”

It makes absolutely no sense to enact such strict and unscrupulous  laws of which disallow such an innate right as freedom of speech. By implementing such strong laws we are not making ourselves any safer, but only reducing our freedoms, of which we are all entitled to, and have fought so hard for in the past to keep.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”

If we are to call ourselves a fair and just society then surely we must include the right to our own privacy, freedom of speech and the exposition of unlawful and unjust acts, no matter who is responsible for them, even if this means exposing acts committed by our own government.

This new law will affect all Australians, and I know many are probably sitting there thinking, “Well I have nothing to hide, so it doesn’t affect me”.  But this could not be further from the truth, because although you may feel as though these laws do not directly threaten you, indirectly they threaten your scope and access to information. For under these new laws whistle-blowers, journalists and even every-day joe bloggers who provide a broader and more sound reflection of certain issues, will now prosecuted for doing so.

It is incumbent upon all of us, not only citizens of Australia but of the whole world, to stand up for our rights as individuals. Especially when such laws as this have the power to be abused and used in such an extreme, that the simple sharing of information even via Facebook could even become an offence.

This is heinous abuse of power and does make us any safer from a terror threat, but only reduces our position as a free society. I urge you to inform yourself and others in anyway possible before laws like this can be taken any further than they already have been.

Isaac Blencowe

About the Author

Isaac Blencowe is the Creator of the Tragedy & Hope YouTube channel. He enjoys listening to music, reading, playing guitar, healthy eating and keeping physically active. For more of Isaac’s inspiring work, please visit: www.tragedyandhopechannel.com

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